Hands down, my favorite way to shop vintage is flea markets. There is something extra fresh and exciting about them. Vendors set up booths in a large facility or outdoor space and fill their spots with vintage treasures. Rows and rows of tiny shops to peruse! It's like an antique mall, but these booths are set up and torn down within a matter of days or even hours, so everything feels new and urgent. You cannot come back another day hoping that gold polkadot pyrex bowl will still be there. YOU HAVE TO GET IT NOW. Or you may live your lives apart forever. Cue the heartbreaking music and imagery of you stirring up chicken salad in a plain, non-polkadot bowl.
The Tulsa Flea Market
The flea of my childhood and present is the Tulsa Flea Market which sets up on most Saturdays at the Tulsa Fair Grounds at 21st and Harvard. Depending on the other events at the Fair Grounds, the Tulsa Flea Market moves around to various buildings on the campus. No worries, just drive around until you see the large white banner with large black text indicating where you'll be shopping that day.
What you will find shopping at the Tulsa Flea Market
If you can imagine it, you may find it at a flea market. Seriously, anything that's legal to sell, is likely to show up there. Typically, I am there to get the brass animals (duh), perfectly worn, handmade rugs, lamps, vintage baby clothes...and gold polkadot pyrex bowls. But even though I go in with a few things on my mind that I may like to find, I try to keep my eyes peeled and maintain an openness that allows pieces to speak to me on their own terms. These days, I also try to picture all containers holding a succulent.
How do you know if you should buy a flea market find?
The first answer here is your heart. Do you love it? Did it make you catch your breath? You should really consider taking it home with you. Otherwise, I'd say you should smell it, wiggle it (make sure furniture is sturdy), imagine it in your home surrounded by your Gus* Modern sofa and other creature comforts–this is a great way to know if it will suit your space.
How to wheel and deal at a flea market
Okay. I have been on both sides of this and here is the scoop, y'all. Since I was a little girl, I've known it's fair game to ask for a better price in vintage shopping, but you have to first and foremost be polite. These vendors are here to make money. Picking vintage pieces and selling them may be their livelihood or it may be a side job to help pay the bills, so you need to treat them respectfully. If you are making an offer, be sure it is always more than half, and probably more like at least 75% of the item's marked price. You can, if it's true, tell them you only have this or that amount and see what they say. If it's towards the end of the day, your offers will be better received because vendors would likely rather have money than have to pack up a ton of items and haul them home. A phrase I like to use is simple and puts the dealing in the vendor's hands–"would you take less?"
When he or she gives you an answer. You can take it or leave it, but again, do so with respect. No one wants to sell to an asshole. What's that saying? You get more bees with honey than vinegar. Remember that.
Pricing at a flea market
Truth be told, the pricing is all over the map here. Just because one booth is selling a medium sized wooden spool for $15 doesn't mean you won't find a similar spool for fifty cents down the aisle. That's all part of the fun. My rule for buying is that, while I'd love a deal, I am happy to pay whatever the appropriate going rate is. I'd be aiming to get my wooden spool for $4, but if I really really needed one for a mantle arrangement, well, I'd pay $15. But not a penny more.
Other flea markets in Tulsa: Admiral and the First Street Flea
These other two flea markets are opposites. The Admiral Flea is pretty much set up all the time in a large building, and then the parking lot is often speckled with other vendors who set up at various times. There's a lot less fancy stuff here, but that means if there is any fancy stuff, it's going to be a good price. Chew on that.
First Street Flea is a new flea market opportunity taking place on Sundays in downtown Tulsa. So many great humans partaking in this market. It calls itself a "curated flea market," which means items are more carefully gathered for each booth, and you may be paying closer to prices in a vintage shop. This is not a bad thing. It means less cleaning, it means less smelling and checking for wobbles. It means some of the work is done for you. And gosh, that can be so nice.
This is the year! Let us help you make a roadmap to a finished space! Live in beauty!