If you love flea markets like I do, then you likely have a bucket list of shows you want to go to. The biggies top mine: Round Top in Texas, Brimfield in Massachusetts, Puces de Vanves in Paris and, closer to my home, the Springfield Extravaganza in Ohio.
Last year, I finally crossed off the Extravaganza, shopping both the spring and fall shows. (The Springfield Antique Show & Flea Market puts on the Extravaganza).
Whether a veteran or novice at flea marketing, shopping a show that calls itself an extravaganza creates a bit of breathless anticipation, or “pantiquing” as I like to call it. Admittedly, as I rolled into the parking lot on a Friday, the first day of the show, my heart and mind raced. “What will I find?” “What amazing thing was already snagged by someone else?” “Where do I start?”
With nearly 2,000 vendors, you can count on not seeing everything. But here are four tips to make the most of the Extravaganza so you go home with a trunk brimming with treasures.
The biggest mistake people make when shopping the Extravaganza (or any huge show, for that matter) is shopping only one day. Even if you hit every barn and walk every aisle, your eyes can’t see it all in only one day. I shopped all three days, and each day I saw items I missed the previous day. (Tip: Buy the early bird pass for $15 which includes re-admission for the entire weekend.) Dealers often restock their booths daily, which means you’ll see new goods even at booths you lingered in the day before. Although booths are picked over on Sunday, it’s the least crowded of all three days, which gives you ample space to dig deep and slow. And, best of all, dealers are ready to deal because they don’t want to take home the merchandise.
As the saying goes, the early bird catches the worm. Or, in my case, the early bird caught a French beaded memorial wreath for only $50! Dealers gear up for these big shows, saving their most prized merchandise for a dazzling reveal the first day. To grab the truly special items, make sure you head out for the early buy at 7 a.m. Friday. Often, you’ll snag dealers’ freshest and best as they unload.
Let’s be honest, we shop flea markets for bargains. And while bargains are everywhere at Springfield, the majority are found on the periphery where mostly junkers and amateurs (not seasoned shop owners and antique dealers) sell. As you move to the center, where the buildings and fancy white tents pop up, you’ll be dazzled by delightful displays and high-end antiques. As displays improve, prices increase.
Since I was buying (mostly) to resell, I started outward and worked inward. Yes, your eyes have to filter out a lot of junk, but with dedication you’ll find a late 1800s oil painting for $25 amid piles of 1980s Tupperware.
If you’re like me, you always buy more than you expect. And whatever vehicle you drove suddenly feels too small to carry it all home. But before you get it in the car, you have to get to the car! At the Extravaganza, you can enlist the help of a porter to pick up and haul your merchandise. There isn’t a fixed rate for this service, but be generous (and reserve some cash!). My friend and I paid $30 for a porter to haul our merchandise—heavy furniture, rugs and smalls—from multiple booths.
PHOTOS Lisa Maughmer
WORDS Melissa Parks
Melissa Parks is a Chicagoland vintage dealer who delights in the quest for unique objects with stories to tell. When she's not shopping for vintage, Melissa enjoys styling, photographing and writing about vintage items. You can follow her on Instagram at @megillicutti.
RESOURCES More info on the Springfield Extravaganza here.