Flea Market Etiquette Faux Pas and a Mini Haul

It didn’t occur to me to ask. Other vendors have never objected and in fact, most seem flattered.

Here’s the story–I was talking to an older gentleman (one of the professional vendors) about a vintage tin bank he had. He quoted me a price of $45. I said, “Hmmmmm. Let me take a picture and think about it.” So I took a photo of the bank and two seconds later he said angrily: “WAIT. Did you just take a picture of that? You should ask first. That’s just rude. This is my private booth. You should ask.”

The offending photo.

I was so stunned (and frankly a little afraid) that I just walked away. I should have asked permission, but it didn’t occur to me that a seller of vintage items that were splayed out at a public, open air flea market would be troubled by me taking a photo of one of the items. No other seller has. Ever. Lesson learned.

(The ironic thing is that I have never bought anything from this man because he is always pricey. Turns out the bank I was interested in at $45 is listed online for $20 to $30. In the future I will just pass by his “booth.”)

Another interaction–I was looking a set of hand-painted bowls (8 small, 1 large) and the price tag said $5 for the set! Jeez, these were fabulous. Two seconds later a woman sidled up beside me and started expressing an interest in them too. Thankfully I already had my mitts on them and told the vendor I’d buy them. The other buyer turned to me and said, “You got a great deal on those.” Don’t I know it!! Later I found this same buyer watching me at another vendor’s booth seeing what I picked up. Our eyes met and she quickly turned away. I thought that was interesting!

The big bowl with just three of the eight small bowls.

Some of them have an interesting imprint on the bottom which so far I have no been able to assign to any particular maker or country. Need to do more research before I list them.

Best interaction–I enjoy chatting with the vendors and Toni (a petite white-haired woman) was just a sweetheart. I bought a mini brass abacus from her and we spun that transaction out gabbing for 10 minutes. She noted that the two newbie fellas set up across the way from her were likely not going to come back again. The thing was they had lots (and lots) of really good, interesting items (sterling silver bits, quality jewelry, vintage stamp albums, etc), but all priced at antique store prices. That won’t work at a flea market. Even with haggling. Apparently so far that morning all of the potential customers (myself included) had walked away without buying.

Other things I bought…

My first purchase was a vintage sterling silver cross with amethyst cabochons and a ring of tiny marcasites around the center stone. I bought this because the details are so finely done.

I bought this handmade pot signed “HR ’71” for its slightly bulbous shape, interesting glaze and bit of age.

Listing price possibly $40-$50.

This very old fountain pen in its original box was a stellar find. The handle is mother of pearl and the nib might be made of real gold! The seller (who was herself a senior citizen) mentioned it had belonged to her grandmother. Most of her items were newer jewelry and I almost missed this amidst the flotsam and jetsam!

Madison & Buck Co. pen.
The nib has a bit of separation. Listing price–unknown.

Over the months I have bought several things from this one vendor. Most of his stuff is vintage to antique and priced to sell. I really liked this MCM brass owl candleholder and for $3 I couldn’t lose. I’m kicking myself for not staying longer at his tables, but his area had gotten super busy.

This 1919 children’s book “Little Sunny Stories” was a charmer. I bought it for the cover! It’s in rough condition and likely not worth anything (The seller specialized in books and ephemera so he knows his stuff.) but it was only $2.

Love the little gnomes looking on by the tree roots.
I’ll likely keep this for myself for now!

I liked this older, small framed Madonna print (Greek? Russian?) but I should have negotiated more on the price.

Listing price ??

Overall it was a lovely 90 minutes. I spent $63 total, came home exhilarated and already have some of these items listed in my Etsy store.

Looking forward to next month’s flea market!

Happy hunting,



  1. After looking at the “offending photo” I’d have to say that the older gentleman might want to dust his wares a bit better. Does he think a dirty item will bring more? It is so funny how some vendors are just ornery. We have run into several over the years.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I wouldn’t have thought to ask. I will assume he knew he over-priced it, and you’d find that out right then and there! Maybe he was afraid you’d loudly announce it for others to hear. In thrift stores I try to be discrete (like I’m taking a photo to send to a friend to see if they want the item!), and then see what Google Lens shows up. I’m only buying for myself, not resale, but I still don’t like to pay anywhere near the going rate! There’s a paint by number at St. Vincent de Paul that the manager told the art area volunteer to price at $15. I always paid no more than $4 and usually $1 for paint by numbers. So, it’s still there, and I’m waiting for a price cut! It’s worth more than $15, but it’s for my own collection. I’m cheap.
    That book cover is adorable!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lisa. Gosh, you could be right. Maybe he thought I’d find out that his price was…well…overpriced!! But skipping his booth in the future will be no problem.

      Hope you get that paint-by-number on sale day. Our Goodwill prices those up at eBay prices.

      Thinking I might have to do something with that book cover. When I saw it on the seller’s $2 table I said “You’re mine.”


      1. I got the paint-by-number yesterday for $5! It’s one of the two in the kit Kentucky Beauties from 1960. The volunteer for that area was near the paintings, and I mentioned how it was still there, unsold for $15. She said that since “no one was looking” she’d change the price! While St. Vincent de Paul checks online and overprices some things, they do still have lower prices than Goodwill, by far.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Lisa, fabulous news about the painting. That’s so cool that they lowered the price for you. My St. Vincent about six miles away (closed for a few years nows) used to price their best pieces at eBay prices. 😔


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