By Dave Barton
By LP Hastings
By Sarah Bennett
By LP Hastings
By Jena Ardell
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
By Joel Beers
A Gaggle of Haggles
Antique and flea markets are the only way I could ever afford to furnish my apartment, not that I mind. Vintage pieces always add a nice personal touch to any place, especially in juxtaposition with that bargain-basement-priced particle-board stuff from IKEA and Craigslist. Besides, where else are you going to run into that Snoopy snow-cone machine again? Or the perfect midcentury credenza for your entryway that’s actually affordable? Or the entire Baby-Sitters Club book series for $20?
Orange County and Long Beach offer a good selection of realistically sized antique markets, but without the Los Angeles crowds, parking situations and prices. Many consider the monthly gigantor Rose Bowl Flea Market (second Sunday of the month, if you’re ever feeling brave enough) extravaganza to be the mecca for antiques and vintage enthusiasts. The problem? It’s just too fucking big. It may be one of the most famous antique markets in the world, but with more than 2,500 vendors, it’s hardly manageable. Many of the OC sales are juuuust right, with a feasible amount of booths that you can comb over in a single morning.
A few tips:
Haggle—in fact, be heartless. Chances are, they’re giving you a run for your money anyway. Start low and negotiate fast, but also be prepared to meet the seller in the middle. Pretend to walk away if you have to. I recently picked up two matching upholstered barstools with curlicued iron backs from the 1960s at the Long Beach Antique Flea Market for $30 each—the seller started at $200 for the pair. Even they know when they’re marking things up to unrealistic heights.
Be prepared to do some fixin’ up. Some items that would otherwise be perfect might need a little bit of work: A new coat of paint, some new legs, and/or some reupholstering (not necessarily always requiring a professional job; sometimes some fabric, sheets of foam and a staple gun will do the trick), and it’ll look like new. Just try to take into consideration the cost of repairs when bargaining.
Get up early. I know, I know, it sucks. But it’s really the only way to get first dibs on the good stuff.
Bring water—especially in these summer months—and your patience. Some trips might be a total bust, while others might almost make you wish you owned a SUV.
Bring cash. Most vendors are cash-only, but some are equipped with credit-card machines, while others will accept personal checks. ATMs are usually set up just outside the markets, though—just watch out for that usage fee.
A list of my favorite treasure-laden antique markets and swap meets:
Long Beach Antique Flea Market
My favorite of them all. On the third Sunday of every month, I wake up at 6 a.m., down some caffeine and make the short trek up the 405 to Long Beach Veterans Stadium. This market features more than 800 dealers spread out over 20 acres, and they’ve got everything: clothing, jewelry, Fiestaware, 10-speed bikes, furniture. You know all those cool little antique shops on Fourth Street in Long Beach? You’ll find everything you can find there at the Long Beach Flea Market, but for a fraction of the cost.
Bonus: Visit the website to sign up for the mailing list that e-mails you an admission-discount coupon every month.
An extra-creepy bonus: The couple manning the booth that sells nothing but Nazi paraphernalia. Anybody looking for Eva Braun’s hairbrush? Long Beach Veterans Stadium, 5000 Lew Davis St., Long Beach, (323) 655-5703; www.longbeachantiquemarket.com. Every third Sun. of the month, 5:30 a.m.-3 p.m. $5-$10.
Orange Coast College Swap Meet
So this might be considered more of a swap meet than an antique fair, but it’s got enough of everything—used and new—to satisfy your needs. You need a fuzzy lavender steering-wheel cover? Carnitas? OPI nail polish? A new litter box? Turkey jerky? Chuck Taylors for $25?
And for those of you who prefer furniture you can be sure that no one has died on, there are tons of vendors selling brand-new furniture sets.
The boyfriend always beelines for the vendor with the $5 vintage Wrangler flannels (they all look the same after about your 20th one, but he insists otherwise); I love the massive $2 Churros. 2701 Fairview Rd., Costa Mesa; www.orangecoastcollege.com. Every Sat.-Sun., ?8 a.m.-3 p.m. Free.
The Mercantile Flea Market
It’s still relatively young, and Fullerton’s Mercantile Flea Market is also still relatively unknown—which means all the more crap for you to go through!
In addition to antique and vintage goods, the market includes one-of-a-kind creations from artisans, which makes it a great go-to destination for gifts. 115 S. Harbor Blvd. (at Commonwealth), Fullerton, (714) 680-9882; www.fullertondowntown.com. First Sat. of the month, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Free.