As a child I was dragged around many car boot sales and charity shops with my Mum, who was (and still is…), perpetually on the hunt for a bargain. I might manage to come home with the odd My Little Pony, or new necklace, so there was at least some interest for me, but I was generally pretty bored 10 minutes into the trip, and was generally pretty embarrassed that we were buying things second hand!
20 years on and I have finally developed my Mum’s love of thrift, bargain hunting and just rummaging through other people’s junk. The recent surge in ‘upcycling’ furniture and wearing ‘vintage’ has somewhat changed the market for second hand goods on the high street – junk shops and charity shops have really realised the worth and popularity of these old items; charity shops often now have a ‘vintage’ section where they can charge triple the price for a used old ladies 1970’s dress, and finding a real bargain seems to be getting harder and harder. I love antique fairs and markets, but often you are faced with the same problem, as the dealers are clued up to the market and know exactly what to charge. So where can one go these days to find old chairs and desks to do up, vintage real leather boots, antique cameras and interesting old bits of costume jewellery at bargain prices?!
Car boot sales!
Yes, they can be huge, busy and can take a good hour or two to get around, and unlike the antique fairs where nearly everything there is of some interest, 80% of stuff at a car boot sale is probably junk. But for me it’s worth it if you can maybe scout out a couple of bits from that 20% of half decent stuff that are real gems. I see them as grown-up treasure hunts, it’s all about the thrill of the chase and I can’t drive past them without feeling jittery about what I might be missing. Some of my most treasured bits and pieces from around my house and garden were found at car boot sales, and they are made so much sweeter when you dug them out of the bottom of an old box and only paid 50p for them. And haggling is always so much easier with someone who doesn’t really care what they make on it, they just don’t want to have to take any of the blasted stuff home with them! You will find the odd antiques dealer who is there to make some real profit and so are much harder to move on price, and when you are used to paying within the range of 50p to £2 for an item, their demand for £5 for a Cornish Ware jug, or Coronation teapot seems obscene! Sometimes you do have to take yourself away from the situation and imagine that price was on the same item in an antiques shop – you would probably snap it up. So if the seller is being stubborn, then be realistic and don’t push your luck too hard, especially if you really want whatever it is. Many a time I have refused to buy something for the sake of £2, and have really kicked myself later on that I left it, as chances are it will be gone by the time you get back!
Get cash out before you go – It’s so easy these days when you have so little need for cash, to turn up to a car boot sale with only £5 in your purse. Also, try and make sure you have lots of change. You may find someone who won’t sell you something purely because they’d rather you didn’t wipe out their whole float for the sake of selling you something for £1, when all you have is a £20 note.
If you want it, just buy it! – There is nothing worse than leaving something to go and think about it and coming back to find it and it is gone. Although often if I can’t decide whether to buy something or not I leave it to fate, and if I am still thinking about it when I have finished going around, AND it is still there, then it was meant to be mine. If you forget about it, or it’s gone when you get back then it obviously wasn’t!
Get there early – Seems like an obvious one really, but savvy car boot salers are like vultures and will have cleaned the place out of most of the 20% of good stuff even before the advertised opening time! Often the sale will open half an hour or so before it says it will, this is the time to go.
Learn to scan – Don’t imagine you have to look through every item on every table (unless you really do love junk, or you want to be there for 3 hours). I have learnt to scan the tables from a distance and make a quick judgement on whether the stuff looks of interest or not, and if it doesn’t from a distance then you are probably right… just keep walking.
Bank holiday weekends – Car boot sales generally run on Sundays (there is no better way to spend a sunny Sunday morning in my book), but they can often run on bank holidays too.
The season generally starts around Easter time, so start saving your pennies and find your local car boot sale!
This post is by Laura Ollerenshaw: blogger, photographer and stay at home mum of 2.
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