Free Museums to visit in the Sacramento Area

As purveyors of flea markets, we thought you might also enjoy visiting some of these free museums in the Sacramento area.

California State Capitol Museum


Weekdays 8am-5pm
Weekends 9am-5pm

Tours hourly 9am-4pm


10th and L Streets
State Capitol
Room B-27
1315 10th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Visit the State Capitol Museum to learn how laws are made and see historic exhibits.

Museum of Medical History


Weekdays 8:30am-4pm
Closed on holidays


Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society
5380 Elvas Ave
Sacramento, CA 95819

From the Gold Rush to now, explore how medicine has evolved at the Museum of Medical History.

Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum


Monday-Saturday 10am-4pm
Sundays 12pm-4pm


1200 Front Street
Old Sacramento, California

Want to know what going to school was like in the 1800s? Visit the Schoolhouse Museum for a living replica of a one-room schoolhouse.

Utility Exploration Center


Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm


1501 Pleasant Grove Blvd.
Roseville, CA 95747

Into the environment? Learn about water and energy efficiency, solid waste reduction, and green technologies at the Utility Exploration Center.

Sacramento Historic City Cemetery

Winter Hours:

Weekdays 8am-5pm
Weekends 7am-5pm

Summer hours:

Daily 7am-7pm

*Closed on some city holidays

Free tours on Saturdays at 10am, donations appreciated.

In addition to being home to 30,000 Sacramentans, the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery is an outdoor trio of history, art, and horticulture.

Verge Center for the Arts


Wednesday-Saturday 11am-6pm
Sundays 12pm-5pm


625 S Street
Sacramento, CA 95811

Art! Visit the Verge Center to see contemporary art from working career artists, learn about art education, and participate in other fun unique events.

Wells Fargo History Museums

Capitol Mall Location


Tuesday-Saturday 10am-4pm
*Closed New Years Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.


400 Capitol Mall
Sacramento, CA 95814

Old Sacramento State Historic Park


Daily 10am-5pm


1000 Second Street
Sacramento, California 95814

Take a trip back in time and experience the Well’s Fargo express, staging, and banking operations of the Gold Rush era.


While this is a listing of the FREE museums in Sacramento, check out the Sacramento Association of Museums for a list of all the museums in Sacramento. Some of them are pretty cool!

Bay Area Flea Markets for Winter 2014

Treasure Island Flea

November 29 & 30, 2014
Free Parking
1 Avenue of the Palms, Treasure Island.

Closed December, 2014

Treasure Island Flea is happening the last weekend of each month. The “festival of the bay” attracts around 15,000 attendees each month, despite only being three years old. The Treasure Island Flea market was launched to support local artists and entrepreneurs and has done so beautifully, being filled with artists, collectors, designers, crafters, and food trucks.


Berkeley Flea Market

Saturdays and Sundays
Ashby BART Station Parking Lot

Add a stop for the Berkeley Flea Market when you’re in town and check out all of the goods their vendors offer .


Jack of All Trades Market – Oakland

November 8, 2014
Jack London Square

Head to Jack London Square on the 2nd Saturday of every month for the Jack of All Trades Market and shop, eat food and craft beer, and enjoy live music. You can even bring your dog!


San Jose Flea Market

Every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
Dawn to Dusk
1590 Berryessa Rd
San Jose, CA 95133
Saturdays & Sundays – $7 or FREE before 9am
Wednesdays & Fridays – $3

Holiday closing:
November 27 (Thanksgiving) – Closed
November 28 (Day after Thanksgiving) – OPEN
December 25 (Christmas) – Closed

All other days, open as usual.

The San Jose Flea Market has been going strong since 1960 and has over 4 million attendees per year. With more than 6000 vendors, and 60 food carts, there’s sure to be something for everyone. Be ready to walk, as the flea market spans ¼ mile in length.


DASB Flea Market – Cupertino

First Saturday, Rain or shine, including holidays
November 1, 2014
December 6, 2014
De Anza College – Parking Lots A & B
Cupertino, CA 95014

The De Anza Flea Market has been around for 30 years, and remains a student enterprise. They consistently sell all 825 vendor stalls and draw 15,000-20,000 shoppers on a good weathered day.


Guide to Haggling

The best way to haggle, honestly, is to just ask. No one is going to turn you away for trying to haggle. The worst thing is they say no and you move on.

Compiled by SALLstice


  • Cars (purchase/ maintenance / accessories)
  • Mattresses
  • Furniture
  • ANYTHING Pre-owned
  • Apartment Rent (not often, but I’ve done it)
  • Cable / Satellite
  • One-time Membership Costs (Gym, etc…)
  • Electronics? (I’ve never had any luck, most others here seem to though)
  • Hotels (bigger is better, smaller ones tend not to be negotiable)
  • Cell Phones (Units / Plans / Accessories)


  • Small, local businesses (Some go for it, some don’t. Always try)
  • Middle Eastern countries and Eastern European countries. Basically that whole area. Asia too.
  • Flea Markets / Garage Sales
  • Best Buy, apparently
  • Mall Kiosks
  • Jewelry Stores
  • Home Improvement stores (Home Depot, etc…)
  • Pawn shops (derr…)
  • Music Stores


  • Corporations (Walmart, Target, etc…)
  • Apartment Utilities (Gas/Electric/Water)
  • Businesses who can’t handle the cut in profits

Haggling (for me) is more of an attempt than a goal. I know people who will shop around for places willing to lower the price. I’m more of a “I’ll see what I can get” sort of guy.

The best methods I find are the simplest. Just ask “Would you be willing to come down on the price?” Often they’ll give you some showmanship and “ask the manager” and such. (Note: They are never talking to the manager on any offer you did not make yourself.) They will come back with an offer or they might even just open with a “You know what, we have a special going on now…”. (Note: They will ALWAYS be running a special.) You almost always want to ignore that. If they open by cutting the price down before anything even happens, they are trying to sucker you into that feeling of “OMG! WHAT A DEAL!!! I’LL TAKE IT NOW! I’M SUCH A SAVVY BUYER!”

This is when you need to step up your own showmanship. If the item is pre-owned, you’re in a better position. It might seem sleazy but try and look for ANY imperfection. Even the slightest thing can drastically reduce the worth of an item. Point it out and make it seem way worse then it is. The art is how you do this without showing disdain.  You never want to seem impressed with anything about the item in question or any offer they make. As soon as they see you’re impressed, they’ll start shoving that aspect down your throat and honestly, it’s more annoying and distracting than anything else. But that’s mostly the point. They want you to buy fast and be out the door.

Don’t Be Afraid To Make Your Own Offer

This is where a lot of people get uncomfortable. This takes practice. Some places are willing to go as deep as half off on some items (mattresses, I find, are the best for this). But don’t expect that. If you’re starting out, do your research and see what other places are selling similar items for. When you go into your haggle, you’ll be better prepared for a counter-offer. Name dropping can help your case too, especially if it’s with a known competitor. They want to drive business away from them so when you tell them you’re thinking of going there for the better price, they’ll be more open to dropping the price more.

Otherwise, my rule of thumb (which I don’t really have any basis for other than it seems to work pretty well) is offer around 75% of their offer. This is very flexible with context of the deal, who I’m dealing with and what I’m trying to get but that’s a decent starting point a lot of the time.

Don’t Reverse Auction The Price

Don’t do what I like to call the reverse auction. If they offer $500, just coming back with saying “$300!” won’t get you anywhere. You need to be able to back up your offer at least a little bit. Bring up other places offering similar items for a price close to yours. Bring up imperfections in the item or even just the fact it is pre-owned is enough to bring it down. The guys in Pawn Stars are awful with this. They don’t give any reasoning for offering even 10% of the seller’s asking price and don’t give any reasoning for it. But I hear the show is staged, so it’s whatever. It still bothers me how blatant it is. If you just come back with an offer like, “I’ll give you $300” it makes you sound like a pompous ass. You still want to be friendly and approachable. You’re asking the business to do you a favor. Make the business WANT to cut you a deal by being friendly and open to negotiation.

Now for the king of deal-breakers. This one simple aspect will gets you HEAVY discounts. Offer cash. Business LOVE cash. Charging costs them money, so by offering cash, literally everyone (except Visa or whatever) wins. If you’re going for a deep offer, offer it in cash. It makes it so much more appealing to the business. Also offer to pay in full, if you can. That is usually preferred over installments. Some places don’t seem to care much, though. And some others prefer the installment plan since it usually costs more for you in the long run.

Group or Package Discounts

Aiming for group or package buys works well too. Like I was saying about avoiding the reverse auction, offer alternate deals. Offer that you’ll buy Object A for whatever price, but you’ll also buy Object B (which is somehow related or connected to Object A) for whatever other price. So if you are buying a mattress for $400, offer to buy the mattress for $300 but you’ll also get the box spring and mattress pad for another $150. They make a bigger sale and you get more of what you need for a lower price since you’re buying it all at once.

Car Financing

Apparently, you should always finance a car. I don’t know much about that, but a bunch of commentators here have mentioned it and the Internet is never wrong.

16 Tips To Improve Your Haggling Skills

By greenhomesteader

  1. Practice. Especially on items that aren’t really important to you. “Eh, my wife might like that” type items. You have much less emotion invested in it, and it’s much easier to walk away. You can practice walking away which can be the hard part some times. You can see the reaction of people losing a sale.
  2. Find out if they are on commission. If the are commission paid, they will tend to haggle for the deal more. More cars will come on the lot to sell if the car moves, but lose a customer and they lose pay.
  3. Find out how costs are figured. New utility lines (electrical) are based on planned consumption to make the money back. If you can show a higher planned consumption, they will knock the install price down.
  4. Keep in mind, this is their job. Haggling can be (“is” if on commission) an invest for them even more so than you. They are trying to make a sale and investing time in a negotiation. The longer it goes, the more they have invested.
  5. Always ask about programs and specials they have (for farmers, students, new home owners, etc.) towards the end of the haggling, not the beginning. They have already invested time and resources in the sale. They don’t want to see that be wasted. Often, they will “stretch” the special to end the negotiations and finalize the sale. If they brought it up sooner, then they were doing their job. If they forgot, you’ve already got them down lower.
  6. Always get it in writing. a) If they pass you off to some one else, make sure they write everything thing down before someones else fills out the paperwork. b) You can leave with the offer and most will honor it even days later. c) you can take that offer in writing to a competitor and start off with a lowered price. This is an excellent way to play Home Depot against Lowes against Sears, etc. At the vary least you can get them to write down the “special price” and take that elsewhere to get them to beat it.
  7. Most place will match similar quality / feature items if they are willing to haggle. Don’t try to compare Sony to a store brand, but that Frigidaire vs. a whirl pool can work out. This does work at Home Depot on appliances.
  8. Cash is king. But take it a step farther. Show them. When getting to the end, show them the cash, don’t just tell them. They see the money and know you’re serious. I’ve had it work with a credit card, but it works much better with cash.
  9. Always dress “decent”. Don’t dress like you have money, they will assume you can part with it easily. Don’t dress poor, they will assume you are wasting their time. Dress like you want to buy something and worked hard for it.
  10. Learn when stock changeover is. Certain items change with the seasons (cars, furniture, computers, clothes, etc.). When the season is changing and the new styles / models are coming out, they want to move the old ones quick to make room for the new making them more likely to haggle.
  11. Don’t go when it’s busy. If they have a line of customers and some one wants to haggle, they’re just going to brush you off and go to those other customers who aren’t prepared.
  12. Don’t feel bad. They won’t sell you something if they won’t make a profit from it in some way. They may even sell it to you below cost to get higher sales numbers that month. They won’t sell you something if they aren’t profiting from it in some way.
  13. Kind of a corollary to number 12, keep in mind they want a win too. It may just be the sale, but you may be able to give them something else. A reference, a sales lead, an add on service. You may also get them to throw in free services in place of a discount. Always look for the intangible. Labor for them is a lower cost than to you. Free oil changes and service for a year or two can really rack up, but get it thrown into that new-to-you used car and you saved yourself an extra couple hundred bucks.
  14. You are always under a budget. That item is $500, I’m sorry we only budgeted $400. You aren’t insulting the product, the sales person, or yourself and most people look at it as being responsible and are more willing to try to help.
  15. Follow up with, “I don’t know if we can afford that. We just didn’t budget that much. Let me ask my wife / boyfriend / SO”. No matter what they say (on the phone or down the aisle), it’s just to much. They can be standing right there and love it, but we just didn’t budget that much. It’s basically the reverse of “let me go talk to my manager.”
  16. If you bring cash, bring it in low value bills or mixed bills and show it when you flash the money. We made a deal and were closing and the sales lady explained since we paid in $5 and $10 “we must have saved up for a while.” I did it because I wanted the money to look bigger physically, and she assumed we had been saving up for a long time for our new whatever it was (I can’t remember).


To People Who Hate Hagglers

By SALLstice

There are a lot of people saying how they hate customers who haggle. Don’t get me wrong, I understand it can be annoying having a jerk like me bothering you over and over. Even more so when your business can’t afford the cut in profits. But like I’ve been trying to say, there are multiple types of hagglers. There are some who are hard nosed about getting the price they walked in with and there are those who are flexible and everyone in between.

I can’t control everyone. If I could, everyone would probably be dead. Since I can’t I can only apologize on their behalf.

If you tell me “Price in not negotiable” I will stop trying. I’m not going to push for a deal where there is not one to be made. Other people might not accept that and keep pushing. My best advice is to be direct and firm, but not a dick about it. You can still make a sale if you try and be honest. If a customer refuses to listen, simply ask them to leave or ignore them. If customers are not willing to accept that you set a hard price, they are not worth your time.

I am not sorry I try to haggle. I am sorry some people are assholes and some of those assholes try to haggle. The fact that they like to haggle has nothing to do with the fact they are assholes. Try to understand the distinction.

Auctions Distort Estate Item Pricing

This is a follow-up to our earlier blog about pricing antiques and collectibles.

As stated in that blog, something is worth what you can get for it on the day your are attempting to sell it.  And there are a number of factors affecting this price.

We also mentioned the folly of the estimated price ranges provided by famous auction houses and how in many instances, the actual price paid is either way above or way below the estimated range.  Now we have some proof to offer.

Take a look at this page which appeared in the March 2013 issue of Architectural Digest.  Click on it to enlarge the page for easier reading.

The Stickley settee shown at the bottom of the page had a pre-auction price range high of $12,000.  At auction this settee sold for $24,000.

The blue and white vase shown on the left side of the page was expected to sell in the range of $500,000 to $700,000.  At auction the vase sold for $5.2 million dollars.

Again, you can read about the other items shown on the page by clicking on it to enlarge it.

The point here isn’t to marginalize the experts working for the auction houses.  The point to be made is that it is near impossible to determine an accurate selling price for older, used merchandise like antiques, collectibles, and vintage items.

So when someone asks you what something is worth, simply tell them it is only worth what someone will pay on the day you are attempting to sell it.

And if you hope to get the maximum amount for your item, try selling it on eBay or with one of the major auction houses.

In an auction environment you are counting on finding two people with lots of money who both want the item and will pay way more than it is probably worth.



Don’t Get Burned by Reproductions

Most serious collectors and resellers have all sorts of stories about being taken by someone selling a reproduction.

It happens on occasion and each time it does, we feel cheated for some period of time.

Reproductions are the scourge of the antique and collectibles business.  And people who knowingly sell a reproduction without disclosing the fact that the item is a reproduction  should be avoided.  Never buy from them again.

After over 50 years of serious buying, I was the victim of a reproduction last week.

I’m telling my story here so I can provide tips on how to avoid being taken by a reproduction.

I was seeking a Red Goose Shoes store display of a big red goose made of plaster.  Many didn’t survive because they were made of plaster.  You rarely find one at a flea market or antique show.  When you want something now, the best place to head is eBay.

Sure enough, I found two for sale on eBay.

One had an opening bid of $29.95, the other was a “Buy it Now” for $60.

The lower-priced item was being sold by a seller with well-over 5,000 positive feedbacks.  The other seller was new to eBay and this was his or her 4th item being sold.  Normally, in situations like this, buyers tend to put much more faith in the long-time seller than the newbie.

The lower priced listing included only one fairly poor photo.  The “Buy it Now” listing included 4 clear photos.  This should have been my first clue but I ignored it.

I studied the photos for a few days trying to determine if one or both were originals or reproductions.

At this point I should mention that there are occasions when some lucky seller comes across a case of original items still in the box.  We call these NOS or new old stock.  They are mint condition originals.  With rare exception, when this happens the seller is more than happy to tell you the item for sale is NOS.  Neither of these listings mentioned NOS.

At this point my gut told me the higher priced item had a much better chance of being an original as the other item just looked too new.  But, the lower-priced item was about to expire with no bids while the “Buy-it-Now” had many days to go.

So, the desire for a lower price caused me to put in a bid a tad-bit over $29.95 and I won the bid as the only bidder.

Later in the day I began having second-thoughts about the goose I had just purchased.

So, I went back to the original listing to read it again.

At this point I saw something that really bothered me.  Next to the word “Condition” the seller had put this:  “Used: ?”  How did I overlook the question mark the first time.  To me this is a red flag that I ignored.

But it gets much worse — much worse.

Next, I did what I should have done much earlier.  I clicked-on the seller’s eBay name so I could take a close look at his or her feedback for the past several months.

My heart skipped a few beats and my blood pressure rose as I came across several buyers providing feedback about their purchases of the identical goose.  Not only did I encounter these feedbacks but other buyers had purchased a smaller-sized red goose.

I immediately knew I had purchased a reproduction and I was mad at myself for failing to do my homework BEFORE buying the item my gut told me was probably a reproduction.

Of course, I tried convincing myself that it was possible that the seller had found a case or two of originals in mint condition and was selling them one-at-a-time.  But this was highly unlikely because a seller with this many feedbacks would know to mention that these were “found in some basement or barn in the original box.”

So, I stewed for the next 3 days until the red goose arrived.  Opening it, I held it close to my face and “yes” I could smell what seemed to be new paint.  The bottom was like new with no scratches.

It entered my mind to provide negative feedback to the seller but I didn’t.  Why?

Because, although the seller was not forthcoming and totally honest, he or she gave me a clue with the “Used:?” notation.  And, I failed to check his or her recent feedbacks.

Bottom line, I cheated myself by not doing more research before bidding and I failed to trust my gut.

After reluctantly providing positive feedback  (after all, it arrived quickly and was well-packed), I went to the $60 “Buy-it-Now” listing and studied it again.  I sent the seller a note asking for a photograph of the bottom.  Several more photos were added to the listing.

I pondered the $60 listing for 2 more days and finally convinced myself I was being “penny wise and pound foolish.”

I wanted an original red goose, the listing said it was “original” and I had been communicating with the seller and was convinced he or she was being 100% honest.

So, I clicked on the “Buy-in-Now” link and made my purchase.

Much to my surprise it arrived in 3 days.

Upon opening it, I was one happy guy.  It was, indeed, an original red goose.  Sure, I now had almost double the $60 cost but I was happy and had learned my lesson over again.

To me, getting burned by the first seller is simply part of the experience of buying antiques and collectibles.  Doing this occasionally ensures that we pay closer attention in the future when making a “buy” decision.

Okay, take a look at the first photo below.  Which goose is the fake and which is the original?


Now, take a closer look at the lettering on the front of each goose.  Which is the fake and which is the original?  Here’s a hint:  The neck on the fake is not perfectly rounded like that on the original.  It is a bit wavy, causing the letters to be wavy.



The reproduction is on the left in the first photo and is the second, or bottom, photo above.  Note the better definition in the words on the top photo.

Now take a look at both beaks.  The fake has new paint.  The original is darker due to aging over the years — what we call patina.  Look at the eyes.  The original has all black eyes while someone painting the reproduction saw fit to border the round eye with a bit of color used for the beak.


Here’s a photo of the webbed-feet.  Again, check for aging or patina and better definition in the feet.


This helps make the point.  Look at the bottoms.  The original shows wear and has green felt circles to protect the surface it was on.


Finally, here’s a side view of both geese.  Note the definition in the feathers and the patina on the original goose.


I’m sure that the fakes were made from a casting made from an original goose.  The problem is in the finishing work after the reproductions are taken from the molds and painted.  These reproductions were most likely made in China and shipped to America to be sold to unsuspecting buyers like me.

Please note it is just as easy to get burned buying reproductions at the flea market or the antique show.

The problem is that you rarely have an opportunity to see both an original and a reproduction side by side.  So you simply have to think long and hard before buying an item if your gut tells you it might be a fake.

Oddly enough, one week earlier I spotted a Red Goose Shoes metal sign at a local outdoor flea market with over 300 sellers.  Fortunately, I had my Apple iPhone with me and was able to spend almost 30 minutes doing online research to determine if the sign was a reproduction.  It was priced right at $150 which was one sign it was a reproduction.

But the size was wrong and the company name on the sign appeared on several signs online.  This is a sure give-away that the sign is a fake.

So I passed on the sign and was able to buy a near-mint original for double the cost online.

The takeaway from this blog is that reproductions are out there and they are being sold by both unsuspecting sellers and unscrupulous sellers.

You must take your time to determine if something is an original or a fake.  The higher the price, the longer time you should take to avoid being scammed.

And when scammed, take your medicine, learn a lesson, and move on.  It happens to all of us from time to time.

And remember — haste makes waste and caveat emptor.

The Downside to Buying in the Dark

There’s good news and bad news about shopping at the flea market and buying stuff in the dark.

The good news is that by arriving in the dark, you have a head start on most other shoppers and can have your pick of the rare items and under-priced items.

The bad news is that by shopping in the dark, you increase your chances of paying good money for something that you discover later is cracked, chipped, or damaged in some way.


When this happens, you must go through a long spell of buyer’s remorse.  This malady may pass by the next day or it can linger for a long time.  It all depends on how much you paid for the damaged item and how valuable it is to you.  If it’s a very rare item, it can take a long time to get over.

Here’s a tip when this happens with a rare item:  When it happens to me I justify it by telling myself and friends that I’d rather have a damaged item than to not have the item at all.  After all, I may never find a perfect specimen of the item I’m seeking.  Here’s another tip:  Pay good money for a damaged item and more often than not, you’ll soon find a perfect one at the same or slightly higher cost.  Who knows why this happens — it just does.

When shopping in the dark, don’t rely on the seller to point out any or all the flaws in the piece you are buying.  It’s the price you pay for shopping in the dark.


If you must shop and buy in the dark, make sure you bring a very bright flashlight and thoroughly examine your item before putting down your money.  Take your time.  Always assume it is damaged and spend your time trying to find the damage.  If you can’t find it, then buy it, assuming it’s perfect.  Just don’t be shocked when you get it in the bright sunlight that you don’t discover the tiny hairline crack.  It’s Murphy’s Law.

Another problem with buying in the dark is that we arrive to get a head start on our competition.  This brings up the issue of “speed” shopping.  We rush from space to space trying to be first at every seller’s location.  Because we are in a hurry we tend to get sloppy about carefully checking our items for damage.  It’s a major trade-off between speed and checking for damage.

One of the best ways to avoid paying good money for a damaged item is bring along your spouse and ask his or her opinion.  If your spouse is like mine, she’ll examine that item as if it cost $5,000.  Worse, she’ll never stop reminding you of what a doofus you are for buying a damaged item.  I’ve been there.  I tend to be very careful simply to avoid being nagged about my bad purchases.

You always have the option of waiting until the sun comes up and it is nice and bright outside.  Unfortunately, there’s the likelihood that one of your competitors came along after you and bought the item.  If this happens, depend on him or her mentioning it more than once over the next several weeks.  “I can’t believe you saw it before me and passed it up.  What were you thinking?”

Of course, you could get lucky and find the item you want in a seller’s space that is lit-up like a Christmas Tree like the one shown here.  But such lighting in the dark is the exception and not the rule.


Bottom line — shopping and buying in the dark is fine.  Just take your time and examine your rare find carefully.  Be fanatic about it.  Assume it is damaged and try to find the damage.  Turn it every way but loose looking for damage.  Solicit help from a friend or spouse.  You might ask the seller if you can return it for a refund if you find later that it is damaged.  Just a warning about this approach — most sellers will laugh out loud at such a request and look at you as though you just landed on earth.

Good luck shopping and buying in the dark.

Auto Swap Meets Are Really Giant Vintage Flea Markets

We include area auto swap meets on our flea market calendar for one simple reason — you can buy some great antiques, collectibles, and vintage items at auto swap meets.  Auto swap meets aren’t simply a bunch of guys wondering around looking at rusty car parts.  They are flea markets that lean towards car and truck parts and related items.

But as these sellers are getting ready for the swap meet, they often go through their garages, outdoor sheds, basements, attics, and even the house looking for stuff to take to the swap meet.

You’ll even come across women selling at the auto swap meets.  We’ve even encountered women selling vintage jewelry at the swap meet.

Bottom line — if it’s old and in decent shape, it finds its way to the local auto swap meet.  The only exception is furniture for the house.  I don’t recall seeing vintage furniture at the auto swap meet.  So don’t come looking for furniture or cookware.  But, there’s always the first time for everything.

In addition to cars and car parts, you will find a large collection of old vintage signs, gas pumps, oil cans, ephemera, and thousands upon thousands of small items.


If you are a collector of antiques, vintage, and collectibles and haven’t been to an auto swap meet, you owe it yourself to shop one in the near future.  You’ll find them listed on our flea market calendar.

Here’s a tip for shopping at the auto swap meets:  Arrive very early — before the sun comes up.

The guys start early and end early.

And unlike your typical flea market, in the winter months it’s not unusual to encounter sellers with open fires in their spaces keeping warm.

Auto swap meets tend to be a man’s world but don’t let that stop you if you are a woman.  My spouse attends these swap meets and enjoys herself.

As we attend future area auto swap meets, we’ll take lots of photographs and post them to the site for you to view.  Perhaps they’ll convince you that attending auto swap meets is both fun and rewarding.


Pricing Antiques, Collectibles, Vintage Items

One of life’s biggest mysteries is how to go about putting a “realistic” selling price on an antique, collectible, or vintage item.

Here are some things to think about when trying to come up with a price for any item you are selling:

  1. Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay you for it on the day or days you are trying to sell it.
  2. The price you can charge is what someone is willing to pay and what your competitors will let you charge.

If the second part of #2 confuses you, look at it this way – if you’re at a flea market and have $80 on an old Barbie Doll and four other sellers have the same doll in their space and they are priced in the range of $40 to $60, then it’s unlikely you’ll find someone willing to pay you $80.


Don’t forget, your competitors also dictate what price you can put on an item.

Flea Market Sellers

It’s been our experience that most flea market sellers try to at least double their money on each item priced for resale.

This means that if they paid $5 for a vintage pocket knife, at a minimum they’d want to price it at $10.

Of course, the actual price may be higher based on:

  1. Online research, particularly on eBay, to see what the same or similar items are selling for today.
  2. Years of experience selling similar items and knowing what the current market will bear for such an item.
  3. Advice from an experienced friend or expert about the item being priced.
  4. Gut feel for what the price should be.

The problem today is that too many flea market sellers have little or no experience in buying merchandise from a variety of sources and then pricing it to sell at the local flea market.

So these folks either price too low, which is great for other resellers looking for underpriced items before the market opens, or they price way too high which means the item doesn’t sell.

This is why you can see the same item from flea market to flea market from the same seller as the item is priced too high and the seller refuses to see the error in his or her pricing.

At this point we always bring up the famous Pareto’s Law or the 80/20 rule.

The 80/20 rule states that if you buy 100 items for resale, you’ll quickly sell 20 of them and the other 80 will stick around because of one or two reasons:

  1. The item is priced too high for both resellers and collectors.
  2. The item is simply not in demand either by resellers or collectors.  It should never have been purchased for resale.  You might call such items “dogs.”

Success as a reseller depends more on how you handle the 80 items and not the 20 quick sellers.

Suffice it to say, pricing items for resale is as much a guess as it is an art.

Another factor that comes to bear here is the famous law of supply and demand.

Simply stated, when the demand is greater than the supply, you can charge much higher prices for an item.

When the supply is greater than the demand, you have to charge a much lower price to make sure it sells.  If the supply is too big, you may not sell the item at any price.

This law of supply and demand is why you often see the word “Rare” on a price tag or eBay description.  Sellers use the word “Rare” in an attempt to convince buyers that the item is one of a very few available anywhere and that there are many more buyers wanting it than items available to meet the demand.

This may or may not be true – you simply cannot depend on the seller really knowing if an item is, in fact, rare or in short supply.

People Wanting to Price their Personal or Family Items   

While you may not want to hear this – it’s simply not possible to provide an accurate value of, or price for, any particular item you wish to sell online, in a garage or yard sale, at a flea market, to a reseller, or in an estate sale.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is being untruthful or deceitful.

How can we say this?

Simple, just look at the items up for auction at any online auction site (except eBay) which includes the major auction houses like Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Bonham and Butterfield’s, and John Moran.  Every item presented in the auction catalog or online includes a price range where the “experts” estimate, in a wide range, what the item should bring at auction.

For example, a vase might show a range of ($200 – $400).  Now that’s quite a huge price range.  Of course, after the auction is over, the actual price paid often falls outside this range – sometimes the final price is above the range and sometimes below the range.  This should be proof that it’s impossible to provide an accurate price for a particular item.

Even the so-called experts can’t do it.

Sure, you can pay big money to have some certified appraiser give you an appraisal price but remember this – these appraisal prices are generally provided for one of the following reasons:

  1. For insurance coverage
  2. To settle estates
  3. For divorce settlements

As such, the appraisal prices are generally much higher than you could ever expect to get by selling the item yourself.  It’s our strong belief that you are simply wasting money getting a professional appraisal if your goal is to sell your item or items.  Plus, the high cost of an appraisal must be paid immediately out of your pocket.  And, if you are getting the appraisal in order to sell your items, you must subtract the appraisal cost from your sale proceeds. The only person who wins here is the appraiser.

If you have an appraisal list for inherited items and are thinking of using it to price your items in order to sell them, our best advice is to throw it away immediately.

The prices listed are obsolete and meaningless.  No one wants to see it.  The prices listed will distort your reality of what your stuff is worth today.

Still, while you will usually be able to find someone willing to provide you with their opinion (substitute best guess here) about what your item or items “might” be worth, we caution you that pricing antiques and collectibles is generally a best guess.

Why is this?

Because the bottom line is this:  Something is only worth what you can get for it on the day you are willing to sell it.  There are many variables affecting the price you can get for your prized piece of pottery, your beer tray collection, or your Grandmother’s jewelry.  These variables include:

  • The overall condition of your piece (mint perfect versus repaired or chipped)
  •  The rarity of your particular item (this is the law of supply and demand at work with rare items commanding much higher prices)
  •  The history behind your item (some folks are willing to pay more for an item when they have the history behind it as it helps authenticate its age and ownership)
  •  The location where you are selling it (items usually bring more in large cities like New York and San Francisco  versus smaller cities and towns)
  •  How you are attempting to sell it (Sotheby’s Auction, Craig’s List, eBay auction, Etsy, a simple ad in your local paper, a flea market, or in an estate sale held at your home or the home of a deceased relative)
  •  The time at which you are trying to sell it (for example, people are usually willing to pay more for items just before a major holiday like Christmas, Mother’s Day, anniversaries, and birthdays as people use these events as justification for spending more for something that will make a wonderful gift)
  •  How long you’re willing to wait to get a higher price
  •  Changing economic conditions (the lingering deep recession has had a downward effect on pricing of antiques and collectibles as has the bursting of the antique bubble some years ago)

As you can see, there are many variables that can affect the ultimate price someone will pay for each item you wish to sell.

Another issue affecting price is the value you place on your item.  For example, many people place a higher value on an item that’s a family heirloom than would a potential buyer.  Just because your great-grandmother got the vase as a wedding gift doesn’t make the item more valuable in the eyes of most buyers.  Usually, you have to dismiss any sentimental value when establishing a price.

Unfortunately, there are no “reliable” books where one can go to find an estimated price or price range.  Sure, there are price guides available but these guides are usually “out of date” within a few months of being published.  Plus, where did the author get his or her prices and price ranges?  Often these prices come from auction houses where prices tend to be higher because of two or more anxious bidders bidding against each other – thereby driving up the price.  Plus, these price guides fail to take in the eight variables listed above.

Another thing that’s absolutely affected pricing today is the growing assortment of fake reality shows on TV including Pickers, Pawn Stars, Storage Wars, and The Antique Road Show.  These shows are rehearsed and the items selected ahead of time to provide excitement.  Unfortunately, they don’t represent reality.

These shows give TV viewers the idea that everything is valuable.  We’ve experienced this many times.  Someone will ask our opinion about an item and when we give them an estimated price, they’ll quickly tell us that a similar item on The Antique Road Show was estimated five times higher.  The key word here is “similar.”  Being similar isn’t the same as being identical.  Bottom line, forget what you see and hear on these reality shows.  They are pure entertainment – not educational shows.

Because so many people, family, friends, and co-workers – see these shows, it’s made them all experts in value and they are always more than happy to tell you that your Grandma’s set of china or other item is “valuable.”   You should ignore the advice of these folks.  Ask them if they’d pay the price they just suggested.

Most of us believe the stuff we have is much more valuable than it really is.  When deciding to part with one or more of your antiques or collectibles, you have to ask yourself one very important question:  “What is my goal here?”

If it’s to get the maximum price because you desperately need the money, then you may have to wait a very long time to find a buyer willing to pay your price.

You can elect to send it to auction but remember this, if it sells for $250, the seller gets a piece of this price as his or her fee.   And auctions aren’t held immediately.   It could be many months before you receive a check for the item sold on your behalf.  Plus, you have to trust the auction house to be honest.  And there are almost always income tax implications using a major auction house.

If your goal is to simply get rid of stuff because you are moving, downsizing, or settling an estate, then you are better off pricing your item realistically based on the eight variables above and getting the money right away.  Remember the sage advice:  “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

We’ve known folks who’ve established a price for a collectible item and it sold right away.  Most are happy but there are always those who immediately complain that it sold because their price was too low.  Maybe so or maybe not.  Perhaps they got lucky and the right person just happened to come along at the right time.  Because of this possibility, some sellers set a high price as they are deathly afraid of selling their item at too low of a price.  These folks are never really happy with the price they get and should probably just keep their prized vase or bowl as the emotional trauma of setting a price and selling the item is overwhelming.

So, you have to be in the right frame of mind before deciding to sell your items at an estate sale, a yard or garage sale, or at a community flea market.

Again, undoubtedly, you will be able to find someone willing to assist you with a price or a price range for every item you wish to sell.  Of course, you’ll have to pay this so-called expert for their assistance.  Professional appraisers charge the most which is a percentage of the appraised price which we see as a giant conflict of interest.

Others are willing to provide pricing for a flat hourly rate in the $100 range.

Beware of anyone offering to assist you with pricing in return for taking some of your items as payment.  This isn’t really ethical and most likely they’ll take the most valuable items.

Before hiring someone to assist you, remember everything that we’ve covered above.

And remember, when it comes to setting a price, the realistic price is what your buyers are willing to pay and what your competitors will allow you to charge (meaning you can’t sell your vase for $125 if identical items are available for sale at flea markets or online in the $75 range).

So, think long and hard before asking someone’s assistance in pricing your item or items.

If your goal is to obtain what you feel is the maximum value for each item, good luck, because you are going to need it.

Come to The Flea Market Prepared

You arrive at the flea market early so you can find some great stuff before someone else beats you to it.  You find a vintage pocket knife and an old lunch box with thermos that you just have to buy.  The seller tells you that you can have both of them for $50.  That’s a great price if they are in great condition.  You open your wallet to discover you  have only two $20 bills.  First you try pity, asking it the seller will take $40 as you forgot to get money.  Hearing the word “No,” you then ask if she takes credit cards.  Again, you hear the word “No.”  She then mentions she’ll take a check.  You feel your pockets only to discover you also forgot your checkbook.  Finally, you ask if she knows the location of the nearest ATM.

By this time, if I was the seller I’d ask in a sarcastic tone of voice:  “Do you even know your name?”  And then to myself I’d mutter some expletive description of you.

It’s utterly shocking how many flea market shoppers come to the flea market totally unprepared.  It’s not as if this is their first time attending a flea market.  Most of the people I encounter coming unprepared are regulars.

There’s absolutely no excuse to arrive at the flea market unprepared.  Unfortunately, it happens frequently which is extremely aggravating to the sellers.

At a minimum, you should come prepared with the following items in your possession:

  1. A big wad of cash and this includes a lot of $5’s, $10’s, and $20’s.  Sellers rarely come prepared to give change for $100 bills all day long.
  2. You checkbook with actual unused checks in it.  Verify you have unused checks before leaving home.
  3. Your ATM or debit card in your wallet in case you need to get cash from the ATM.
  4. A minimum of two ballpoint pens that work.  It’s shocking how few people carry pens but they expect the seller to have a box of them.
  5. A tape measure.
  6. One or two printer’s or jeweler’s loops to read the fine print on many antiques.


Your basic needs including your ATM or debit card which isn't shown here.
Your basic needs including your ATM or debit card which isn’t shown here.

Not only do having these items show the sellers that you are a flea market professional and mean business, it makes shopping and paying much quicker and efficient.

Failure to have all these items tells the sellers that you are either absent-minded, lazy, or stupid.  They don’t like having you in their selling space taking up room while other shoppers are trying to get the seller’s attention.

In addition to the items listed above, you should also carry a large cloth bag with long handles for carrying your purchases.

More and more, serious shoppers are walking around the flea market pulling the 2-wheel shopping carts which make it handy to accumulate purchases as you move from seller to seller.  Just don’t pull them into the seller’s booth with you.  They become obstacles for others.  And don’t park them in the entrance to the booth where they prevent other shoppers from entering.  Park them out of the way of the traffic flow.

You should also consider bringing your own wrapping paper should you buy some delicate items or a set of dishes.  You can’t count on the sellers to come prepared either.  Unprepared sellers will be the subject of another blog in the near future.

In your car or truck you should have some blankets and rope should you buy furniture pieces.

Here’s a TIP:  If you know you are looking for furniture don’t drive to the flea market in your sports car or small passenger car.  Bring a van, SUV, or truck.  Come prepared.  Most sellers are not in the delivery business.

You should also consider carrying some 3″ x 5″ cards, blue masking tape,  and a sharpie marker so you can put your name and phone number on big items that you buy and leave in the seller’s space while you continue to shop.  Why the phone number?

You’d be shocked how often people leave things that are paid for in the seller’s space and forget to come for them before the market ends.  By having the phone number you can be called and reminded about your purchase.  Again, don’t count on the seller to have these items.  Many of them are just as dumb or forgetful as some of the shoppers.

And if you are an early-bird shopper in the dark, remember to bring your flashlight with fresh batteries.  Again, you’d be shocked how often we hear someone complaining about low or dead batteries in their flashlight.

It makes me wonder if these people give any thought to planning their flea market excursion the day or night before.  Obviously not.

Just remember the old saying:  It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Other items to consider include moist towelettes to wipe your hands before eating something from one of the many food vendors, bottled water to drink along the way, change for parking if necessary, band-aids if you cut your hand while fiddling with some old metal object, and gloves for handling and carrying large, dirty objects.

Make a checklist and the night before the flea market, use the list to gather together all the stuff you’ll need for next morning’s trip to the flea market.

You’ll be less crazed in the morning and you’ll arrive at the flea market fully prepared to do what you came for — to shop as many seller spaces as possible as quickly as possible so no one else buys what you came for.

There’s nothing more aggravating than entering a seller’s space just as some other shopper is leaving carrying the exact item you’ve been seeking.

Be Prepared!

Come Prepared!





Don’t Be a Cheapskate Buyer

If you want to get a bad reputation at the flea market, be a cheapskate buyer.

There’s nothing more irritating to a seller than the cheapskate buyer who tries to become a repeat customer.  Here’s how you know if you’re a cheapskate buyer — you ask for a better price every time you attempt to buy something.  Yea, I know, some time ago a “know it all” convinced you that savvy shoppers always bargain — always offer a lower price or ask if you can do better on the price.  This is really bad advice.  It’s rude and brands you as an undesirable cheapskate.

Here’s a tip to keep in mind the next time you try getting a cheaper price — sellers know who you are and really don’t want to sell to you.  I know this for a fact as I’ve both sold at a flea market and continue helping a friend sell once a month.  Once we brand you as a cheapskate shopper, we NEVER, EVER give you a better price.  We hold our ground at the original price.  We don’t want you in the booth.  Got it???

What really bothers sellers is that cheapskate buyers automatically believe that they’ll get a lower price by simply asking or demanding one.  It becomes a bad habit that needs to be broken.  They never stop to consider that the price on the object is already a very favorable price.  To cheapskate buyers, the act of bargaining and saving a few dollars is more important than owning the object.  And like a disease, they tend to spread it to other shoppers by always bragging about how they beat the seller out of $3.00, $5.00 or some other amount.

With rare exception, the vast majority of flea market sellers are barely making much money on the stuff they sell.  They have to spend money driving around to find the stuff, they have to pay for it, they have to take it  home and clean it and research value, they have to price it, pack it, drive it to the flea market, rent a selling space, unpack it, and display it.  And then the cheapskate buyer comes along and tries to buy it for less.  It’s INSULTING and RUDE.

There are the occasional items that are overpriced and asking for a better price is warranted.  But this is the exception and not the rule.

No, I won't take $10 each for these three mechanical banks.  They're marked $40 each and if you don't buy them some other shopper will come along and buy them.
No, I won’t take $10 each for these three mechanical banks. They’re marked $40 each and if you don’t buy them some other shopper will come along and buy them.

When some cheapskate asks me if I’ll take $10 for an item marked $15 I generally tell them this:  “I can’t believe you’ll pass on this item because of $5.  Yet, you’ll stop at Starbucks on the way home and waste that $5 on some grossly overpriced, sugar-laden latte that is not only bad for you but that will go through your system in a couple of hours.  No, I won’t take $10.”  Sometimes this really irritates the buyer.  Who cares?  We don’t want cheapskate buyers like this.

I haven’t been a reseller for several years.  I’m a collector.  I shop the flea markets.  And when I come across something I really want, I pay the marked price with rare exception.  I do this for at least two reasons.  One, it’s worth the price marked and two, I want the seller to not only remember me but to look for items I collect and bring them to future flea markets and hold them for me.  If I was a cheapskate buyer, the seller would treat me like the plague in the future.

There are times when I ask for a better price.  This happens when I feel the asking price is too high given the value and condition of the item.

Now, there are several ways to ask for a better price:

  1. Will you take $XX dollars for this?  Here you are naming the price you’ll pay.
  2. Can you do better on the price?
  3. Is this your lowest price?
  4. I have only $XX dollars, will you take this for the item?
  5. What is your best price on this item?

Here’s another tip:  The best approach is #5.  Forget the other 4.

If you can’t break the cheapskate habit, then do your shopping about 30 minutes before the flea market ends and you’ll likely find sellers willing to make better deals.  But always remember, you are buying stuff that hundreds, if not thousands, of other shoppers have passed up.  If you take this approach you are telling sellers that you are either lazy and can’t get up in time to shop earlier or that you are a tightwad cheapskate who holds onto dollar bills like they are gold.

Remember, sellers are not in the charity business.  They are there to make some money.  They’ve worked hard to bring you an array of desirable items to buy.  With rare exception, pay them what they are asking.