The dos and don’ts of shopping for antiques at flea markets and garage sales

The flea market and garage sale season are always popular. Here’s what you need to know to make your next flea market or garage sale outing a success.

DO arrive early. This is true for flea markets and garage sales. The good stuff really does get snapped up quickly. Remember you’ll have lots of competition from professional dealers to part time eBayers to the flea market and garage sale junkies who all start at the crack of dawn.

DO look for items with potential. A fresh coat of paint can revitalize an old chair. Old rubber boots and cracked teapots make great planters. Vintage ladders can store magazines or towels. Vintage lead glass windows can be fastened together to make screens or fashioned into mirrors.

DO be careful rummaging through boxes. Boxes of kitchen utensils may contain rusty sharp objects.

DO run your finger over the edges of glassware and dishes to check for chips and cracks.

DO have measurements and floor plans handy. You don’t want to get home and realize that your beautiful purchase won’t fit in the desired space or more importantly it won’t even fit through the door.

DO have the right gear. Bring a measuring tape, note pad and pencils.

DO have a rolling basket to cart around your purchases at a flea market.

DO take your item away right away. You don’t want to run the risk of returning at the end of the day to pick up a large purchase to find that the seller hands you back your money because he accepted a higher offer.

DO know the value of merchandise so you’ll know if you’re getting a deal.

DO check marks on silver and porcelain. So have your pocket reference guides handy.

DO target garage sales close to affluent areas because they’re likely to have good stuff.

DO negotiate. Now is the time to haggle. But you should always have a top price in mind and be prepared to walk away if the price is too high.

DO buy a number of things from one seller. The seller is likely to give you a good price to buyers who purchase more than one thing. You’ll usually come out ahead.

DO ask the seller his price. You don’t want the seller to ask you how much you are willing to pay because you may mention a price higher than what the seller was thinking.

DO bring cash. Bring some small bills. Don’t pull out a $20 to pay for a $3 item.

DO check for the return policy at a flea market. Most likely there isn’t one.

DON’T get too excited. Remain calm, cool and collected when you see something that you love. Gushing over a piece is sure to send the price skyward.

DON’T buy the first thing you see at a flea market. Do a quick walk about the flea market to check all the goods. You don’t want to be disappointed when you see something that you like better two aisles over.

DON’T make impulse purchases because they likely will become merchandise for your own garage sale down the road.

DON’T look too good. Leave the fancy car, jewelry and togs at home. This will help with the haggling. Sellers won’t budge too much on price if they think that you can afford to pay more for it.

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