Treasure Hunter's Glossary: Flea Market Lingo and Yard Sale Terms

Secondhand Shopping Terminology, Abbreviations, and Definitions

shopping at an outdoor flea market or yard sale
Steven Puetzer/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Yard sale ad list merchandise you've never heard of? Wondering how old vintage is or what upcycled means? Find your answers with this list of flea market lingo, yard sale terms, Craigslist abbreviations, and more.

A

Antique

An antique is an object that is 100 years old or older. An object that is 99 years and 364 days old is not an antique today, but it will be tomorrow.

Lots of people refer to old objects that are less than 100 years old as antiques, including dealers and antique mall owners who should know better.

They are either mistaken or deliberately trying to mislead you. The minimum age of an antique is not flexible.

B

Bait and Switch

Bait and switch refers to luring someone with one thing while actually having or offering another thing that's less desirable.

Let's say a yard sale listing advertises "lots of antiques cheap." Then, when you attend the sale, you discover the seller really has three 10-year-old IKEA tables and one 1980's chair -- and zero antiques. That's a bait and switch.

Bargaining

Bargaining is the same as haggling. It means negotiating to get the seller to lower a price. Dickering is another synonym of bargaining.

Barter

When you barter, you trade something of yours for something you want instead of paying money.

For example, let's say you see something you like on a Facebook online yard sale. If you seller is willing to barter, you can offer your time, labor, expertise, or another object in exchange.

Bauble

A bauble can refer to a small decorative home accessory, a piece of costume jewelry, or an ornament you hang on a holiday tree.

Bibelot 

A bibelot is a small, decorative object you'd use to accessorize your home, such as a vase or piece of figural porcelain.

Booth

A booth is the designated spot where an individual flea market, antique mall, vintage market, or antique show seller sells her stuff within the larger venue for the event.

That could be an actual booth divided by partial or real walls. It could just mean an individual table sitting next to the table that markets the adjoining "booth."

C

Curb Shopping

Curb shopping is browsing and/or taking the discards people set out on the curb for trash collectors -- and possibly taking a peek in the garbage cans too.

Similar terms to curb shopping are dumpster diving and trash picking.

D

Dickering

Dickering is an exchange with a buyer or seller where the buyer tries to negotiate a lower price than the seller offered. Haggling and bargaining are synonyms of dickering.

Dumpster Diving

Dumpster diving is the act of going through a dumpster (with or without permission) to look for usable or salvageable things. 

Though the term refers specifically to dumpsters, it's also used to describe the process of searching residential trash cans set out for pickup. 

Trash picking and curb shopping are similar terms and often used as synonyms.

E

Early Bird

An early bird is a shopper who shows up at a yard sale (or similar event) much earlier than the listed starting time. 

Most early birds usually go early (30 minutes or more) on the morning of the first sale day. But, some especially aggressive early birds (typically dealers) will even knock on a seller's doors the night before and ask to see the merchandise.

Ephemera

Ephemera is old paper items that weren't meant to last or hold any value. However, ephemera has actually become quite collectible. 

Examples of ephemera include old Valentine's Day or Christmas cards, concert posters, and vintage advertising trade cards.

Estate Find

An estate find is something you bought at an estate sale. It's typically used to describe a "treasure" of any value, rather than a used container of hand soap or a secondhand mop.

Estate Jewelry

Estate jewelry refers to jewelry, usually of good quality, bought and sold at estate sales.

Some use the term to refer to any jewelry bought secondhand. Estate jewelry can be costume or fine.

F

Fake

In a flea market, swap meet, etc. setting, a fake is a counterfeit, usually of a designer or name brand item. A fake Michael Kors purse is a real purse, for example, but it's not really made by Michael Kors.

Firm

If a seller tells you a price is firm, it means the price not negotiable and you can't haggle.

It means the same thing when you see the word written on a price tag or included in a Craigslist or online yard sale listing.

G

Garage Saling 

If you read about someone doing it, you may also see it spelled garage sailing.

H

Haggling

Haggling is the act of negotiating for a lower price, either by making an offer or asking if the seller will take less. Synonyms include bargaining and dickering.

Hand

The hand is the way a textile feels when you touch it. 

J

Junking

Junking refers to antique, vintage, or just old stuff at any secondhand place or event. You can go junking at flea markets, yard sales, estate sales, antique malls, or junk shops. You can even go junking by driving around looking for free things people have put out on the curb.

K

Kickshaw

A kickshaw is a small decorative object that looks pretty, but has little or no value or importance. Kickshaw synonyms include trinket, gewgaw, gimcrack, tchotchke, and trifle.

Knockoff 

A knockoff is designed to look, smell, or function like a designer or name brand item. Sometimes the name and/or packing is inspired by the designer item too.

The difference between a knockoff and a counterfeit (or fake) is that knockoff manufacturers aren't claiming (or trying to fool buyers into believing) that theirs actually is the designer or brand name item. It's obvious to the buyer that a knockoff is just an imitation.

P

Pop-up 

When it describes an event, such as a flea market, pop-up means the event doesn't take place in a regular place at a regularly scheduled time. It just pops up someone from time to time.

Porch Pick Up 

If you see porch pick up (or porch pickup) on a Craigslist or online yard sale listing, it means the buyer plans to leave the merchandise on the porch

R

Restyle

If you restyle something (dresser, chair, etc.), you are giving it a new cosmetic look without changing its original function.

S

Saling 

Saling is the act of attending individual or group secondhand sales, such as yard sales and fundraising rummage sales.

You may also hear the process called yard saling or garage saling.

Smalls

Old (antique or vintage) ornaments and home accessories of a small size are sometimes referred to just as smalls -- unless you're talking to a vintage clothing dealer. In that case, smalls probably refer to vintage underwear.

Stall

In flea market, vintage show, and antique show terms, a stall is the same as a booth. The word is stall is used more often in the United Kingdom, while booth is the most common term in the United States.

Storage Find

A storage find is an object you found in someone's abandoned or unpaid storage unit. 

Some storage unit contents are sold as a blind lot in an auction. Other storage sales have individually priced and sold items, much like a garage sale held in a storage unit.

T

Tchotchke

A tchotchke is a Yiddish-derived word for a small decorative object, such as something you'd display on a table or whatnot. Some synonyms for tchotchke are knickknack, doodad, and curio. 

Thrifted

If you thrifted something, it means you bought it at a thrift store. 

If you donate a chair to Goodwill, you have thrifted it. If you buy a dress while you're there, you have thrifted the dress.

Thrifting

Thrifting is the act of browsing or buying something at a thrift store.

Trash Picking

Trash picking is looking through residential or commercial garbage with the goal of salvaging something usable or salable. 

Dumper diving and curb shopping are similar terms that are frequently used interchangeably with trash picking.

Trinket

A trinket is a small object (piece of jewelry, home accessory, or other decorative item) of little monetary value. Synonyms for trinket include kickshaw, gewgaw, and gimcrack.

U

Upcycle

To upcycle something is to recycle it while elevating it above it's original quality, status, or purpose.

When upcycled is used as an adjective, it can refer to the new or original object. For example, an upcycled table can mean you turned a table into something else or that you turned something else into a table.

V

Vendor

A vendor is an individual seller at a commercial secondhand sale, such as a flea market, vintage show, antique show, or antique mall.

Vintage

There is no agreed-upon, official definition of vintage when it refers to used objects of a certain age. It's a term taken from the wine industry, where vintage precedes an actual year. 

The accepted use of vintage typically means old enough to be collectible and desirable, but not old enough to qualify as an antique. However, people disagree about how old something vintage really is.

Personally, I consider something vintage if it's 25 years old or older. Some claim newer things qualify as vintage. Others insist that a vintage objects must be older. Most will agree that something made in the past decade may be used or dated, but it certainly isn't old enough to be considered vintage.

W

Whatnot

A whatnot is a small open shelving unit used to display small decorative objects. For example, you could arrange your doodads on a whatnot.

A whatnot can be wall-mounted or freestanding. You may also hear it called a whatnot shelf

Y

Yard Saling

Yard saling means attending yard sales. If you see it in print, you may also see it spelled yard sailing. Sometimes the term is also shortened to just saling.