Finder, Keeper

flea market

Franklin John Kakies loves a good flea market. A Sacramento-based interior designer with a deep reverence for history, Kakies is a veteran market-goer with a knack for spotting unusual items, often for a steal. His most beloved flea market find: an 18th-century English Georgian silver teapot crafted by a noted London maker. “I found it late one morning at the local flea and the sellers practically forced it on me, for a fraction of its fair-market value,” recalls Kakies. How could he say no? “The goal I set for myself in my early 20s—that my life should be filled with beautiful and amusing vintage objects—has played out in a wonderful way,” says Kakies, who also writes catalog descriptions for Witherell’s auction house.

Whether you’re a flea market regular or a total newbie, Kakies insists there’s an art to shopping for what he jokingly refers to as “the detritus of Western civilization.” Here are a few of his tips:

Politeness, always

“It’s not where you go, but rather who you are when you’re there, which I believe applies to life in general and flea markets in particular,” says Kakies, who has scored some great finds by simply engaging sellers courteously.

Fair dealing

“I am adamant about never offering a ridiculously low price when I know something has greater value,” says Kakies. “Rather, I let the dealer set his or her own price.” Also, if asking for a discount, “I find that people are often charmed by the request being couched in friendly terms.”

Beware bargains

“Don’t ever buy something merely because it is a bargain,” advises Kakies. It’s preferable to “buy one really good thing than four—or 10—mediocre objects.”

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