Stacey Marlow doesn’t like to pay full price for things and she’s always looking for a way to repurpose items. Heather Sanders thinks any second-hand purchase is a bargain, whether it’s an item she plans to keep for herself or resell on eBay.
Summertime means more shopping opportunities for Wichitans Marlow and Sanders and the thousands of other Americans who scour garage sales, flea markets, estate sales and antique malls for items that are new to them.
Some area antique malls, including both west and east Wichita locations of the Paramount Antique Mall and Derby Antique Market, host well-attended outdoor flea markets in the summer.
“Our outdoor flea market has really taken off in the last year,” said Debbie Charles, manager of the west Wichita Paramount Antique Mall. “We’ve seen an upturn in attendance and in dealers selling.” As many as 80 vendors set up at the west store’s once-a-month outdoor flea markets that run from April through October.
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Area shoppers and dealers offered these tips if you plan to pursue bargain-hunting at sales this summer:
▪ Collect what you love. “The number one thing I would tell anyone wanting to collect or purchase vintage or antique items is to collect what you love,” said Andy McGinnis, owner of bloom vintage. “You may find a whole mess of bargains that don’t mean anything to you or that you can’t sell. Then you’re stuck with something you don’t care about.”
▪ Do your research. “The Internet is my best friend,” said Sanders, about doing research on items. As she makes weekly rounds to garage and estate sales, she’ll often look up information about items on-the-spot using her smartphone. Etsy and eBay are good reference tools for prices and descriptions, while other online sites offer information on distinguishing marks or features to look for to authenticate items.
The more you frequent sales, the better you’ll become at spotting a bargain, shoppers noted. “An antique mall is a good place to look because you can get a feel for what’s selling in an area,” Charles said.
▪ Visit more than one mall. “Items are different in different malls,” said Diana Watson, owner of A Legacy Antique Mall.
Sometimes you can spot what’s trending if you see similar items at malls. Old cameras and vinyl records are popular items at the Paramount Antique and A Legacy Antique malls, for example.
“I like to pick the brains of others in the business,” said Marlow, who quit a full-time job last year to run her business Fiddle Sticks – selling repurposed, refinished furniture and unique, vintage home decor items she finds at sales – out of the RELove All Things Shabby market 535 N. Woodlawn.
▪ Time and timing is important. “I’m the kind of person who takes a lot of time and checks everything out,” said Sanders, who tries to hit garage sales on opening day. By being thorough, you’ll probably spot an overlooked item. Take time to look inside drawers and cabinets, you might find overlooked valuables, McGinnis said.
If you are shopping flea markets or estate sales, plan to make more than one visit. Get there early to find and get the best items, said McGinnis, and come back late in the sale to get discounts on items a seller doesn’t want to pack up.
Antique malls have frequent sales, and great bargains can be found at booths that are going out of business, said McGinnis, who owned a stall in a local mall for four years before moving her business online.
▪ Be inspired. Check out sites such as Pinterest for ways to reuse or decorate with sale items. Read various blogs on decorating or repurposing and using vintage items, such as Kansas blogs 12th & White and Nell Hills, to keep up on trends and ideas, McGinnis suggested.
Old household and gardening items, like a washtub or vintage tools, can be repurposed as decorative yard art, Charles said.
To find a list of antique malls in Wichita or elsewhere in the Midwest, if your summer includes travel plans, check antique-directory.com. Many local antique malls also carry a printed brochure produced by Antique-Directory that lists more than a dozen such malls in the greater Wichita area.
Listings for garage sales and estate sales can be found in The Wichita Eagle or online at such sites as kansas.com, estatesales.net or estatesales.org. Some local estate sale services, such as K.C. Estate Sales and Estate Chic’s, have websites where they post pictures of items at upcoming sales.
Many second-hand or vintage retailers, such as Bargain Hunters of Kansas or RElove Market, also post pictures of items for sale in their Wichita shops on their Facebook pages.
Serious shoppers are prepared when it comes to perusing sales. Here’s a checklist of useful tools for second-hand shopping:
Comfortable shoes or boots if you’re visiting barn sales
Smartphone for researching items or taking photos
Cash. While many vendors take credit cards, some will offer a cash discount to avoid a credit card processing fee.
An ability to haggle or negotiate on prices
Measuring tape to measure furniture
A small notebook for tracking your spending or keeping lists of purchases
Loupe or small magnifying lens to help look for maker marks, signatures or identify wear and tear
Small magnet to determine if something is real silver. Magnets will stick to steel, iron or other metal, but not silver.
A small pull cart for hauling purchases, which is especially useful at outdoor flea markets where you have lots of vendors to peruse and parking may not be close
Bungee cords, ropes or a travel tarp for securing purchases in your vehicle