Tips for Shopping the Rose Bowl Flea Market

tips for shopping rose bowl flea market

Tips to Shop By

I’ve had many of you email me asking me to put together a guide or tips for shopping the flea market.  Thank you – as it validates my weekly trips to the flea even though Alan thinks it’s hoarder status. I’ve been frequenting the Rose Bowl Flea Market for over a decade and have learned the ins and outs of this insanely huge, yet treasure filled market.  For those of you outside of the Los Angeles area, you can still use these tips for your local flea market.  Here are my 8 Rose Bowl Flea Market tips:

1.  Dress accordingly. Yes, the flea market has turned into a fashion show where Angelenos come to show off their best street style, but if you’ve going to get some work done, then dress comfortably.  I usually arrive at 6AM when it’s chilly and by 10AM it’s usually blazing hot.  I layer up and usually wear shorts and a tank, topped with a light jacket.  I switch between sneakers and sandals, depending on the amount of walking I’ll be doing. I also bring a foldable hat as I like to protect my face on sunny days.  Leave your designer and over the top items at home.  If you look like you have tons of money, you won’t get the best deal.  Also, you don’t want to lose precious items at a flea market or else you’ll find yourself buying your personal belongings back from a vendor!

2. Get there early. Yup, that means arriving at 6AM and ready to shop.  Go early for amazing finds, but you’ll still find good pieces later in the day.

flea market must haves

3. Come prepared. Bring a large bag or rolling cart, cell phone, cash and a checkbook.  You’ll need a bag for obvious reasons, but a rolling cart (although hoarder lady status) is the easiest and convenient option.  You’ll need your cellphone to quickly research items as well as note where a particular booth is located if you’re still interested in looking around.  Everything is negotiable…if you have cash.  Having cash on hand gives you an upper hand when negotiating the price on a piece.  Bring smaller bills but don’t flash it around like I am in this picture.  The other obvious necessities? Water, snacks, and sunscreen.

4. Have a strategy. I know the feeling. You’re overwhelmed because it comes around once a month so you want to shop for everything at the next flea market. Don’t do it without a list. You’ll find yourself lost in a maze and unless you have the stamina to run the LA Marathon, be realistic.  The Rose Bowl Flea Market is split up into sections to simplify the shopping experience.  If you’re looking for furniture, don’t shop in the new or arts and crafts sections or else you’ll find yourself exhausted and overspent by the time you hit the furniture vendors.  Sticking to your shopping list and the vendor specific area will ensure that you’ll stay on time and budget when shopping.

flea market post cards

5.  Shop big, then small.  Always start with furniture as it’s the first to go and you want to get your big stuff purchased and checked off before you start looking for accent pieces.

6. Look for potential.  If you want a perfect, ready to use piece of furniture, I recommend shopping West Elm.  But if you’re looking for a true vintage piece, then you’ll likely have to dig to find it.  Look for pieces that are unique in shape; don’t get caught up in the fabric or color.  You can reupholster and paint furniture, but you can’t change the shape.  You want to buy the “ugliest” or “fixer-upper” in the group because that’s going to be the cheapest for you.  You can turn it into the looker with a little bit of elbow grease and creativity.

7. Splurge on quality.  Don’t splurge on items that are not signed, don’t have unique detailing, don’t show craftsmanship, or simply aren’t quality pieces.  Ask the vendor if he/she knows the designer of the piece and look under the furniture for a stamp or signature (use your phone to quickly research the designer or brand).  If the piece isn’t signed, then pick it up and inspect the craftsmanship and the quality. If it’s not there, then don’t buy it.

8. If you love it, then buy it.  I have left the flea market not buying pieces I loved only to find myself tossing and turning in my bed wondering the fate of that beloved piece.  Simply put, it sucks.  If you love it and you have the budget for it, then buy it.  If you’re not 100% sold, then leave a deposit with the vendor (or note the space # if they don’t take deposits) and continue your loop of the flea. By the time you come back to the vendor and you’re still not sold, then you haven’t lost out on anything.  An important note: don’t buy for the sake of buying (or hoarding).

Did this post get you excited, but a little anxious to shop alone? Shop with me!  I love vintage shopping dates and parties, so email me to schedule a flea market shopping date or party with your friends.

If there are any other vintage or thrifting related topics you’d like me to cover, please leave them in the comments below!

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