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How to Harvest Junk and Sell It at the Flea Market

Selling junk to complete strangers at the flea market is an excellent way to make money and get out into the community. It's true what they say, that one man's trash is another man's treasure.


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    Check to see what junk you already have around. Junk can come from a number of sources. Try finding things that you yourself no longer have any use for. Anything will do; it is amazing what people will buy. Look around. Would anything be worth more to you in the form of cold hard cash? If the answer is yes, put these things aside. Don't be too concerned with what the items are. If they fit in a box and are not complete trash, by the end of the day you may be able to recover a dollar or two.
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    Expand your junk supply. After you rummage through everything you own for anything you can part with, look further. A large supply of items is necessary for any junk selling endeavor. This part is largely up to the individual.
    • Offer to help your friends and relatives clean out their garages for them in exchange for some boxes of their junk.
    • Visit garage sales late in the day. Offer low prices for junk in quantity.
    • Check local dumpsters or shop on the curbside during extra trash day in your town.
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    Choose what junk to take on a given day. You should now have a pretty good sized collection. Depending on the amount of junk you have you can pick and choose what you want to take. Writing the contents of each box on the outside will make this step easier. Again, it's hard to determine what kind of junk people will be in the mood to buy so throw as many boxes as you can in your transportation and strap it all down. It is best to do this the day before as hopefully you will have quite a bit of stuff.
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    Wake up really early the day of the flea market. Try to be at the market by 5:30 am, or an hour or two before the flea market opens. More than likely there will be a line of trucks that all have the same lots of stuff strapped to them.
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    Pay for your selling area.
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    Prepare for the onslaught. As soon as you park and begin to unload your junk, a crowd will inevitably swarm around you of people trying to buy your stuff for really cheap before you've even set up shop. They will grab at your stuff like crazy people and yell out numbers while manhandling all your boxes. They may be trying to stun you into selling them really good stuff for cheap. It is up to you how you use this whirlwind. You may make a lot of sales during this initial frenzy, but be wary of getting flustered and saying yes to too low a price. Also, watch for people stealing things when your back is turned. It will help to have a partner so that one person can do business while the other unloads.
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    Sell your wares. Things will even out as people arrive throughout the day.
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    Haggle and deal. Selling junk is great because you never really price anything until someone asks, you might have an idea, but it's all relative. Give discounts for buying more things. Fill a box with toys and sell handfuls or bag-fulls for a dollar each. Barter with people. The key to selling junk is quantity over quality and one dollar is better than no dollars.
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    Use your profit to invest in more junk. If you have a goodwill clearance center nearby, try there. There will be a crowd and you might have to fight for the good stuff but you can get a cartload of stuff for cheap. If you buy junk to sell, make sure that you know about what price you can get selling it. Keep your purchase price low.


  • Be creative in your accumulation of wares. Not everything needs to be junk. You also can sell things you make, like music, or jewelry.
  • Don't call it "junk" in front of your customers.
  • Set out a small dish with wrapped hard candy or mints. People who stop to get a candy will also shop. Keep the bowl very small, so people will take just one piece of candy.(If you put out a huge bowl of candy, people are more likely to grab a handful and keep going without stopping to shop.)
  • Make yourself at home! Bring a chair and umbrella or canopy, sunscreen, water, snacks, hand-wipes, etc. I've found that the more comfortable I feel, the better the shopping atmosphere is for my customers and potential customers. I can concentrate more on friendly small talk and sales than on worrying about if I'm sunburned or my feet are killing me.
  • Keep a spiral notebook and pen on your table for customers to list what they are looking for, to keep up with trends, and to let you know what merchandise will sell well. (Tie the pen to the notebook with a string.)
  • Have fun and be flexible. People will buy more if you're nice to them.
  • I manage a flea market, and the biggest mistake I see vendors make is to price their items too low or too high. Before you try to sell, visit several flea markets and get an idea of how to price your merchandise.
  • Have bags available to put purchases in. This is a great way to recycle used grocery bags.
  • Do not "hold" any merchandise unless it is paid for. People who ask you to hold something for them rarely come back, and you have lost out on a potential sale by taking the item off of your table.
  • Smile, make eye contact and say hi to people as they approach your booth. People will linger and shop if you make them feel welcome.
  • Fix stuff up, if you know how. Broken and dirty things often have little value simply because people don't know how to fix or clean them, or because it doesn't occur to them to try. Sometimes a simple fix is all it takes to make something usable. On the other hand, balance the time you spend improving items with what you can get for them used. It's not worth hours and hours if you can only sell the repaired item for $5.


  • Try to have a friend with you to help wait on customers and to watch for shoplifters. Professional shoplifters often work in pairs. One person will distract the vendor with questions, while their partner steals items.
  • Don't leave your booth, and especially don't leave your money unattended.
  • Avoid heatstroke and sunburn during the summer months. Wear plenty of sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses. Keep hydrated.

Things You'll Need

  • A fair amount of space to store your junk.
  • Transportation to haul your junk.
  • small bills for making change.
  • Cash box, apron, or other secure place to store money.
  • sun shade and cooler.
  • trustworthy partner.

Article Info

Categories: Garage and Yard Sales