In light of the announcement that a new “world class” flea marketing is coming to San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on the third Sunday of each month, I’m republishing this article that I wrote for the SF Chronicle’s Home & Garden section several years ago. I thought the information is timeless and useful enough to share it with you here.
Candlestick Park Antiques and Collectibles Faire
Date: Third Sunday of every month
Time: 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Price: $15 from 6 to 8 a.m.; $5 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Parking: Ample parking at Candlestick
For more information: www.candlestickantiques.com
ANOTHER PERSON'S TREASURES
Flea market bargains make decorative sense
Looking for silver candlesticks, exotic fabrics, an old steamer trunk, a brass bed? An iron gate to turn into a headboard? Old buttons, Wellerware pottery, Superman comic books? If you can imagine it, you can undoubtedly find it at a flea market.
The list of worthwhile "finds" is long at these emporiums of the unusual, the vintage and the uncommon. Even if you have to shop for a finicky, hard-to- please uncle, cousin or sibling during the holidays, the flea market is a perfect place to find something different -- and that can't be returned.
There is no official history of the flea market or of how it got its name, though several theories exist. The first references to "flea market" appear in two stories set in Paris in the 1860s. One theory contends that the name comes from the fleas infesting the upholstered furniture sold at open-air markets. The other has to do with the redesigning of Paris streets, when merchants were forced to "flee" elsewhere to continue their trade.
Whatever the origins, flea markets exist around the world, and the shopping method is universal: The vendor brings merchandise to sell, you see it and want it, and the two of you bargain until striking a price that makes you both happy.
Then you pay for your found treasure and take it away. It's that simple.
Because everyone has their own taste, the flea market appeals to many different shoppers. There's a fine line between treasure and junk, but it's barely perceptible since what one person considers junk, another person treasures.
A single silver candlestick may not mean much to someone who wants a pair, but for the person who wants a more eclectic look and is willing to have five mismatched candles sticks to create an interesting effect, that single candlestick may be the perfect one.
Vintage clothing can be very expensive if all the buttons are properly in place and the item is nicely pressed. But for someone who's handy with a needle and thread, the flea market offers a plethora of opportunities to find just the right piece to complement their wardrobe.
Some people shop the flea markets looking for items to add to their collections, like silver or china with specific patterns or a decorative style that goes with their furniture.
There are well-known stories in the flea market world of invaluable antiques sold for the price of junk, but these are few and far between. So don't expect to fund your retirement on what you find in the heaps of art and hotel silver.
Instead, if you have an eye for the unusual, interesting or fanciful, the flea market is the perfect place to unleash your imagination and risk a few dollars. Skip the vendors selling new household products, toiletries, socks and T-shirts, and head to those selling one-of-a-kind finds.
Typically, these vendors scour garage, yard, and estate sales as well as the classifieds looking for older, more interesting and collectible items, things they think they can sell to people who want a variety of interesting selections in one place and don't have the time to make the garage sale circuit.
It's important to inspect an item you're interested in very carefully, as there usually is a "no return" policy on everything sold at a flea market. And because some merchants sell only when they have enough to make the effort worthwhile, you may not be able to find that vendor to make a complaint the next time the flea market is held. The shopping rule truly is caveat emptor -- buyer beware.
Bargaining is a given at flea markets. When you bargain, consider that the merchant priced the item high with the expectation that it would sell for less.
But he or she still has in mind a price that they will not go below; otherwise they won't make a profit. Keep this in mind when you make an offer that's below their asking price. Be flexible and be as willing to come up in your price as the merchant is willing to come down in theirs.
Cash and carry used to be the only means by which transactions took place, but now, in addition to cash, checks and even credit cards are accepted by some vendors.
Remember, if you don't like something you buy at the flea market, you can always sell it at a garage sale. Just don't be surprised to see it turn up at another flea market if you do.
MAKE YOUR 'FIND' LOOK FABULOUS
How do you make those items you've found at the flea market look like expensive treasures? By using your imagination and a few handy tips.
Almost anything can be made to look terrific when artfully repaired, refurbished and effectively placed in your home. Here are a few tips:
-- Use paint remover to reveal an old dresser's original wood. After light sanding, it will take a stain finish and look like an old family heirloom. Or apply a new coat of paint and add a touch of whimsy with fun knobs and handles.
-- "Shabby chic" is a designer term for old and worn-looking furniture and upholstery that no one wants to refinish or re-cover. But it's a studied look; estate-style old should not be confused with dilapidated, so use caution when attempting to develop this style in your home.
-- Tarnished silver and brass look awful, but polishing makes an amazing impact. The difference in price between a silver teapot bought at an antique store and a tarnished one from the flea market is worth a little bit of elbow grease.
-- One old suitcase won't do much for a corner in your living room, but stacking a few of different sizes and colors and putting a plant in the open one on top makes an interesting collection that could provide extra storage space in a small apartment.
-- Five mismatched silver candlesticks placed on a mantle or table add visual interest to that part of the room. Use different heights of candles to emphasize the difference for an even more intriguing effect.
-- Place objects with interesting textures and shapes in groups of three. Materials that complement each other, like brass, ceramic and leather, create pleasing visual effects that add dimension to a space.
-- An old iron garden gate can be a found treasure even if you don't have a garden. Think of it as a headboard, a coffee table top or a decorative detail above a doorway.
-- Think of something you'd like to collect and use the flea market as your best resource for it. This gives you focus as you hunt through vendors' wares. If you're collecting silver, for example, decide on a pattern and look for the same pieces as you go around.
Categories of collectibles vary considerably, but over time the whole can become more valuable than its parts. Once you become a collector you'll get to know other collectors and then you can swap and trade up.
TIPS FOR SHOPPING
To ensure that shopping at flea markets is fun and successful in finding treasures, here are some tips to guide you:
-- Don't get emotionally involved with an item you're interested in. You gain bargaining power if the vendor thinks you could walk away from it if the price didn't please you.
-- Haggle for a better price, but remember that the vendor needs to make a living, so let the other party save face.
-- If you want it, buy it; it probably won't be there when you come back for it later.
-- Bring cash and use denominations smaller than the $20s you get from the automated teller machine. Pay with exact change when possible, especially if you've negotiated the price down. Imagine how it would look if you bargained the price to $5 and you gave the vendor a $20 bill.
-- Inspect items closely before purchasing. While an item may be damaged, it might be easily repaired and worth the expense if it'll look terrific when fixed.
-- Some vendors, especially of jewelry and silver, have stores or private clients, so if you strike up a friendly relationship that vendor might be able to find specific items for you later.
-- Bring a magnet if you're interested in brass; a magnet won't stick to real brass.
-- Bring a small magnifying glass if you're looking at jewelry or silver; it helps see markings and the quality of settings.
-- Buyer beware: If the price of something seems to good to be true, it probably is. Vendors typically know their stuff, so don't expect to find an original Rembrandt oil painting for $15. Similarly with jewelry; cubic zirconias and diamonds look a lot alike, and only a jeweler using special equipment can tell the difference.
Photo credit: SF Chronicle