Held on the second Sunday of every month, it features 2,500 vendors and over 20,000 visitors each month. In the past, flea markets seemed to be reserved for hardcore collectors or thrift store regulars, but these days the young and trendy are bargain hunting right alongside the seasoned collectors.
For those on a tight budget, flea markets can be a way to mix some style into a boring apartment or tired wardrobe. Bring some cash or checks along with you, as most vendors won't take credit cards, and search for the best deals.
It's not uncommon to find a great vintage dress for under $20 or a cool second-hand coffee table for $50. These prices are great for money-tight college students, and more and more students are taking advantage of the steals.
“In the past year alone we've seen a new generation interested in antiques,” says Peggy Caffey, Rose Bowl Flea Market appraiser and part of the Appraisers National Association. In addition to the younger generation's growing interest in bargain buys, a new breed of antique collectors is emerging. Young buyers are seeking the perfect addition to their collections – from vintage dolls to coins to jewelry.
The flea market attracts so many different kinds of patrons for several reasons, including the chance to score a great deal and not knowing what you will find from one month to the next. Caffey says. “The Rose Bowl has such a wide variety of items, many one of a kind, many brand new, and many that remind people of their youth, all in one location.”
The Rose Bowl Flea Market offers visitors free appraisal services so that buyers can figure out how much their purchases are actually worth. Whether shoppers come in to get family heirlooms appraised, find out how much an old childhood toy is worth or see what exactly they just picked up from the vendor down the way, appraisers will tell them what they're dealing with.
Sometimes, buyers get more than they expected. One woman found a ring she liked while sorting through a box of costume jewelry marked $1. After making her purchase, she brought the ring to the Appraisal Tent to learn a little more about what she bought and there, the appraiser told her that what she'd just snatched up was a green jade jewel set in 18k gold – worth over $1,000. Now that's a lucky find!
Flea markets as large as the one at the Rose Bowl can be overwhelming for first-time visitors, so it helps to know what you're shopping for. If you have something particular in mind, head for that section early on since it's easy to get distracted by the thousands of vendors.
Then, make sure to peruse the stands because you never know what might catch your eye. Remember that bargaining and negotiating are part of the fun, so don't be afraid to try and take the price down a few bucks when you find something you just have to have.
If you think waking up at 11 a.m. is starting your day early, then bargain hunting at the flea market might not be your cup of tea. Determined shoppers arrive obscenely early (read: 5 a.m.) to be the first to snag the best merchandise, so arrive as early as possible after your Saturday night festivities.
Mark your calendars for Dec. 10, when the next flea market will be held.
The Rose Bowl is located at 1001 Rose Bowl Drive, in Pasadena. Regular admission (from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) is $10; free parking. For more information, call (323) 560-7469.