Flea market looting like a pro with Tommie Jönsson
Publish date: 11 November 2020
Haggle or no haggle? Inner city-thrift stores or yard sales in the suburbs?
We had a chat with radio producer and flea market-aficionado Tommie Jönsson about the best practices when exploring the garage sales of Stockholm.
Stockholm has several larger chains of second-hand stores, all around town - Myrorna, Stadsmissionen, and Läkarmissionen to name a few - and more vintage boutiques than you could count. If you’re looking for exclusive retro furniture or design objects, Dusty Deco, Vintageaffischer, Beyond Retro or Svenska Armaturer might be worth a visit.
If you’re in the mood for a classic flea market-excavation and don’t mind doing the legwork, we got you covered as well.
Swedes themselves love flea market-rummaging. So much so that earmarking a day for garage sale-hopping while on vacation is a time-honed tradition. Sure, you can find practically anything on auction sites and niche shops online. But you’ll miss out on that special feeling of suddenly finding that one lamp armature or rocking chair that you didn’t know you’ve always wanted, until now.
Spring and summer are naturally high-season for flea markets in Stockholm. You’ll find a drive-in flea market or a spontaneous spring cleaning-garage sale practically every weekend. But there are regular year-round markets as well. And websites like Loppistajm and Svenska loppisar will help you find the closest markets on any given date.
With radio shows like Loppmarknadsarkeologerna (Swedish for: ”The Flea Market Archeologists”) and the podcast DJ 50:- journalist and radio producer Tommie Jönsson explores Swedish second hand evergreens and shines a spotlight on forgotten vinyl-gems – Swedish yodel music, psychedelic folk, indie opera – that you’ll only find in yard sales and bargain crates of second-hand stores.
We asked Tommie to give us some pointers before going out on a flea market excavation in Stockholm!
Are there any flea market-manners or customs a first timer should be aware of when looking for loot in Stockholm?
– Don’t grab something from right under someone else’s nose. If it’s a good bargain, it tends to trigger rage on a level that you’re seldom prepared for.
Then there’s the issue of haggling. It’s ok to haggle if someone is trying to sell you what is essentially highly priced junk. But do it in a friendly and civilized manner. And know that it’s often pointless to haggle when you’re at one of the bigger second hand-franchises. They don’t set the prices in the store, but at a central distribution facility. Which also makes it hard to find a real steal at Myrorna or Stadsmissionen, nowadays.
I was actually going to ask about haggling. It might be a preconceived notion, but it feels like Swedes are bad at it in general, no?
– Yes, that’s correct. But to not point out to someone that 150 kronor is an unrealistic price for their copy of Demi Rousso’s "Forever and Ever"-LP is borderline rude. Or a three-armed Guldkroken-candelabra for 250 kronor. I once was on a flea market just like that and thought I would faint when I saw the absurd price tags. You’ll likely find another for 25 kronor at the next market, anyway.
With a risk of revealing your favorite haunts, where do you like to go flea market-hunting?
– I like to visit the farthest reaches of the public transport system, and preferably temporary flea markets. A private garage or yard sale, for example. There’s an awareness around “bargains” and “finds” closer to the city, and the pricing can be a little too optimistic.
Also, flea market-scavenging is a test of your endurance. The more often and the deeper you rummage; the more interesting stuff you’ll find. Be persistent and tenacious. It’s an enduro, not a sprint.
Another good, but dangerous mindset – because it might lead to hoarding – is: “What retro stuff will I want to own in five years’ time?”.
About that, why do we love flea markets? Is it just to be able to have the appropriate retro-objects to decorate our homes with?
– Well, I believe they appeal to the hunter and collector, still deep inside all of us. It’s almost an instinct. And there’s also a wish to define ourselves with a personal selection of retro objects combined with some kind of nostalgic desire for things you had around you when growing up.
I myself am interested in the junk-archeological aspect of it. In my mind, it's these low-status knick-knacks, and not the high-end objects sold in auction houses, that tell the true story of today’s consumer society.
If you only had room to bring one typically Swedish flea market-object with you home, which should you choose?
– I’d say that a small white Rosa Ljung-porcelain figure is the most representative flea market-loot. Maybe a cat or a dove. They’re not worth a lot of money but are cute, beloved and you’ll find them at every frickin’ market!