The Junk Parlor

There are a lot of antique flea markets, junk jaunts, highway sales, vintage markets, and other similar events around Iowa each year.  I have shopped many of them as they have been a source for my reselling on Facebook Live Sales, Instagram, my website, or even in the shop! Since I shop them so often, I have compiled a list of my flea market shopping tips.

One of my absolute favorite local flea markets is the What Cheer Flea Market which happens in What Cheer, Iowa at their county fairgrounds three times a year.  It happens on the first weekend of May, August, and October and it does not disappoint. The early bird shopping is Thursday, while the “regular” event runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday that weekend in What Cheer.

Amazing staging of vintage items in this antique booth at the What Cheer Flea Market. Brooke Johnson | The Junk Parlor | thejunkparlor.com

Whether you are buying to resell or buying to furnish your own home there are certain tips you can follow to improve your experience!  

The first tip is to bring a car!  Yep, if you are debating on whether you should drive the car or truck, I always recommend the car because that guarantees you will find some great pieces and need the truck!  Ha! Just kidding, although I’m sure a lot of you agree with me! Same thing goes when I’m debating on bringing my trailer.  If I bring it, I don’t need it, if I don’t bring it, then I do!!

This mirror was absolutely gorgeous and the dresser was pretty too.  What Cheer flea market finds. Brooke Johnson | The Junk Parlor | thejunkparlor.com

Check out a Recent Trip to What Cheer

Flea Market Shopping Tips for Buyers

So, what are my tips for shopping What Cheer flea market?

1. Go early if your schedule allows.

While I truly believe there are treasures to be found no matter when you go to a flea market, I have friends that ONLY go if they can be first!  Most dealers go early, so if you are wanting a good deal, wanting to buy in bulk, looking for the super unique pieces, then go early!

At What Cheer there are people that sell everything for $1.  I know that if I am not physically there looking as they are unloading their trailers, then it’s not worth looking.  If I am there as they are unloading the trailer then there goes $100+, but I got a lot of good pieces in that $100 pile!

Dealers that are there also to sell, will have shopped the market many times before the regular public has even made it into the event.  So earlier really is better, especially if you are a dealer sourcing items.

I Spent my Birthday at What Cheer

2. Be Prepared


people do prefer to be paid in cash.  It’s scary to trust someone and take a check.  And it’s expensive to have everyone use their credit card.  It’s also important to have a lot of smaller bills.  Especially at the beginning of the weekend, it might be hard for someone to be able to make change for large bills.  If you buy something for $5, don’t pay with a $100 bill.

Dori Austion, Junk Refunkery with me, Brooke owner of The Junk Parlor

Dress Comfortably

I always laugh when girls come to auctions or flea markets looking like they are ready for a photo shoot.  One that is never what I look like and two that doesn’t seem realistic!  So put on your comfy shoes and dress in layers so you can add and take away as needed from dusk until dawn.

Check Out Another Trip to the What Cheer Flea Market

I can remember one October flea market event, the temperature was going to be in the 60s or 70s and I THOUGHT I was dressed appropriately, but when I got there, it was so early everything was covered in frost.  After touching a few pieces I could no longer feel my fingers.  Thank goodness a had a friend who sat up selling who had extra gloves with him!  

3. Transportation

Bags, backpacks, carts, wagons, however, you want to carry your goods so that you don’t have to make a million trips to the truck.  I know some people leave every purchase with the vendor, but unless it’s something large, crazy heavy, or very fragile, I take it with me.  If I leave it with the dealer I take a picture of the item and make sure I have a good mental image of where I am, so I can come back to collect it.  If you can, get the dealer’s number and save it on your phone.  I put it under the notes section with a description of what I purchased. See Take Notes below.

4. Take Notes

Not only do you want to remember where you need to pick something up, but I also like to use the note section on my phone so I can list out what I purchased and how much it costs.  That makes pricing items when I get back home go much more quickly.

If you purchased something large or heavy that you are going to drive in later to pick up, I like to take a photo to help me remember and even better is to get the name and number of the dealer and possibly the number of their booth. If you aren’t familiar with the flea market the more information you can get, the better.

A phone number is great too because we have ALL drove off and later remembered that we forgot something. If you haven’t had this happen to you, just wait!

5. Sunblock, Hat & Sunglasses

Have you seen me?  I get fried just thinking about sun! Better to be safe than to look like a lobster tomorrow! The more comfortable you are the more enjoyable your day will be!

6. Baby Wipes & Hand Sanitizer

things are not clean at a flea market and normally there’s dust and dirt getting wiped up with the wind.  I like to carry some sanitizer with me so I feel a little bit cleaner.

With Dori Austin, Junk Refunkery

7. Think about Food & Water

There are some days during the What Cheer Flea Market when there aren’t any available concessions.  If you haven’t packed a snack then you are going to get very HANGRY!  Or at least I do!  So I always bring water and snacks at a minimum.

Kara Ziph with My Fathers Daughter Vintage

8. Have a List

As a reseller, I don’t come with a list very often, but if I have some things for myself that I want, I do AND I make sure to have measurements.  You don’t want to find the perfect piece, buy it, get it home to realize that it’s not quite as big as you thought!  No returns at the flea market!

If I do bring it’s a list, it’s because good customers have asked me to find them specific pieces.  That list helps me remember, especially if it’s something I don’t typically buy!

Check Out a New to Me Flea Market

Why do you want to shop at flea markets?

One-Stop Shop

As a reseller, I like flea markets because I can source a lot of inventory at one location.  I am not in love with going to ten thrift stores and 95% of the items aren’t old.  I am not in love with going to garage sales where 95% of the items are not old.

Flea markets are great because everything is old and it’s all in one location!


I also love to repurpose!  I love taking something and using it in a new way!  Sometimes that means a DIY project, but sometimes that simply means styling it in a new way in your home.

Check out a couple of DIY projects HERE and HERE.

Or check out some ideas for decorating with those flea market finds HERE and HERE.

Unique Treasures

Another reason to shop flea markets besides finding awesome unique treasures to decorate your home would be the price!  You can’t beat prices at flea markets.  Often times vendors are prepared to negotiate, and if other dealers are looking to buy items that they will then turn around and sell for more, then you know as someone looking to purchase for your own home, that you are getting a good deal!

Vintage green antique secretary desk organizer, green suitcase, stoneware, at antique booth in What Cheer, Iowa at the What Cheer Flea Market. Brooke Johnson | The Junk Parlor | thejunkparlor.com

How to Find Flea Markets in your Area

Google searches or Facebook Searches will often yield good results.  You can also ask people as you shop!  Dealers that have a booth at the Flea Market you are shopping will often set up at different flea markets, antique shows, and events throughout the season.  Simply ask them where else they set up!

You could also ask them what is their favorite one to sell at!  That will often lead you to a good flea market!

That’s how I found out about THIS ONE!

This post may contain affiliate links for the products I use and recommend. I am not paid to promote these products. If you purchase using my affiliate links, I could make a small commission at no charge to you.

Vintage toy ranch phone. What Cheer Flea Market. Brooke Johnson | The Junk Parlor

Flea Market Tips

6 thoughts on “Antique Flea Market Shopping Tips”

  1. Omg Brooke!
    You still have it girlfriend! I just love you site. I enjoy poking around to SEE your posts. Yes a great secret I just LOVE about you is SEEING YOUR JUNK, TIPS, and FUN IDEAS. You draw me in everytime with your awesome videos of you just out and about making great finds out of some items most dont even take a second glance at. Then you go and show us voila instant charm. Thank you Brooke i know it isnt always easy taking us along 😍🤗

    1. Thank you Tammy! I love sharing with others and hope it inspires them to reuse pieces and hunt for vintage junk!

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