What should I pay?

People ask me ALL the time, “What should I pay for this?’ Usually, we are at a flea market or garage sale when the whispered question comes up! And, I usually answer, “I don’t know!” Honestly, I really DON’T know!!!


I base my idea on what to pay for some treasure on what I WANT to pay for the treasure. There are so many things that depend on why I want to pay that particular price!

I have come up with a list of Tips and Tricks for Buying a Treasure at garage sales, flea markets, thrift stores and other venues where you can negotiate the price.

A Ask yourself, what is it that you looking for?” (Let’s use dishes for our example)  Keep your focus on dishes.

B Know your Market.  Are you going to garage sales in a small town... out in the country or are you in NYC?  BIG difference in prices, people and treasures.

C How much money do you have?  Figure out your budget and keep your budget.  Most garage sales and flea markets are all based on cash sales. If you only bring a certain amount of cash, it is ALWAYS amazing that you find exactly what you are looking for within that budget!!!

D Set a time frame for shopping. The longer you give yourself to find that “perfect” treasure, the longer it’s going to take you to find it! Two to four hours is usually plenty of time to make it to lots of garage sales or to traverse through a large part of most flea markets.

Now Let’s shop!!!

We are looking for dishes. Ask yourself how you are going to use these dishes.

(Let’s say we want a mix and match set of funky dishes for a bridal luncheon that we are in charge of organizing)

This is where instinct kicks into gear. You are putting on a luncheon for 10. You need Plates, Small Bowls for fruit and a Teacup and Saucer. And it is for a party of 10.

We start at the entrance of the flea market and travel rather quickly through the main aisle. This aisle is usually for the vendors who are there every single week and have earned their Prime Location. More than likely, they will have items that are a bit pricier than those in the farther reaches of the market. So it is best to just keep moving but still keeping a searching eye on what your are passing.

Now, you come to the part of the flea market that is fairly far from the parking lot. There may be empty booths and just “Hobby” vendors. These people are the BEST! They come to sell wares but to also chat and tell stories and ask about you and your stories!

It is in this area that you start noticing piles of dishes: plates, cups, mugs, silverware, crystal, wine glasses. Instead of just making a mental note, start looking at the items.  When you have found a couple of pieces that interest you set them aside. If you really like the pieces, don’t get too openly excited! You don’t want the vendor to know that you have just discovered hidden treasure! Stay calm! Also, don’t say anything negative about the item (dissing it will not make the price go lower!).

Ask the seller how much they are asking for the items.They tell you.Look the items over again. Read the bottom of the dish. Note the brand, country it was made and perhaps the lot number. Set the item back down. Look over other items on the table. Go back to original items and pick them up again. Ask the seller, “Is that your best price?”

Now, this is where things get controversial! Some people believe that all prices are up for negotiations. I believe that the vendor knows how much he wants for the treasure and usually, at this point, he tells me that price. You have to use your gut feeling on whether or not there is room for negotiation. If you feel that there is room for negotiation, then walk away from the treasures! Yup! Just walk away! The treasures will still be there in another 5 minutes. Walk over to another vendor and start this strange dance again! Perhaps you will do this a couple more times before you wander back to the first seller.

This time, don’t even touch the treasure. Just state how much you will offer him for what you want. The vendor will either agree, laugh out loud as if he is embarrassed by your offer or restate the original amount that he said.

Laughing out loud means he wants you to be embarrassed and come back with a higher price on your own.Restating the original amount means he’s not budging on the price and that is what you’re going to have to pay. If he agrees…you’ve hit pay dirt!

Make sure you let the vendor know just how happy you are with his treasure and even divulge how you are going to use the items! He may have more under the table, in the back of the truck or tucked away in a hidden spot!

The adrenaline really kicks into gear at this point and you are now officially on a ROLL!

So, Keep Going! Use your new tricks and just remember…

A Dishes

B Flea Market

C $25

D 2 hours

And just in case…STAY FOCUSED!

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