From Flea Markets to "Vinta-markets": An Abbreviated Explanation for the Layperson.
The term “flea market” has various origin stories. The most popular comes the 1998 Winter edition of Today’s Flea Market magazine. In his article, 'What is a Flea Market?', Albert LaFarge writes “There is a general agreement that the term ‘Flea Market’ is a literal translation of the French ‘marche aux puces’, an outdoor bazaar in Paris, France, named for those pesky little parasites of the order Siphonaptera (or “wingless bloodsucker”) that infested the upholstery of old furniture brought out for sale.” Depending on what part of the world you hail from (or even region you live in if you’re from the United States), you may have been to a flea market and called it by a different moniker. Swap meet, rummage sale, street market, bazaar, jumble sale, and of course, flea market are all fairly synonymous with one another by contemporary standards. A flea market is typically described as an open-air space-usually outdoors-where individuals (called "vendors") can sell their secondhand goods, cheap household articles, curios, or antiques.
Of course, not all flea markets are the same. The real differences between them is in the products being sold. This is to say that all flea markets are not rife with trinkets and tupperware, nor vintage home and garden goods and antiques; nowadays, one can’t even be sure flea market wares will be inexpensive. The types of goods and antiques sold at a flea market can range from unique to dime-a-dozen depending on the featured vendors. Some flea markets allow anyone who shows up (usually for a nominal fee) to display their wares for flea market shoppers. Others will be more selective, putting a cap on vendors that can sell the same types of goods. Jewelry, paint, and clothing are good examples of goods that may be limited by flea market organizers. Even further up the scale are the markets who implement a jury system to decide who will be admitted as a vendor. The jury system is simple: Organizers of a flea market will enlist a group of people to determine whether or not an applicant’s goods are a right fit for a particular event. Jurors-as many as the organizer chooses to recruit for their event-are usually folks “in the biz”: either people who have organized their own event or have been vendors at other flea markets.
This is where the flea market trend is changing. All over the United States (and beyond), these carefully organized flea market events are taking hold. The demand for vintage, refurbished, rusty, or just one of a kind unique wares is growing. Brick and mortar “vintage markets” that sell these goods daily are growing in popularity. Organically, these storefronts have given way to large events (usually held annually, bi-annually, or quarterly) that attempt to bring together in one place the best vendors from their city, state, or region to sell their wares to the public in a large one or two-day extravaganza. These are definitely not your grandmother’s flea markets (although she is sure to love them). Producing a fun and vibrant atmosphere, these events provide people a destination, a something-to-do on the weekend, and a place to find some very cool stuff. Hipsters, crafters, students, and suburban families alike are finding, and loving, these “vinta-markets” (vintage flea markets).
What kind of items can one find at these vinta-markets? Think old metal advertising signs, shelves made from old suitcases, rusty mid-century school desks, classic old typewriter keys that have been made into necklaces...heck, classic old typewriters. The vendors at these shows take pride in repurposing, rehabbing, or simply finding these unique wares which they turn around and sell at an event. These self proclaimed “junkers” find items at garage sales, estate sales, and oh yes--in other people’s trash piles at the curb. They take new dress forms and make them look old, rotting bureaus and make look new; Is there a hole in the seat of that chair? They fill it with a potted plant and make a beautiful garden piece. Yes, you’ll find old wagon wheels turned into chandeliers, signs with bistro bulbs that would give the marques on broadway a run for their money, vanities that have been “aged” with chalk paint, dark wax, and sandpaper, and old broken china that has been turned into a beautiful decorative mosaic. These vendors not only rewire the lamp to make it work again, but will make a lampshade out of rusted aluminum and turn it into an industrial looking masterpiece.
Because these vintage flea markets are so well put together (see: highly organized), it’s common to be charged a nominal fee to get through the door (from $4 to even $20 depending on the event). However, truth be told, it’s a small pittance to walk around and see all the amazing items to behold at these vintage showcases. These are a window shopper’s delight because every vendor’s space is curated with different themes, all featuring unique wares. Find one of these vintage flea markets near you and see what all the fuss is about. But be warned: You are almost certain to find at least one item that speaks to you. Something that you can walk by once and will draw you back as if you were meant to call it your own. Of course, finding that one treasure-or maybe two-is why the flea market is so much fun.