While I was growing up going to flea markets was something my family did occasionally, maybe three or four times a year. It was nice being in the sunshine, looking through inexpensive items, and seeing things that I might not otherwise see.
For one member of my family, flea markets were an every weekend activity. My grandfather was a picker, a seller, and a storage warrior. He knew the tricks of his trade, and I was awed by his enthusiasm to make money using the skills he had developed from experience while doing something he enjoyed.
He worked for General Motors most of his life, but went to flea markets almost every weekend he was off. From the attic to his truck, he would load up, and head out. When he finally retired, he had more time to invest in his personal hobby, and he happily did so.
While observing and talking to my grandfather I have noticed a few key elements to his success. I have shared some of the more notable ones below for all aspiring flea market buyers and sellers:
1. Be friendly and sociable. My grandfather enjoys selling things. He has stories for almost everything on the table, and can tell buyers where he obtained items and why they are valuable. He has stories to tell, interesting things to say, and buyers enjoy conversing with personalities such as his. Buyers are not only out to find deals, but also to have a good time.
2. Honesty is important. When you’re passionate about what you do, there is no need to lie. Besides, people who choose to buy from you will be able to spot a phony more times than not. Stick to what you know, keep to the truth, and you will earn the respect of repeat buyers.
3. Know your merchandise. When it comes to picking, my grandfather had it figured out long before television made it popular. Knowledge about the products you sell is a key element of your success. If you don’t know the worth of an item you could be stuck holding a useless piece of junk, or you might let a valuable item be sold for next to nothing. Learn your inventory. Visit other sellers, find items similar to the ones you’re selling, take note of the different prices. If you see something that usually goes for five bucks being sold for a quarter, buy it and earn a profit by selling it at your stand.
4. Buy sight unseen. When a house was going up for auction, sometimes my grandfather would go and make an offer on whatever might be inside. More times than not, it was worth offering a hundred dollars for items he had never seen before, because the seller needed the house clear of other property before showing the house.
5. Buy in Bulk. Sometimes, deals can be made when buying large quantities of items. Sellers are not always patient. Sometimes, they just want to clear out their garage. When you find an opportunity like this, offer to take a lot of items of the seller’s hands at once by asking for a deal. If you can find enough items of value, make a note of their average worth, and offer less. Doing this could allow the seller to get done sooner so they can go home, and will give a patient buyer the chance to resell the items for a profit.
6. Buy at Closing Time. It’s getting late, and a lot of sellers are counting their money. Some of them are considering dropping prices on what they couldn’t sell. Others are wishing they didn’t have so much stuff to load back into their trucks, and are thinking “I would sell everything on this table for half price if someone would just make the offer.” Be the buyer that makes that offer. You might be surprised at the deals you could make near the end of the business day.
7. Be persistent. Above all else, don’t give up. Accept that selling items at a flea market is a learning process, and be open to suggestions and advice from veterans like my grandfather who are willing to share their experience and what works for them. By doing this you are opening yourself up to new and profitable contacts, and possibly a new friend or two. Above all else, remember to have fun while you buy and sell, because that enthusiasm could be the biggest indicator of how well you do.