This is a guide we look forward to all year, because it's one that's truly built from the cumulative knowledge of our readers. Compiled from a combination of last year's short list (with feedback), reader tips, and our seasonal flea market guides, the 2010 list includes 5 national favorites, as well as the cream of the crop from 17 cities across the US.
National & Online
ShopGoodwill.com pulls from a national inventory of used items, and it operates like eBay, except that all proceeds go to Goodwill's education, training, and job placement programs. Although there are some junky things, the site offers lots of good stuff, too.
It revolutionized online classifieds, it fuels Apartment Therapy's daily Scavenger column, and despite its tendency to feel (quoting one Apartment Therapy writer) like "a badly behaved lover," we keep coming back.
The original online auction site, eBay is great if you know exactly what you're looking for. It's been showing its age lately, but it's still a good site to check for mid-century furniture and rare collectibles like artist-made pottery and vintage toys.
Over just five years, Etsy has managed to become one of the largest online retailers of affordable vintage goods, with hundreds of thousands of sellers. There's a lot to sift through, and searching can take some time, since it's always being updated with unique finds.
The Salvation Army
With locations throughout the world, the Salvation Army is one of the oldest and best known charity thrift shop organizations. Their network of stores fund their Adult Rehabilitation Centers (or ARCs) by selling secondhand housewares and toys.
Apartment Therapy reader Aqua-Velvet says this local emporium is "jam-packed with fantastic quirk and diversity. Plus great proprietors. Have found many an uncommon object there over the years..." Another often-recommended Austin thrift shop is Room Service.
Grafton Flea Market
This indoor/outdoor flea market (located in the Boston metro area) has hundreds of vendors. It's open on Sundays from 6am to 4 pm, April through December. In the summer, the market is larger and has more vendors.
Brimfield Antique Show
This flea market is held three times each year, and it's HUGE with over 6,000 vendors. (Check the schedule on their site.) It's been in operation for over 50 years, and you'll find a lot of "antiques roadshow" style shoppers at this market.
Brooklyn, New York
On summer Saturdays from 11 am to 6 pm, the outdoor Brooklyn Flea Market pops up in Fort Greene. (They also have a smaller Sunday market at One Hanson.) The New York Times calls it "One of the great urban experiences in New York."
Located in suburban Carol Stream, they have a warehouse full of mid-century pieces at garage sale prices. In the city, we also highly recommend the Brown Elephant resale shops, whose proceeds go to the Howard Brown Health Center.
Canton Flea Market
This market, also known as "First Monday Trade Days" is located within driving distance of Dallas. It's been around for over a century, and it's one of the world's largest outdoor flea markets. It takes place Thursday - Sunday before the first Monday of every month.
Englishtown, New Jersey
Englishtown Antiques & Used Furniture
Located an hour outside of Manhattan, Englishtown is a favorite of blogger Annie Werbler, who says, "If you have some time and love a good treasure hunt, you can find retro items here for a fraction of what you'd pay in a more curated store."
Los Angeles, California
St Vincent De Paul Thift Warehouse
LA-based blogger Grace Shu says, "St. Vincent de Paul is practically legendary in Los Angeles for being one of—if not THE—biggest thrift shop in the city. If you're a thrift shop junkie, this place would be your playground."
Manhattan, New York
Readers say: "great finds!" & "Always find good used furniture and household products at great prices." Other often-recommended New York thrift shops include Angel Street, the The Vintage Thrift Shop, and City Opera.
Nashville Flea Market
This mega flea market hosts dealers from over 30 states. Located at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds, it's open year-round (except for December) on the fourth weekend of each month. Admission is free; check the schedule for further details.
New Milford, Connecticut
Elephant's Trunk County Flea Market
This is the largest outdoor flea market in New England. It's open every Sunday from April through November. There's a $20 fee for early admission at 5:45am and a $2 admission fee after 7am.
Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Faire
This flea market takes place in Alameda (near Oakland) on the first Sunday of each month. A serious shopper's market with over 800 outdoor dealers and a $15 admission fee, it's a favorite of designers and flea market addicts.
Fairmount Flea Market
There are about 175 vendors at this outdoor market, the largest summer flea in Philadelphia. It takes place near the Bache-Martin School. For a schedule, check out the Phila Flea Market directory online.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Raleigh Flea Market at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds
This flea market is open every Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 6pm, except in October when it's closed to make room for the big State Fair. It markets itself as the "largest selection of antiques and furniture in North Carolina."
San Francisco, California
It's not the biggest secret 'round town, but it's often one of the more undervalued resources for surprisingly awesome steals. Also recommended are The Apartment and the Alemany Flea Market, a much smaller kid sister to the Alameda Fair.
Shipshewana Auction and Flea Market
Open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 8am to 5pm, May through October, this is the Midwest's largest outdoor flea market. Located in the heart of Amish country, it features lots of handmade furniture and local farm stands.
Georgetown Flea Market
Vendors at the Georgetown Flea Market come out every Sunday from 8am-4pm all year long. Come early for the best picks and late for good deals, when sellers are often willing to cut prices rather than reload unclaimed items.
• Best Thrift Stores 2009
• Readers Favorite Vintage, Thrift, and Secondhand Shops
• Flea Market Guide: Coast to Coast
Photo: Enamel Teapot from Sweetshorn