Monday, June 27, 2011

The Rose Bowl Flea Market

Rose Bowl Flea Market
Entrance - Antiques are to the left!
You might remember, if you're an attentive and diligent reader of this blog, that I mentioned a few weeks ago that I went to the Rose Bowl Flea Market. I'd been wanting to go to this flea market for YEARS - quite literally.  Like 10 of them. It's held the second Sunday of each month at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, so it does require a bit of thinking to plan a trip around it, and for one reason or another, I just couldn't get around to it until April.  I'd heard a lot of mixed things about it - it's overpriced, Long Beach is better now, it's too crowded, all the good stuff is gone after 9 AM, etc.  -  but for someone like me, just looking for some entertainment and a few cool things, the Rose Bowl was more than adequate.
Rose Bowl Flea Market
In doing my usual over-zealous research, I might have actually screwed up a bit. I had heard that the best bargains were to be found in the farthest parts of the market - across the bridge, so to speak.  Yes, there was plenty of cheap stuff over there - but there was also a reason why it was cheap.  It was - for the most part - junk.  (Except for the vintage clothing, more on that later.)  Meanwhile, people were flooding into the grounds and heading straight for the good stuff - acres and acres of antiques located just to the left of the entrance.
Rose Bowl Flea Market
Assorted and sundry... junk. 
By the time we made it back there, we really only had the time and stamina to circle the perimeter.  As such, we missed aisles and aisles of vendors, selling furniture, artwork, all KINDS of stuff - in the middle.
Rose Bowl Flea Market
That's not to say we didn't find plenty of good stuff.  We were both on a bit of a budget, and neither of us were in the market for furniture, so we didn't feel like we missed out on much there.  Most of the furniture vendors with nice stuff also seemed to have cards out for their online or brick and mortar shops - and their prices were not much if any less than ordinary retail.
Rose Bowl Flea Market
I had my eye out for interesting artwork or paintings and a vintage leather bag, and found both.  The dark brown vintage 70's bag was a serious bargain at $35, this poster from a 1956 Louvre exhibit was $100. but I kind of love it, it's nicely framed, and it was half the amount the seller originally quoted me.  That's the thing about bargaining.   When you offer and they accept, it's pretty much yours.
Rose Bowl Flea Market
I actually found the bargaining a little annoying.  It's obvious that they jack the prices up - then they stand around and say "we can do better than that."   What that really means is you have no idea what something is going to cost you until you've agreed to buy it.  I think the only thing I bought without bargaining was the bag - they said $35 and I said "Sold!"  I also bought a vintage Tyrolean men's jacket - wool, really cute.  They asked for $50, I offered $40.  Sold!  Earrings, they asked for $30, I offered $20... Long story short - it's a good idea to make sure you actually want something before you start haggling.
Rose Bowl Flea Market
In the "back lot" section of the market they do have some good deals on vintage clothing and textiles - and lots of smaller household stuff.  Some of it was overpriced - but it varied quite a bit from booth to booth.  If you're in the market for trendy wool blankets, Mexican embroidered dresses, Hawaiian shirts, vintage concert tees and denim, etc. it's definitely worth strolling back there.  No matter where you are, you're a lot more likely to get a good deal from someone with a bunch of random assorted stuff than a vendor who is specializing in a particular category.  The blankets and leather bags in the specialized booths in the front section of the market were waaaay more expensive than random ones.
Rose Bowl Flea Market
The best part, is that you just never know what you're going to find, and chances are if you don't buy it, you'll never see it again.   For example, you won't find this poster at Z Gallerie -  though I guess whether or not you think that's a good thing depends on how you feel about clowns...
Rose Bowl Flea Market
Nor will you find this inflatable Peter Max pillow - which sold while I was mulling it's $45. price tag (firm.)   It's probably just as well.   I really don't know where I would have put it.
Rose Bowl Flea Market
A few tips and things I learned:

1)  Take a large bag or a cart - We took big tote bags from our Lucky Shops adventure the day before. People were also hauling those market carts around all over the place. You can rent one there for $15.
2)  Wear sunscreen, a hat and comfy shoes, and bring water - You will be walking around for at LEAST three hours - we were there until 1.
3)  Eat before you go and be prepared to hold it  -  There were very few bathrooms and one or two hot dog vendors in the section where we were.   Even trash cans were few and far between.
4)  Don't worry about getting there for the early admission - Just get there close to 9 and you'll be fine.  Most of the vendors were just finishing setting up at 9 and there is so much territory to cover, it can't possibly all be gone before you get there. I also can't help but think the vendors' willingness to negotiate increases as the day wears on.
5)  If you really want something, buy it - You'll probably never see it again.
6)  Don't expect miracles -  You're better off at garage sales if you're looking for steals - though I hear the chances of furniture bargains increase at the end of the day, since you'll be helping them out by hauling it away.
7)  Keep the five year rule in mind -  Anything you can't imagine keeping for at least 5 years, walk on by.  Makes those wobbly decisions much easier!

Rose Bowl Flea Market 
1001 Rose Bowl Dr
Pasadena, CA 91103
Held the second Sunday of every month. Next on July 10!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the tips! I've been meaning to go forever and never seem to be in LA the right weekend. Maybe I'll give Long Beach a shot first.