The summer antique and flea market season is in full swing.Join in!
Whether you’re looking to add to your favorite collection or more design-focused, we’ve got the tips to finding that perfect one-of-a-kind vintage treasure.
Weighing in are Glencoe native Sally Schwartz, antiques expert and founder of the Randolph Street Market, and Deerfield native Ashley Ortiz, long-time antiques hunter and owner of the Antique Taco in Wicker Park.
- Bring a tote bag or two and even some loose packing materials. Schwartz says it’s always best if you wrap something yourself, as you can ensure you have all the pieces and got exactly what you wanted. Serious shoppers should bring a rolling pushcart.
- Measure the space you’re trying to fill (accounting for the smallest and largest sizes that would work). Schwartz also suggests taking photos of the empty space with your phone as there’s nothing like a visual to help you decide what’s right.
- Bring plenty of cash, water and snacks. While the Randolph Street Market offers food and beverages and convenient ATMs, not all markets are that user-friendly.
Tips for finding the perfect treasure
- Think creatively. Anything can be turned into a lamp or mirror, and fabric remnants can be easily transformed into a throw pillow or lampshade, or even used to cover a box. Upholstery can always be changed and anything can be hung on a wall.
- If you’re looking for patina, then you need to like the paint or stain as is. But if your priorities are functionality and shape, remember anything can be repainted.
- It’s often hard to appreciate a piece when it’s surrounded by other items. Move it to a table or sideboard, and look at it alone.
- Hold up porcelain or glass to the light to check for hairline fractures, and run your hand along the edges to feel for any chips.
- Turn the piece over and look for unusual markings. Schwartz and other pros swear by worthpoint.com and its phone app for endless data on the value of anything.
- If you don’t find exactly the piece you’re looking for but like the dealer’s aesthetics, Ortiz says don’t be afraid to tell him what you want as he might have it in a warehouse somewhere.
Rules of engagement
Antique fairs offer something most retail outlets don’t: negotiation on price. But to ensure a fair and pleasant transaction, stick to these guidelines:
- Always be polite, respectful and enthusiastic. Schwartz has found that if a dealer sees that you want a piece because you love it, not just because you want a great deal, she might be more earnest in her negotiations.
- Remember that the dealer knows what she bought a piece for originally, and needs to at least break even.
- Don’t be afraid to tell the dealer what your limit is. And, if you buy more than one item from his booth, he might offer more wiggle room.
- Remember, cash is always better than check or credit.
Ortiz adds that if you’re willing to wait it out and risk losing a piece you love, often the best deals can be had in the last few hours as dealers are trying to lighten their load home.
But, if you really love a piece, NEVER ask a dealer to hold it for you unless you’re willing to pay in full upfront or leave a deposit. It’s not fair to ask a dealer to risk a sale if you can’t make up your mind.
Getting your goods home
For most shoppers, a few tote bags or a shopping pushcart are enough to get their treasures back home. But if you purchase an oversized item or furniture, don’t be afraid to ask a dealer about delivery. Some antique markets, like Randolph Street, offer extensive customer service options, including free or inexpensive delivery, and reasonable packing and shipping.
Favorite fairs and resources
Randolph Street Market
Kane County Flea Market
The Vintage Bazaar