I've attended so many flea markets and antique shows that I think I've become pretty experienced at the whole process. Unfortunately through trial and error and lots of insane situations!
If you're going to attend one of these events, follow my tips:
1. ATTIRE - Dress for comfort. Sneakers are a must! as these events can be in lump, bumpy fields or on gravel. Be prepared for unexpected rain and mud by bringing an umbrella, rain coat, and wellies. Wear dark colors as everything is dirty.
Don't wear rings...you're going to be digging with your hands and you don't want a ring to slip off.
Carry a bag/purse that doesn't require you to hold it with your hands. You want both hands free for shopping. Try a backpack or a messenger bag that you can load up.
Generally, dress "down." The vendors will size you up and the price you ultimately pay will depend on their assumptions on how much you are able to pay.
2. PRICING - Ask vendors that you're not interested in buying from how the show is going for them. This will give you insight into how eager sellers are to dicker.
You can count on paying between 50-to-90% of the asking price. A rule of thumb is to ask for 30% off and you'll get 20% off. Some vendors are offended if you ask for 40-50% off, so just be careful and try and "read" their personality prior to asking for big discounts.
The higher-priced the item, the higher of a discount you'll receive. $1-3 items don't usually get much of a reduction.
Buy in volume and your discount will get bigger. Collect all the items you're interested in, and then start negotiating.
My technique is to ask the vendor for their best price and then I ask for a discount from there...shooting for a 30-40% discount.
This, of course, is an art...not a science...and quirky personalities are involved.
Bring cash. Smaller bills are best.
Lastly, if someone is asking a fair price for something, sometimes I don't negotiate at all. That's just the right thing to do!
3. HYGENE - BRING WET WIPES! These shows are dirty, dirty events. Everything is old and covered in some form of yuck.
You will need several wipes throughout the day. Plus the bathrooms are port-a-potties and you'll need wipes post-visit.
Hand sanitizer is not effective. You need the actual wipes to get the grime off your hands.
4. FOOD - You'll find everything crazy and mostly deep-fried. Although, I've been to shows in the Northeast that serve lobster.
If it's a church-sponsored event, eat the goodies that the Grandma's make! Just last week, I had the most amazing cake with fresh blueberry filling. Yum!