Antique hunting is like treasure hunting. It is that enjoyable if you know where to look for treasures and what is a treasure!
There are two kinds of antique shopping in London. First, you have the antique shops in Portobello and Camden areas and then you have the outdoor markets, antique road shows or car boot sales.
There is an outdoor market in Portobello every weekend while the shops nearby as well as the markets at Camden are open daily.
Your best chance of getting a great deal on a item however, is usually from the car boot sales. Because most of the time, it’s just regular people selling their own personal items. Dealers know how to make money from old stuff and it is less likely you will be able to get a very low price. Whereas non dealers may just want to let go of stuff and get some quick money so they will sell lower and faster. These kinds of vendors can be found in different car boot sales areas around London.
There are other different car boot sales around London as well. In North London you have the Princess May and St Mary's Car Boot Sale, while in the South you have the Batter Sea and Wimbledon Car Boot Sale. There are a few others so make sure you check local listings. These car boot sales are open mainly on weekends, especially on Sundays, and they may be canceled if there is heavy rain.
Some of those car boot sales are free to visit and some others have a fee only for early birds. But it’s those early birds that have first access to the goods, so if they know what they are doing they will not leave any treasures for those who come in last.
As with any treasure hunts, there is always a risk. The number one risk is to be sold counterfeit items; knock offs. You do need a trained eye to spot those. The other risk is to get caught up in the excitement and buy things that you don’t really need or want.
So here are some rules, do’s and don’ts for navigating a car boot sale:
1. Bargain. Don’t just accept the first price they will tell you. But be polite while doing so.
2. Keep you money in change. Don’t go with large bills because vendors may not be able to give you change.
3. Bring wheels or some kind of luggage to carry home the merchandise if you are planning to buy a lot.
4. Keep your personal belongings in sight, especially your wallet.
5. Move fast. Scan the entire area first to see any amazing or interesting things and then stroll around to check out everything.
6. Don’t be fooled by knock offs. Train yourself on how to spot the genuine from the counterfeit or the reproduction items.
7. Try to observe the vendors’ reaction. If they are selling you something too cheap, if they are trying too hard, or if they can’t even look at you in the eyes, then most probably there is something wrong.
8. Don’t buy things that are not so special just because they are a great deal.
9. Don’t buy things that you don’t really want.
10. Most importantly, go early. If possible, be the first in line even if it means you will pay the entrance fee.