How to Price Your Items at Garage Sales and Flea Markets

Make Sure The Price Is Right!

Occasionally, I sell items at flea markets near my home. Usually, when I start gathering things I no longer want, I go and try to sell them at one of the local flea markets. Being a casual seller, I often sell different items. Along the way, through talking with other sellers, and in reading articles on the internet, I've learned a few things.

1. Trying to sell large ticket items can be tough.

I recently sold a stereo system at a flea market. It wasn't very high end, but it was still high enough in price, that it took awhile and many "lookers" before I sold it. When selling big ticket items, you run into several problems. One is that most people in general don't carry much cash, and most sellers at flea markets and garage sales don't take credit cards, so, oftentimes people who are interested will tell you that they don't have the money on them, so they don't buy the item. Then, especially if it is a very large item in size, shoppers aren't prepared to handle the item at the moment. And, many people are there to look for low priced items, usually under $10 or the equivalent, especially in a bad economy. Selling higher priced items can be done, but it is tough to do, so try to sell items where you're willing to let go for $10 or less.

2. Don't Hold An Item!

Never do this! The first time I sold items at a flea market, someone came up to the table and said they wanted this particular item I was selling, but that they'd come back later to buy it, asking that I hold it for them. So, I agreed, and turned down two other offers to buy the item. Well, the person never came back! Lesson learned: Never, I repeat, Never! Never Hold an item, especially if the potential customer hasn't bought it!

Since then, I've had many would be buyers of my items claim to have interest and saying they'd come back. Only one did! It's my belief that, within 10 seconds of saying they'll come back, a "looker" will completely forget all about the item! So, I never hold items and I even let people know if they say they'll come back, that I cannot hold an item. Also, even if they do pay you and say they'll pick up the item later, tell them they have to take it now. This way, if they don't show up, you won't feel like you have to find them to give them their item. They bought it, it's now their responsibility, so don't hold it for them, because then you'll feel responsible.

3. Accept the fact that you will have to sell your items at much less than what you paid for them.

You may feel that the small wooden chest or great radio that you're selling is like new and worth the money you paid for them. But to a shopper, these are still used items! After all, if you are buying a used car, that was even just two years old, to save money, no matter how good that car looked, you would probably still not be willing to pay what you would if the car were brand new! You shouldn't expect other shoppers to think differently, nor to have or understand the sentiment that you may have regarding your items.

4. Note the condition of your item and compare prices for items.

Know the condition of your items. If an item is like new, you can charge a higher price. Likewise if it is complete, as in a set, or items like stereo systems, which include speakers or other components. Then, if possible, do research, especially on higher priced or big ticket items. Ebay, Amazon, and Craigslist are good places to see what items are selling for. Also see if other sellers at the flea market are selling a similar item and note their price.

5. Try to sell complete items if possible.

Related to 4. above, try to sell complete items. This means that, in the example of the stereo system, that you have all the components, and the user's manual, too. The user's manual is very important when you're selling electronic items, particularly if the item is not very user friendly! Also, incomplete tea sets, card collections, or sound systems will not sell as well.

6. Be prepared to haggle and negotiate!

Sometimes shoppers will simply pay the price that you have marked for an item. But oftentimes, they will suggest a lower price. It's often best not to be too rigid, but beware of dropping your price too low or too fast. For instance, I had my stereo priced as "$70 OBO". "OBO" stands for "Or best offer" This is good to price this way for items that may be hard to sell, as it invites potential buyers to make reasonable offers instead of turning them away out of hand because the price is too high.

Seeing that the stereo was hard to sell, I would tell prospective buyers that I'd consider $60, or even $50, which was the lowest I'd go. Well, finally, a couple showed much interest, then said they'd think about it after I told them $50. I'd arrived at this figure after doing research in which a pawn shop only offered me $30.

The couple came back and asked if I would accept $45. I thought about it, seeing that no one else had come back to buy the stereo, even at $50 and with one of my very low priced items tossed in at no extra charge, and the couple's offer was only $5 below my minimum. So I took their offer and sold them the stereo for $45.

So, don't be rigid in your pricing but do consider what your minimum is, what your research says, and what the potential buyer is offering. This will help you get a decent deal.


Be Honest! If the radio you're selling is missing a small antenna so it's reception depends even more on how it's placed, tell the buyer before he or she buys it! If a game is missing a piece, or that power drill quits every so often, tell before receiving payment! This is just the honorable way to do things, period! Even if you're a casual seller and think a customer won't be seeing you again, they could still tell others about being given a raw deal. Down the road, when you're selling at the flea market again, someone may recognize you and quietly warn others to stay away. Then you'll wonder why you sold so little. You just never know. So be honest. Honesty is really the best policy!

I don't know everything about selling at flea markets and garage sales, and I do learn more each time. But I do hope that these tips will help you sell more next time.

Good Luck and thanks for reading!


Please feel free to comment! 6 comments

wicklesscandles 6 years ago

Very good rules of thumb. I did the hold thing before and you are right. Do NOT do this. It never seems to work out.

myway720 profile image

myway720 6 years ago from Gresham, Oregon Author

Hi wicklesscandles! Thanks for your comment! It's extremely rare when someone actually comes back to buy something that they said they'd buy. The couple never said they'd buy the stereo at first, only that they would think on it. One woman, at an earlier flea market said she'd buy a globe I was selling for 5 dollars but wanted to look around first. I did let her know that I couldn't hold the globe for her and she understood. To my surprise, she came back and bought the globe for 5 dollars! This is the first and only time I've seen someone come back to buy something they'd said they'd buy earlier!

Again, thanks for reading and for your comment.

FleaMarket profile image

FleaMarket 19 months ago from North Attleboro, MA

More and more vendors are catching on to the credit card thing now. Especially since you really only need a smart phone and a paypal (pay here

) account.

steves 2 months ago

I agree 100% with the not holding items that aren't paid for but a lot of times if the items are big and bulky people don't want to drag them around or have to take them out to the car so they won't buy them right away and in most cases they won't come back. Offering to hold an item that has been paid for is a courtesy that has earned me many a sale. All you need to do is tell them what time you will be leaving and that they have to be back by that time or they risk not getting the item they paid for. No need to feel guilty about it. I know one vendor that has gone so far as to buy a cheap pre paid cell phone that he only uses for flea markets and he will get offer to take a customers number and call them after a few hours just to remind them to pick up their items. If a customer says they are interested in something you have but they don't want to carry it around if you don't offer to hold it 9 times out of 10 you won't make the sale because in reality they are just looking for an excuse not to buy it. By offering to hold it you are removing that excuse.

myway720 profile image

myway720 2 months ago from Gresham, Oregon Author

Hi Steves! Thanks for your comment! I can see where this may help, though I wouldn't consider it unless they actually pay for the item first. I do offer to take it to their car and also, the place where I do most of my selling is such that the customer's car is just a few steps away from where I am. However, if the customer insists on you holding the item but don't want to pay for it right then, I would have them at least give you some "earnest money" as a holding fee, so that if they don't actually buy the item right then and change their mind, at least you will have gotten something for having possibly passed on other offers while waiting for the customer to maybe buy said item. Just saying.

FindPrice 2 weeks ago

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The idea came from the need to follow the price of some collectibles like trading cards, legos or video games. No price comparator gives you the price tendency trend or the average price quickly, and even less for second-hand items. The current price comparators work especially for the new goods or the services. We thus answer the lack on the second-hand market mainly.

To allow the users to obtain a price the closest to the reality and to what they look for, they have the same search options as on eBay. The results are shown as trend and table. Users can delete the results which they consider as relevant, the average price is recalculated automatically.

One of the main interests of the tool is to rely on already realized sales to give the real market prices, decided by the buyers and not the prices based on the sellers will.

Good searches to all.

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