Copyright – Kimberly Clay

When you are intending to buy antiques and collectibles at flea markets, garage sales, yard sales or estate sales, first take some time to walk around the market. Check out what is for sale and make a note of anything that interests you. Write it down; don’t trust it to memory.

If you see something you want being sold by more than one vendor, compare prices and try to haggle each down to a lower price. Get the lowest price you can, then give the more expensive vendor one last chance to beat the competition. It often works. But if you intend to haggle, then time it right.

Never try to beat somebody’s price down too early. Nobody will reduce their prices early in the day or shortly after the flea market opens. The best time for bargaining is shortly before closing. OK, this means that you might lose your item to somebody else, but if you need it really badly, then just buy it. Offer a lower price, but make sure you get it if you must have it. Otherwise, you can get the best prices just before closing.

Many sellers will reduce their price rather than not sell an item. It’s a fine line between leaving it too late and paying more than you need to, and experienced flea market and yard sales buyers know just where that line is. Don’t forget that flea market vendors expect to bargain, and so price their items higher than they expect to sell. Never purchase without some form of bargaining, but leave the real haggling until just before closing.

Even if you are the consummate bargain hunter, don’t waste time and energy haggling just for the sake of it. If you see something you want at a dollar or two, don’t waste time by haggling over a few cents – just pay the two dollars and buy it. While you are trying to save 20 cents, somebody else could spot that 1804 silver dollar that you can see from the corner of your eye but nobody else has noticed. . .

If you intend buying more than one item and you can find them from the same vendor, try bargaining for a better price. You can often get a better deal if you are purchasing multiple items as opposed to when you’re purchasing just one.

Yard sales are often easier places from which to get bargains than when buying antiques at flea markets, because yard sales are most often comprised of old clutter that the owner doesn’t want. Conversely, flea markets are often professionals selling to make a living.

If you think ahead, you can make some prior preparations to get yourself the best bargain. Don’t go shopping in your best clothes or trendiest designs. People that appear well-to-do at flea markets generally end up paying more: wear a fleece coat and you end up getting fleeced. You can dress neatly, but dress down (little or no jewelry, ladies), and then you won’t be expected to be able to pay a lot. Don’t show a check book or large bills. Pay in small denomination bills and coin, because if vendors see $50s and $100s, the prices may suddenly shoot up.

It also helps to have the amount that you are offering a seller in your hand when you make the offer – hold it out to them, or place it on the table. It is difficult to refuse an offer when the cash is there for the taking.

Make sure that your first offer is less than you are prepared to pay, but not too little. Just as you won’t pay the asking price, the seller likely won’t accept your first offer, but if you offer too little they might be offended or lose interest in you. Eventually you will agree on a price somewhere between your first offer and the asking price.

Once you have made an offer keep your mouth shut. The person that talks first and most in a bargaining situation generally loses out. Make your offer then wait: the seller might accept it, or might not. They might insist on the asking price, but throw in something extra; either free or at a highly discounted price. You will come across that frequently when buying antiques and collectibles at flea markets and garage sales.

If you see something you like, and intend to make an offer, then pick it up and carry it with you. That way nobody can purchase it or make an offer before you do. If you see or hear somebody else making an offer for an item you like, then pick it up before they do. Possession is nine tenths… and all that.

People frequently find themselves purchasing something too big for them to carry home or get into their car. If that’s the case pay for the item, and see that a ‘Sold’ tag goes on it. Then come to an arrangement with the vendor. The seller must have been able to transport it to the flea market or sale, so make them an offer to deliver it to you. If it’s a yard or estate sale, you can arrange to have it picked up later.

Don’t be afraid to walk away if you can’t reach an agreement. You are not obliged to accept a price offer. It might drop later in the day. Think of what you would do as a seller: would you really accept a lower price than you want for the items you’re selling when the flea market has just opened? Of course not! If you intend to haggle for everything, leave the item until later in the day, and then check on it again before leaving the market.

Finally, be polite. Negotiation and bargaining is not arguing. Don’t be rude if a vendor chooses not to accept your offer, because vendors at flea markets often pass information about rude buyers around, and you might find that nobody wants to deal with you. There is no need to be rude. Flea markets are fun ways of buying and selling and are not meant to involve serious, cut-throat activity. Have fun buying antiques and collectibles, especially at flea markets, where you just might find some great bargains.

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