Tips from a Pro on Flea Market Shopping

Paris-based antique expert Toma Clark Haines, AKA the Antiques Diva, shares some tips on salvage scavenging—and you learn more from her in person at an event this weekend.

Score big with these tips.   Image courtesy of Randolph Street Market

Toma Clark Haines of The Antiques Diva, a European antiques sourcing and touring company, will be at Randolph Street Market this weekend, shopping and giving a crash course in French period furniture at Sally’s Cabana at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

What is the best way to approach flea market shopping?

There are two rules of thought. One camp walks through the entire flea market to get the lay of the land comparing prices before pulling the buying trigger. This can be a great negotiating tactic to express interest in an item and return later in the day to ask for a better price. But I must confess when shopping for myself, I’m a victim of what the French call “coup de foudre,” or, love at first sight. If I see something, love it, and it’s a price I’m willing to pay, then I ask myself, “Will I regret this if I walk away and it’s sold when I return?” If the answer is yes, then I don’t hestitate to purchases it.

What is always on your hunt list?

Art de la table and gorgeous accessories for accenting my home. I love entertaining, mixing and matching antique dishes, crystal, stemware and flatware. Silver pitchers top my list and are ideal when repurposed as vases for floral displays. I also love vintage fashion—especially costume jewelry from the 1950s and ’60s and vintage silk travel scarves, which are ideal for framing or repurposing into pillows.

You love French antiques—what’s an affordable Franco-find that will make a great keepsake for a person on a budget?

I love that you used the word keepsake. A lot of the clients on our European antique buying tours are looking to buy souvenirs. Souvenir in French means “memories” and I think the perfect French keepsake is an antique cork screw. It epitomizes the French culture and joie de vivre and can be found selling for a song. When a collection is hung clustered together in a kitchen it makes a great conversation piece.

Which major French style is your favorite and why?

When it comes to French furniture, I’m a sucker for anything Rococo with exuberant curves and an 18th-century patina. I’m a stickler for original paint, regardless of period. I love that perfectly imperfect wabi-sabi look.

How do you talk a dealer down on price? How much below asking is fair to request?

It’s easy to be intimidated when attempting to negotiate, but the easiest way to ask for a discount is to softball pitch it with, “Is that your best price?” Vendors are expecting you to haggle. If something is selling for $75 I might ask, “Would you take $50?” The answer might be “No” but they counter with $65. I in turn banter, “What about $60?” which is often met with a smiling “Sold!” There are no hard rules but in general I expect between a 10 and 20 percent discount. The best way to get a discount is to be buy more than one item from the same vendor—when you bundle, your negotiating power increases.

What kind of junk should we be avoiding?

It’s all fair game! If you want it and it’s the price you’re willing to pay, then it’s the right purchase for you!

What are the best markets in the world—outside of Randolph Street?

Without a doubt the Paris Flea Market tops the list, as does L’isle sur la Sorgue in the South of France or Arezzo Flea Market in Tuscany. For a smaller market I enjoy Ville Neuve les Avignon. British Flea Markets are among my favorite in the world. Newark is the largest flea market in Europe, but any of the IACF Fairs have chic inventory at rock-bottom prices. When seeking a bargain, I head to Belgium to the Tongeren Flea Market or to Waterloo.

Share

Advertisement

Submit your comment

Comments are moderated. We review them in an effort to remove foul language, commercial messages, abuse, and irrelevancies.