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Sometimes a Flea Market is the Best Venue to Sell Your Household Goods

by Will Seippel (08/08/14).

Flea markets, such as the Arundel Flea Market—which could be the best flea market in Maine—offers a place for people to sell things that would not be efficient or worth the time on eBay.

Flea markets, such as the Arundel Flea Market—which could be the best flea market in Maine—offers a place for people to sell things that would not be efficient or worth the time on eBay.

I have been selling on eBay since eBay has been in existence. But sometimes, depending on what you’re selling, there are better venues to hawk your wares.

Recently, I began to move my 89-year-old mother out of her home in Kennebunk, Maine, and into an assisted care facility. She was excited at the prospect of downsizing from10 rooms to two, but we also had to downsize her possessions from 3,500 square feet to fit into her new 400-square-foot apartment.

For most of the big stuff, like the furniture, and the things of value, my mom knew who she wanted to give them to, so that part was easy. And some of the other stuff was reserved to put on eBay; things like her china, porcelain figurines, some toy die-cast trucks and tractors, as well as a collection of vintage, ’50s-era purses ad handbags, gloves, shoes and Pendleton items.

But what about all the rest of the stuff—the household goods and extras—that had been accumulated over a lifetime?

Most folks facing this kind of task—liquidating someone’s estate, living or not—turn to estate sales professionals or, at the very least, hold estate or garage sales themselves. This was not a great option for us, as Mom’s house is outside of town and at the end of a long, narrow cul de sac, greatly cutting down the chance of drive-by traffic, and there really wasn’t any parking available, anyway.

Early on a weekday morning, tables can be had. For busy weekends, though, you’ll have to get in line Friday night to score a good spot.

Early on a weekday morning, tables can be had. For busy weekends, though, you’ll have to get in line Friday night to score a good spot.

Old tools, like these old chisels, can be picked up in lots if you negotiate well.

Old tools, like these old chisels, can be picked up in lots if you negotiate well.

Luckily for us, the Arundel Flea Market—which could be the best flea market in Maine—is not too far away. Open seven days a week, you’ll usually find 20 or so dealers on an average weekday, with the weekends sometimes having more than 200 dealers operating from tables and the trunks of their car or off their truck tailgates. They are hawking everything from books, records and CDs/DVDs to relics of New England’s past, modern lamps, lamp shades, jewelry and on and on. You will also find games, toys, puzzles, tools, bottles and other garage sale items at bargain prices. For us, it was the “on and on” that we were selling (I also had to make sure my mom did not slip in a valuable item, like a limited-edition, autographed book by George Herbert Walker Bush she priced it at $20).

The way the market works is you can rent a long, wooden table for $6 each (cheaper on a weekday) and display the things that you’ve pulled down from the attic, brought up from the basement or hauled out of the garage. Dealers come from quite far away, as the buyers at the Arundel Flea Market have a reputation of being discerning consumers who will grudgingly part with a dollar for the right item.

The Arundel Flea Market is located in the town of Arundel—at the corner of Route 1 and Log Cabin Rd.—just outside of Kennebunk/Kennebunkport and about 20 minutes from Portland. The regular dealers and those in the know begin lining up their cars and trucks loaded with stuff at 2 in the morning on Friday nights, waiting for the 3 a.m. OK to pull in and claim their tables, as they are first-come, first-served. There are some 500 tables available, but they are not created equally, as prime spaces go fast, and if you’re not on the ball, you’ll find yourself regulated to the back of the place, near the woods, where it is often muddy and home to a large squadron of mosquitoes.

After grabbing your tables, while you are unpacking, don’t be surprised if early, early birds come by, shopping by flashlight. By sunrise, which can be as early as 4:15 a.m. during the summer, dozens of bargain hunters are hard at work picking.

Since this is Maine, a lot of the stuff coming out of the old houses here tend to be old, like this collection of multicolored bottles.

Since this is Maine, a lot of the stuff coming out of the old houses here tend to be old, like this collection of multicolored bottles.

So, we set out Mom’s stuff—the basic, household goods; dishware, drinking glasses, pots and pans, a lot of clothes—and my sister brought along things she wanted to sell, too, including old tools, some bicycles, a sewing machine and a big, old wood-burning stove. When our Saturday of selling was over, around noon, Mom’s stuff has sold for about $350. My sister’s take was much bigger, around $2,500. I was satisfied with the haul and starting packing up, as it had already been a long day. It was also a signal to the last-minute bargain hunters know I would sell what was left at all-must-go prices, as it now or never.

And because I am, at heart, a picker and dealer, I ended up buying a lot of stuff that day, too. You never know what can come out of an old house in Maine, as many of them are more than a hundred or two hundred years old, and I found a few things I thought I could resell at a decent profit. Now, I just have to figure out how to get these 50 boxes weighing roughly 1,000 pounds back home to Atlanta.


If You Go:

Where:
Arundel Flea Market
1713 Portland Rd. (State Route 1)
Arundel, ME

Phone:
207.985.7965 or 207.985.4135.


Will Seippel is the president and CEO of WorthPoint. Will has been an avid collector since 1974 and dealer of just about all things—with an emphasis on ephemera—antiques since 1984.

WorthPoint—Discover Your Hidden Wealth

 

5 Responses to “Sometimes a Flea Market is the Best Venue to Sell Your Household Goods”

  1. Weston Perry says:

    “The buyers at the Arundel Flea Market have a reputation of being discerning consumers who will grudgingly part with a dollar for the right item.”

    This sounds like a terrible customer profile! I’ve set up in eastern and western CT at flea markets with wildly different demographics. Currently frequenting flea markets in western NJ and PA, they are again quite different. The best flea markets, for sellers, are the ones that have a steady flow of fresh (or occasional) shoppers with disposable income and a need/desire to make acquisitions. I call them Hungry Buyers. And if they are the kind of customers who will make $75-$95 impulse purchases so much the better. If they are wandering around with no money and nothing better to do on a Sunday morning, then it’s just painful to try to sell to them. If they are collectors, but never spend more than $10 on a widget that fits their collection, they’re not going to buy your widget that you feel is fairly priced at $45.

    Even when your cost of goods is $0, the associated work of sorting and cleaning, packing the car, then add the costs of travel, admission and another 7-8 hours at the flea — that sounds like free entertainment if you like that sort of thing, not a profitable venture. And you can only do intensive shopping to justify the time if you have someone with you to cover your space…

    Another alternative would have been to have a dealer come in, pay you $200 for stuff, in place, and haul everything away. No remainders, much smaller expenditure of time and energy and you still have the things you know you can sell. And if the world works right, you will have missed something, and the dealer who hauled everything away will know what it is and how to sell it so the both of you will have benefited from the exchange.

  2. Don Wagner says:

    The last 4 flea markets I attended I spent nothing – nothing! Everything was either very uninteresting or very overpriced. It’s like people do a little homework on the Internet and then deliberately overprice their stuff. I much prefer to buy at estate auctions.

    As for selling, the idea of packing up a vanload of stuff and hauling it to a flea market, unpacking it, and then packing most of it up again for the next flea market is about as repulsive a thought as getting booked into jail. Once again, it’s auctions for me – haul the stuff there, or better yet pay some kids to do it, and then cash your check a few weeks later.

  3. will says:

    Perhaps it depends where you are going. I feel that way about some flea markets and for that matter antique malls. It depends on where you are going and how they are managed.

    For example, why I like Arundel, it is close to the source as people bring there from people’s houses. That is where all the great stuff comes from as it has not been picked 10 times over. Generally, I also stay away from the professional flea market people there. The people that sell all the stuff at retail, and it is boring etc… Lastly, the owner runs a clean place.

    I sold thousands that day, (priced things right), bought about $1,000 more and did well. I liken it to fishing, you got to know the right lake and places, bring the right bait, and then the rest is luck. Perhaps Maine/New England markets are different than the rest of the country, but this “honey hole” has made me money!

  4. will says:

    Forgot to mention, if you are buying, the professional dealers often keep the best in their cars. You gotta ask.

  5. Weston Perry says:

    I’m not challenging your prowess as a buyer or seller, but the title of the article suggested that a flea market is a great way to get rid of household stuff — that you made $250 on. And the article says the buyers are discerning and cheap.

    If it was an article on great wholesale shopping opportunities for resellers – WHY would anyone give that away to a large audience?

    Or an article on a great market for selling locations quality items at low prices — since you spent a lot that you expect to profit on — great.

    My point is the article doesn’t support the title.

    “But what about all the rest of the stuff—the household goods and extras—that had been accumulated over a lifetime?” We all have knowledge gaps. Something you sold for $10 of the $250 you made, may make someone else $50 — great… But I stand by my point: After you cherry pick the inventory, schlepping the remainders out, spending a day in the hot sun and coming away with $250 isn’t worth it.

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