1. Bring a tape measure
It helps to know ahead what the dimensions of your space are and what you have room for. Toss a tape measure in your bag to avoid purchasing things that won't fit your space properly. Check out Tool Box Essentials: Measuring Tools if you don't have a tape measure.
2. Check for issues
Check for torn seams, rust, and cracked or rotting wood. While a worn patina can be a great look, you want to avoid anything that is going to affect usability or break under the slightest pressure. Signs of mold or an insect infestation are important to look out for as well.
3. Look for a label
If you know your designers, a label will help you distinguish a real vintage find from a knockoff. Checking for original details will also help you make the distinction. This is where the ability to Google an item on your smartphone can be a game changer.
4. Check the craftsmanship
Dovetailed joints, hand-stitched seams, and solid hard wood are all markers of quality and craftsmanship that can help determine an item's value and let you know if a piece is an heirloom worth investing in or really just "vintage Ikea."
5. Pay attention to odor
That subtle smokey scent? It's going to be downright overpowering once you bring it indoors. Don't assume you'll be able to get rid of noxious odors, chances are it's the result of years of exposure.
6. Think outside the box
Plenty of quirky vintage pieces can be repurposed as decor if you think outside of the box. I've seen vintage wire egg baskets used as pendant lighting, Mexican sugar molds as candleholders and vintage typeface used to spell out words. Get creative and the options will open up.
7. Look for good bones
Don't be turned off by ugly upholstery or a bad paint job. As long as a piece has great bones it will really shine when refinished.
8. Consider the cost of refinishing
That said, be sure to calculate the time and cost of sanding down and refinishing or replacing foam and reupholstering before deciding that something is really a bargain. If the initial cost plus labor and materials add up to a good deal and you're sure you want to take on a project, go for it.
9. Be aware of timing
The serious shoppers tend to come out early so things tend to be picked over by the afternoon. On the upside once it gets close to time to wrap things up sellers tend to slash prices or be more open to bargaining in an effort to move a bit more inventory.
Now that you have the basics, it's time to get out there and start marketing! Check out our 2013 Flea Market Guide: Coast to Coast to get started.