Learn How to Judge Flea Market Finds

You’ve heard one man’s trash is another man’s treasure?  Well garbage day can prove that if you get out early and scour the streets for the most amazing things people will throw away!

Is trash day just another day around your house? Well, to me it’s like having Christmas delivered right to your curb. Yes, folks, I have to admit that I am a certified trash scavenger. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s just that I like the title “Trash Hound and Dumpster Diver Matt”; Shari, on the other hand, doesn’t go by any of those titles. In fact, she wouldn’t be caught dead rummaging through the trash.  But she sure is happy when I show up with the goods! Anyway, I wear my titles proudly, as do many other collectors of fine refuse. I know that with a keen eye and a little imagination, I can usually take one man’s trash and turn it into workable treasure. But how do you know if an item is worth bringing home? Here are a few guidelines Shari and I use. These rules can also work at flea markets and garage sales.

Wooden Flea Market Find - MattandShari.com

Type of find: Wood item 

What to look for: Make sure the joints are tight, sturdy and clean. Drawers should work easily and not shimmy. Drop leaves should be level when in the upright position, and the finish should be able to be easily freshened up with stain or paint.
Watch for: Warped wood, fresh worm holes, delaminated veneers.

Fine Fabrics from Flea Markets - MattandShari.com

Type of find: Fabric item 

What to look for: The best items are older table linens that are crocheted or embroidered. Also look for quilts made out of older, pure cotton fabrics, and needlework that is signed, dated and in good shape.
Watch for: Non-repairable scorch marks, stains, poorly repaired pieces using man-made fiber fabrics.

Ceramics from Flea Markets - MattandShari.comType of find: Ceramic item 

Any china or pottery that suits your decorating needs is fun to collect. Research ceramic manufacturers from your area and search them out.
Watch for: China can be held up to the light to look for cracks. It’s best not to use old pottery or ceramics for edibles; use for decoration only.

Now that you know what to look for, here are some suggestions for the true “trash-to-treasure” fan.

*If you’re flea-marketing, make sure you carry cash. Some dealers have charging capabilities, but they may give you a discount for paying with the green.

* Don’t forget to ask for a discount–bartering is part of the fun. If you don’t ask, it won’t happen.

*Have a backpack or even a fishing vest to hold small necessities, and leave your hands free to rummage.

*I also like to carry a tape measure to make sure a piece will fit before getting it back to the house.

*If you are a trash-day scavenger, learn the trash routes. Start in the evening the night before the trash is to be picked up. That’s when the vulnerable goodies are set out … free for the taking!

*Shari and I have a policy of asking the homeowner, if they’re available, before we take it from their heap.

*And by all means, be respectful of other people’s property. I know I don’t want strangers going through my trash and leaving my yard a wreck.

My only other suggestion is to keep clear of Shari and me on trash day. We’ve got a big ol’ van and we’re determined enough to bump you right out of the way. They don’t call us the pit bulls of decorating for nothing!



  1. wanda says

    I have always loved your show but for years could not get the station. So glad I have found you on the internet.

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