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Mar 9, 2013 09:28 AM

What are your best flea market finds?

Im a current college student and I'm looking to start a cookware collection. Right now I'm looking out for a pre-1940s Griswold castiron skillet just for high temperature searing but ideally, im looking for some old extra forte French copper cookware.

So what were your best finds? Do you have any tips for a first time flea market shopper? If anyone here is from NYC, feel free to recommend a flea market as i have no idea where to begin.

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  1. Hi, iamreptar:

    I'm an experienced scrounger of high-end cookware, and I've not had a huge amount of luck at flea markets. Regular sellers and antique people tend to have an inflated idea of what it's worth, especially thick copper. You can typically do much better on eBay. This pick is NOT typical, but last week I scored a large, 2.5mm tinned Williams-Sonoma (Mauviel) roasting pan for just $32. With eBay, you need to develop an "eye" for judging the pan, finding mis-descriptions, asking questions, and judging timing. I have helped others here recognize bargains--if you'd like some pointers, is where to find me.

    However, I've had very good luck with Craigslist, mostly because the sellers are just normal people who may not realize the values. They just want to get rid of things and get a little money out of them. My best-value CL find so far has been an *unused* French 24" hammered copper fish poacher (complete with screen and handles) for $50; there is an identical one now listed on eBay for 270 Euros. Another was a 14Q Ruffoni stockpot for $75.

    Have Fun and Be Patient,

    4 Replies
    1. re: kaleokahu

      Thanks for your insight. I was sort of worried that it might be hard to get a bargain at a flea market so I asked here for other people's experiences before I waste my time. Yes, im also looking at ebay and i've found some great pieces. Theres a nice set im actually bidding on and the pictures appear to be accurate with the description in terms of thickness and condition. Though, I haven't looked at craigslist so i'll have to give it a look. Thanks again.

      1. re: iamreptar

        If I may jump in here with another online seller it's Etsy breaks down into many home categories; everything from old to new to vintage to faux vintage but each item is photographed, communication with sellers is direct and signing up is free & super simple; like Ebay it's an international sellers market but the owners of Etsy are in NY. I've had trouble twice (broken in transport and chipped upon inspection) and in both cases was refunded my money and incurred no return fees. Etsy inventory changes all day long. You can create a shopping list and post it. If a seller has what you're looking for they can contact you-had great is that!

        Best of all, it's not a bidding war. You like it, you buy it. is a really interesting shopping experience.

        1. re: iamreptar

          It used to be the flea markets were the place to go for what a collector is looking for.
          Sellers did not know what they had and it was a buyer's dream.
          With the advent of the internet and Ebay, sellers now know what they have (with a little research) and the market price it's going for.
          Collecting, of anything at a flea market, has lost alot of the fun for this reason.
          Still, if you're willing to pay early admission at a great flea market, there's always that seller who remembers the "good ol' days and the fun of just taking their wares and selling them like they used to and the buyer is thrilled to the moon for acquiring "the find".

      2. A "Cordially Yours" cordial maker in brand-new condition with documentation. No longer sold in the US (or anywhere else that I can find online). You can make decent liqueur in it in eight hours, for example using nothing but vodka and Hershey's syrup. I read somewhere that the US liqueur lobby stopped this gem dead in its tracks.

        In addition to flea markets, haunt yard sales. Fancier items that people received as gifts,or bought thinking they'd use then didn't, end up there (madeleine pans are a regular). Flea marketers are reselling for profit; yard sellers just want to get rid of the stuff. But there is some overlap.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Querencia

          Love the yard sale idea. I guess flea markets are off my list. Not really familiar with flea markets so thanks for letting me know. Time to go to nice grandmotherly neighborhoods in hopes they are selling their old pots and pans. :)

          1. re: iamreptar

            I bought an incredibly well seasoned 12" cast iron skillet decades ago at a yard sale, for fifty cents.

        2. I once found a really cool espresso pot. It's not the typical 3 piece design of bottom reservoir, filter basket that goes inside the reservoir and top part that screws onto it. Instead, the body was whole and the filter basket dropped into the bottom reservoir and screwed in from the top (it had a "T" handle on it). My friend saw it and really liked it so I gave it to him as a present.

          I really miss it. :o(

          1. Blue enamel exterior (in PERFECT condition) on a square, cast iron, Le Creuset grill pan... at Good Wll for $5!

            A "vintage" (faded yellow), crank up/dowm, KA stand mixer, with bowl, whisk, dough hook, and paddle... at Good Will for $19.99!

            Flea Market I like to go to will be back in full swing once the weather warms up. Many of the vendors in the "junk" area seem to think they have gold. Prices are a bit high and they seem to have the SOS all the time!?!

            Would LOVE to find an enameled cast iron Dutch oven... even f in less than perfect condition. Less than 100% EXTERIOR wouldn't bother me at all.

            1. ALL of my ever growiing collection of cast iron cookware (Griswold, Wagner, & Lodge) has come from yard sales and thrift stores. Have not spent more than $5 for ANY piece... flea market "experts" want 5-6 times that much for really sad looking stuff.

              Bought a huge batch of Fiestaware at a yard sale a few summers ago. Ten+ place settings... dinner plate, salad/sandwich plate, cereal/soup bowl, and mug... for $50. Mostly jewel tones, but a few pastels mixed in. Not one chip and no significant signs of wear.

              Once the yard sale season starts back up, I'll be on the look out for things I might have seen on a TV infomercial but would NEVER EVER think of buying. People buy stuff and quickly get bored with it... and get rid of it for a some.