photography and story by Rebecca Giese
Something about the treasure hunt makes walking in the hot sun buying unique gifts, the freshest vegetables and vintage finds worth it. Since I was a kid, I remember going with my parents almost every weekend, to get vegetables and the occasional “rare” Beanie Baby with the five dollars I had for the occasion. After roughly two decades of visiting flea markets and farmers markets alike, I have perfected the art of the flea market/farmers market hunt.
*While sometimes the terms Farmers Market and Flea Market can be interchangeable for the location, they are technically two different scenarios. A Flea Market is defined as a market for vendors to sell pre-owned goods, whereas a Farmers Market is a space for farmers and artisans to sell directly to the consumers.*
It may seem obvious, but one should dress comfortably when planning a visit to a flea or farmer’s market. Usually, if not always, parking is a hike so you will be walking quite a bit. Plan on wearing sneakers or shoe that are comfortable. Also, pro tip, check out where the market is located online before heading out. Many flea markets, especially, are in open fields and that mud and clay will destroy your favorite pair of sneakers and unless you love dirt between your toes avoid sandals.
Now that you have your outfit planned out, what should you carry? I suggest to travel light, I am notoriously a bag lady, but when heading to flea or farmers markets I try to avoid a muti-bag situation, it gets tiresome and annoying very quick. If you know you will be getting tons of produce and treasures, you should invest in a rolling cart. They make life so much easier plus fewer trips to the car. Some are simple wire baskets on wheels, while others have multiple levels and pockets, which are great to double for snacks and as a purse. The cart gives me flashbacks of middle school rolling backpacks, but we are treasure hunting not trying to make a fashion statement. Lastly, and super obvious, but I would carry cash. Many vendors take cards now but having cash helps when negotiating the price on that wingback chair you have your eyes on. Credit card systems charge the vendor for the transaction so you may be able to get a least %10 off when paying in cash at flea markets. Please note this trick usually doesn’t work at farmers markets with fresh and artisan products, but everyone loves cash over dealing with that little dongle.
Now speaking of that wingback chair, I do have some tips to finding quality treasures while at flea markets. Always check the condition and get up close a personal with the piece. On most chairs, tables, and benches the manufacturers market will be underneath, for dressers, you can find the mark sometimes on the back or in the drawer. This marking will help you find out who, when, and where about the piece, which is essential if you want to restore it to its previous glory or find the actual rarity/value of the piece. If you are looking for the perfect piece to flip, hello chalk painters, then marks don’t matter, but the overall condition does. Look all over for any water damage, check the joints and legs for stability, also check to see if for warped wood or peeling and smell it. Yes, if it smells like smoke, it will be a beast to prep and paint, which is a hard pass for us each time. If you are curious if it is a reproduction or truly old, turn the piece over and check how it is put together. Phillip head screws weren’t used until post-WWII so the piece can be vintage, but if it looks primitive and turn-of-the-century with Phillips head screws, then it is a reproduction. Also, check for nicks and cuts in the wood on the bottom and under the drawers, circular saws weren’t used until the 1860s and reproductions are known to be mass produced with perfect edges using circular saws. There a lot of educational materials out there on the history of furniture and collectibles so if you are on the hunt for something, in particular, do your research first to make sure you don’t buy a dupe or pay too much.
Overall enjoy the hunt, you never know what you will find, maybe homemade lavender soap, local honey or a midcentury buffet you just never know!
Check out these Pee Dee area Farmers Market locations:
City Center Farmers Market, Saturdays
Florence Flea Market, Saturdays, and Sundays
Hartsville Farmers Market, June 8th and every 2nd Saturday, April- December
Pee Dee State Farmers Market, Monday-Saturday
Some day-trip options around South Carolina:
Barnyard Flea Market Lexington, Saturday, and Sundays
Blythewood Farmers Market, Wednesdays
Clemson Sandhill Farmers Market, Tuesdays
Coastal Carolina Flea Market, Saturdays, and Sundays
Goose Creek Farmers Market, Saturdays March – December
Hudson’s Surfside Flea Market, Tuesday – Sunday
North Myrtle Beach Flea Market, Friday – Sunday
The Mount Pleasant Farmers Market, Tuesdays afternoons
What’s on My Radar for June?
Honestly Farmer and Flea Markets! I love finding exploring new areas and going to markets before the weather gets too unbearably hot.
Finding the perfect Father’s Day Gift, if your dad likes steaks check out Bigs Meats or if he is obsessed with fishing book him a fishing trip out of Murrells Inlet.
Art in the Park June 29th & 30th in Myrtle Beach, check out local artisans and unique pieces of art during a trip to the beach!