There are many reasons why your next survival trip should be to the local flea market, especially for an active prepper who is looking to build their stockpile. Flea markets can be a veritable treasure chest of needed supplies. If you know what to watch for and how to negotiate well, you can get the survival supplies you need at prices that are far less expensive than buying them new at the local retail box store.
What Can You Buy at Flea Markets?
Flea markets are a great place to look for clothing, shoes, and boots to keep in your GHB, your BOB, or even your INCH bags. In fact, with flea market prices, you can probably afford to buy a set of boots for each of your bags all at one time. Buying boots used also means they are already partially broken in for you! Make sure they are free of any holes, and when you get them home, invest in some water proof spray, swap out the laces for paracord, and wear them around home for a couple days before you pack them away.
Getting winter gear at the flea market is also a smart move, especially if you visit the flea market towards the end of the winter season. You may need to search a bit, but you can find gloves, hats, and even decent coats that you can buy cheap and add to your stockpile. You can actually find extra sets of clothes for just about any season, including rainy wet weather, at the flea market and save a ton of money compared to buying them new. Just make sure to buy fabrics that will breathe and work well in layers.
The flea market is also a super place to find other things you need for your stockpile, such as kitchen utensils and pots and pans. Look for items such as can openers, cast iron skillets or dutch ovens, as well as stainless steel pots and canteens. If you’re lucky you may run across a used grain or meat grinder, both of which will come in handy post-SHTF but are often too expensive to buy new. The flea market is also a great place to find quality thermoses, camp stoves, extra blankets, canning jars, propane canisters, and pressure canners.
The amount of gear you can find at a flea market makes the trip worthwhile for any prepper. You will find good quality tools and needed equipment like chainsaws, hatchets, and axes, as well as swiss army knives, flashlights, old tents, backpacks, radios, fishing equipment, hunting stuff, and gardening tools and supplies. Sewing materials which can be used not only to sew your own clothes but also to stitch up cuts, repair a tent, and make baskets are generally in abundance.
How to Get the Best Deals and Negotiate at Flea Markets
One of the best ways to make sure you get the best deals from flea markets is to visit them frequently and early. If it’s a weekend flea market, you want to go every weekend, or ideally each day they are open. It’s crucial that you are there as soon as possible after the gate opens for the day. The best time to get good deals is when vendors first arrive and are unloading their stuff and setting it up.
Take enough cash with you but keep most of your money separate from your smaller bills. This way you can pull out the smaller wad for small purchases. Pay attention to who the vendors are, try to determine if they are professional salespeople or just your everyday civilian trying to get rid of the stuff from their attic. Both will have good deals but you will have to be a tougher negotiator with the professional vendors to get the good deals.
Most flea market vendors expect you to negotiate with them and they set their prices to reflect this. It should be rare that you pay the initial asking price on any item, unless it’s so low that it just makes sense. One way to get better pricing from vendors is to buy items in bulk. If for example, a vendor has boots selling for $15 each but you are planning to buy 4 pair, offer to pay $10 or $12 a pair. You are still getting quality boots much cheaper than the retail price.
It’s important to start out early in the morning so you can get the good stuff before someone else comes along and snaps it up but vendors are also more prone to negotiate pricing late in the day. If you see something you like that is out of your price range, try hanging around till later in the day to approach the vendor or if you live close, go home and come back just before closing time.
A flea market is a great place to also teach your kids the art of negotiation and the value of money. Take some time before you make the flea market trip to make a list with your child of items they would like to have. Give them a specific amount of money, for example $10 or $20 and then let them take control over negotiating for things they find. On the way home, talk about deals they made that were good and ones they made that could have been better.
Where Can I Find the Best Flea Markets?
Each region of the United States has a schedule of annual flea and antique markets that take place every year. You can find a specific schedule of them here. In most cases you can find a flea market local to your area by checking the newspaper advertisements, checking craigslist for your area, or searching online. Keep in mind that some flea markets are made up of mostly professional vendors selling new items whereas others may have more amateur vendors with used items for sale.
The days of the week for your flea market may also make a difference as to what items you find for sale. Some flea markets have more professional vendors selling new items during the week and then more of a mix of new and used items on the weekends. Or your flea market may have “Amateur Only” days on Saturdays where professional vendors selling new items are discouraged. If you’re looking for multiples of new items you’ll have better luck from professional vendors.
If you really want to go all out, plan a trip to one of the world’s largest flea markets, The Highway 127 Corridor Sale, first created in 1995. It begins on the Thursday prior to the first Saturday in the month of August and the sales stretch from Michigan all the way through to Alabama. The 127 Corridor sale has over 3,000 weekend vendors both amateur and professional and items are displayed in yards, parking lots, on the back of trucks, and even in fields along the highway. If you plan to attend, start saving up now so you can make a long list of survival and stockpile items that you need and be ready to purchase items as you find them.
Can I Make Money Selling Stuff at Flea Markets?
There are actually many people who have been relatively successful at selling items via a flea market. The current trend though seems to be that actually making money selling items at flea markets is a complicated and unpredictable thing. Whether or not you can make money depends on how much time and effort you are willing to put into it and the discretionary income of the residents in the vicinity of your flea market. Just like with any endeavor, I’m sure you can find some people who are still making a pretty decent living selling professionally at flea markets, however it seems in recent years, it has become harder for the amateur vendor to make good money.
What Are Some Other Reasons to Visit a Flea Market?
Flea markets are great for scavenging out inexpensive items to add to your survival stockpile but there are other benefits too if you plan for them. Flea markets are generally a melting pot of many different types of people, all in one place. There are the vendors and the customers, and both types of people present an opportunity for you to learn about human behavior.
First, find a spot where you can see and hear what’s going on at several different vendor tables or booths and just watch the negotiations and interactions of others. Pay attention to body language, tone of voice, and phrasing used by the vendor. Can you tell from how the vendor interacts with his customers if he is being honest and fair or trying to swindle unsuspecting customers? How about the customer behavior? Can you tell which customers will haggle the price and which ones will just pay whatever is asked?
Flea market crowds are also a great opportunity to work on honing your situational awareness skills. As you walk along checking out the goods for sale, tune your ears to what is happening around you. See if you can predict the type of person coming up behind or beside you by the way they talk or by the crunch of their feet on the gravel path.
Watch the movement of people in the crowd. Look for anyone that stands out by the way they move. Is anyone moving quicker than most of the people in the crowd? Does anyone seem to be moving much slower? Take note of how people in the crowd are dressed and what items they are buying. Do you see anyone that you can tell is carrying an EDC or a weapon such as a knife or gun? Watching the crowd for these kinds of things can be a great way to hone your observation skills.
Practice being a gray man. Which people do you notice right away, the ones that draw your attention or catch your eye? Can you blend into the crowd? Match your pace to that of the crowd, pay attention to how they speak, and what they are wearing. See how many times you can walk down the same row without drawing weird or suspicious looks from vendors. Purchase some items and duck into the bathroom and change clothes, do you still get noticed? Can you walk beside someone for any length of time without them giving you weird looks? Don’t overdo it and get into trouble with security!
Whether you are new to prepping or an experienced prepper, the flea market can be a great resource for you. Use flea markets to create or replenish your survival stockpile at less than retail prices or take advantage of the crowds to practice and hone your negotiation and observation skills. Just remember, there may be other not so honorable people there to take advantage of the crowds too, so keep your wallet hidden and don’t be flashy about how much cash you have on hand.