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What is a Flea Market?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A flea market is a large, traditionally open-air market where people sell a wide range of goods, typically used. Many communities have weekly versions of these markets which are held in large fields or conference halls during the winter, and some of these markets have been happening for decades, or centuries, in a few cases.

Several different kinds of merchants can be found at a flea market. In some regions, people bring their own possessions to the market, setting up a small stall to sell various used goods. In other cases, a merchant may actually be a dealer of used goods who either frequents these markets or runs a store and travels to them. Used-store owners frequently prowl these events looking for goods which they could resell for a higher price, as well.

It is also possible to find merchants selling new products like handmade jewelry and other crafts at a flea market, and in some areas people sell agricultural products or baked goods as well. Urban areas tend to have very large flea markets due to the bigger population; people in neighboring areas may travel to the site of the flea market in search of deals. The wide variety of sellers makes it impossible to predict the goods for sale at the market.

The name, incidentally, is a reference to flea-laden used clothes which were sold at flea markets in the 17th century. Some people may also call a flea market a bazaar, connecting them with the larger outdoor markets of the Middle East. In some regions, these markets are called trunk or boot sales, since people bring goods for sale in their cars and they may set up stands on their vehicles or in close proximity to them.

It helps to have a good eye when you go to a flea market, as some of the goods are quite excellent, while others are junky. Many people like to have a set goal when they attend the market so that they don't end up with a strange assortment of items that caught their eyes. Going with a goal like a new bicycle or a decent bookshelf is an excellent idea, and it can help you resist the lure of antique tea pots, vintage fruit crates, records, and whatever else might call to you from the cluttered aisles of the market.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a SmartCapitalMind researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon328054 — On Apr 01, 2013

@Icecream17: That is true, and I agree.

By icecream17 — On Jul 25, 2010

Greenweaver- I can answer that. You have to have a business license because you will need the tax identification number in order to buy your products wholesale and this number also proves that you have a registered business.

Next, you will have rent the space from the flea market. It is probably a good idea to attend a number of flea markets so you can see what is selling and what is not.

Also, by talking to flea market vendors you can get an idea of what products you should sell.

By GreenWeaver — On Jul 25, 2010

SurNturf- I love flea markets. I just wanted to know. Do you happen to know how people get started selling at a flea market? I was always curious about that.

By surfNturf — On Jul 25, 2010

I have been to a few outdoor flea markets and sometimes you can find really interesting items. I love looking at antiques and cute little knick knacks.

I know that South Florida has a large flea market called the Swap Shop, but I have never been to it.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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