My weakness – bargain hunting
I cannot help it, I just LOVE a good bargain. Selling, swapping, thrift-ing, car booting, second hand rummaging, street combing, or vintage seeking, what ever you call it, it is my weakness. A box of dusty vinyl under a pasting bench, surrounded by stuffed toys, smelly old man’s trousers, and some bad cut glass is my kryptonite. It makes me go weak at the knees.
To a quick trained eye and a short finger thumb rifle through some old record sleeves can lead to only a few Euros spent on some seriously delicious old skool tunes. Why bother so many may say with the likes of spotify, grooveshark, soundcloud and itunes your favourite tunes are easily downloaded from the comfort of your home or office. As a lover of all things music and media I also can spend many hours digitally thrift-ing, but records just simply evoke different emotions, I love listening to the sound of analogue, it feels richer, raw, in the moment and a trip often down memory lane. Of course all music reminisces with thoughts and memories from the past, whether it be digital or analogue. But records also take me on a journey as to when and where I found and discovered them or received them as a present.
The addiction however does not simply stop at the pleasure of listening to the hissing of a second hand Fats Domino record playing on a Saturday afternoon, my home and my heart are filled with second hand and vintage records, books, clothes, shoes, handbags, hats, furniture, kitchen and home ware, the list goes on. So I thought I would share my top tips to finding things that you will love and that probably several people have loved and cherished before. How to train your eye so you can also own wonderful items, with out making your home looking like Steptoe and Sons. Some may call it junk or hoarding. Some call it retro, vintage, recycled or simple second hand. I call it being a bargain junkie. After all great design lasts for many many years.
Steptoe and Son
Where to look for a bargain.
You will be surprised. Once you start you cannot stop, there are treasures everywhere. That would be a blog post in itself, so I will keep it brief. Look out for things on the street (especially on rubbish day) markets, new and old; permanent and temporary, second hand stores, vintage stores, charity shops, pop up stores, car boots and free-cycle online sites.
Flea Market Treasures
Have some idea in mind of the things you would like to source.
Maybe you are moving, or have recently moved, make a note of the types of items that you are looking for. Or you would like new outfit for an event or a party, think about what you already have and what may go with an outfit to re-new it, a hat or scarf or some jewellery. Maybe you need a present for someone, keep in mind the things your friends have passions for. Having some idea in your head as to what to look for before hand is helpful in often being able to visually sift through a vast number of items.
Whatever your taste
Taste, it is personal, what is yours?
It is simple; you are you, so look for things that reflect you and your personality. For example my love is for 1960s mid century Modern classics or reproductions. I try and stick to this so that my home has a fairly unified feel. Maybe your taste is pin up 50’s, neon 80’s, hipster, punk or just more eclectic and that is fine, but be aware many items from different eras and styles can and will look like a junk shop if you are not careful.
Anything is vintage nowadays
Take your time.
Everyone is different at sourcing, for example flea markets can be very over whelming with so many stalls, people, noise, how and what to look at can seem like a daunting task to most people. It is also dependant on how much time you have. But do try and take your time and don’t rush. If it goes to someone else it is meant to be. But give yourself time to visit stores and markets to see what is on offer.
Lots of items can be over whelming
Get and over view.
At the flea markets I generally do a quick walk around all stalls spending no more than a few minutes quickly glancing over the items. This will give you an idea of the volume of items they have per stall, the type of items, quality of the items and the era. And then you can move on. Think of it like internet shopping, if you have something in mind that you want to purchase most people now go to price compare sites, or different online stores for different items. Use the same principle at the flea market. Get a good overview and see what is on offer and then you can go back and spend more time at the individual stalls that you liked the look of.
Don’t go crazy.
Choose items that you REALLY want and will compliment your home, your wardrobe your music collection. Otherwise they will stick out like a sore thumb, or you will never use them, wear them or admire them. They will just gather dust and or eventually end in a cupboard or back in the recycle/trash.
Leather is often a real bargain at the flea market – go on give it a sniff
Remember it is about a bargain.
Value is the hardest thing a lot of people cope with when coming to second hand or vintage goods. As individuals have a different value on certain items than others. There are therefore three approaches to this.
1.)Research before you go on a shopping adventure for the items that you are looking for. There are so many online sites now for second hand, hand made and vintage goods that if you have something in mind look it up online and compare costs and then you have a reasonable value in mind before going shopping.
2)Personal Budget is important, only take with you how much you expect to spend; this will limit impulsive spending, or spending over and above what you originally wanted to spend.
3.)Love – it happens – suddenly you are head over heels, there is no reasoning, no logic, it just happens. You find something you simply cannot live without (ok well you could but you refuse to) and you can therefore just spend what you want and you know it will be something that you will love for a very very long time to come, therefore the cost out weighs the true value, because you cannot put a value on love. Just buy it!
White or all white – you negotiate
The Art of Negotiation
Not all shops, markets and pop ups will let you negotiate. However I am a true believer that if you do not ask you do not get. Ultimately the absolute key to doing this well is to not offend. So always ask first how much an item is. Try not to look like you want it too much. And look at a couple of other items of interest (if there are some) at the same time. Go in with a counter offer, not too low and expect to meet somewhere in the middle. If they refuse to haggle you can either walk away and this may change the sellers mind and offer you the goods at a reasonable offer, or ask them if they will be prepared to lower the item if you buy more than one thing from them. Be warned and sorry my Dutch friends, (but you know it is true) the Dutch do not negotiate well or sometimes at all. Be prepared. But still try and always do it with a smile and a joke after all it is meant to be fun!
Trash or treasure?
You have to be realistic that some items you fall in love with will be better quality than others, and more and more people are getting wise to retro and vintage era pieces. Which means that the item will actually be priced at what it is worth because it is designer and the seller knows it. Or an item will be sold “as vintage” at a higher rate because it is a trend. So again be careful and only pay for something if you feel it is worth that amount.
Hand –made this means different things to different people, my rule is if it is made very well and is a good quality item, remember it is hand –made and has taken someone a lot of time and love to create it. Just because it is in a pop up store or a market doesn’t mean that it is cheap. Think about the energy someone would have spent on it and pay reasonably for it. Besides what seems a bit pricey could end up being a bargain as everyone has to start some where and often creative’s and start ups have to start putting their goods onto the market with as little over heads as possible so this means pops and flea markets. Your investment could be in tomorrows next on trend designer.
old, new, handmadeor just simply JUNK!
Keep in mind how you will get your items home. Often especially at flea markets they do not have bubble wrap, paper or even bags. Take some carrier bags with you, even paper if you are looking for example some new wine glasses. Also it is much more environmentally friendly. If you are looking for items for a new home or re-decoration make sure you have transport to get it back to its new home. And also think about how long you want to shop for. Buying a larger item and then carrying it around for another hour or so is not much fun. Some shops or markets for a small deposit will keep your item until the end of the day, but ask.
Amazing flea market in Paris – But this citroen was not going to get us and our finds back to Amsterdam.
Shopping in general is not the love of ALL people. In fact my best friend James refuses to go shopping and would rather sit in the pub whilst I have an hour or two retail therapy but only if he is prepared, actually he is always prepared as he loves a good pint I’m also lucky that he understands that us girls have our shopping needs. Same for my husband, he does however love to shop and we can have the best day out, but he has to totally be in the mood and it is no fun for either of us if he is not and unwilling. If you do go with someone make sure they are also just as excited about a good rummage as you, and the right influence, bad choices and buys can totally come down to the advice of a friend with completely different taste and style to you. Dogs and children, well you can do it, but they get bored, tired and hungry. Just be prepared.
Yes my husband bought some mannequin hands – they now sit proudly on our book shelf
Nothing at all
Remember you do not have to buy anything at all. Go with your gut, if you really are not seeing anything at all that you want to purchase than DON’T. Bargain shopping is about the warm fuzzy feeling that you got something that you love for a really good deal. If you take something home that you regret it can ruin a whole afternoon or even a day of fun. Remember especially flea markets are vibrant places, you can also take home that you did some great people watching, there is often food and drink so you can have a bite to eat, go and hang out with friends, and even just talk and discuss some of the more weird and down right terrible items that were on offer. And you still get a GREAT day out.
I hope these tips help you to some fruitful pickings.
IJhallen Market, NDSM sometimes up to several hundres stalls
This weekend I will be getting weak at the knees at the IjHallen Market in NDSM Warf. I thoroughly recommend this monthly flea market as one of the best in Amsterdam.
Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th October
Adults entrance 4 Euros
HAPPY BARGAIN HUNTING!