Flea Market Finds

Flea Market Finds Recipe

Well, it appears that San Francisco has finally pulled out of the long, wet winter and we've managed to make the jump straight into summer. Prime flea market and garage sale weather is upon us, and while I'm not one of those flea market maniacs - up before the sun riffling and rummaging - I do appreciate a good mid-morning estate sale. I thought it might be fun to share some of my recent finds with you.

Boxes and buckets of mix-and-match silver and flatware

I come across all sorts of interesting bowls, platters, flatware, cake plates, cookie cutters, chocolate molds, and baking pans, but I only take home a select few. I look for things with patina and personality, or unique functionality. A sampling of items I've pulled out the pocketbook for in the past includes: big, tin, Swedish cookie cutters (heart and star-shaped); a powder green, hand-crank grain mill; glossy, white, French ceramic pots; and a proper two-person picnic set complete with silver and gold-leafed plates.

Paint-by-number Postcards

This morning my friend Lily and I met up (along with what seemed like the rest of the Bay Area) at the famous Alameda Flea Market. It's been rained out for most of the year, so the good weather brought hundreds of vendors and thousands of buyers out onto the tarmac at the old naval base. I'll make a proper introduction to Lily at some point in the very near future, we have an exciting project up our collective sleeves that I'm itching to share.

Vintage belt buckle assortment

Lily stumbled on a cool vintage belt buckle collection, and cherry-picked a handful of the best ones. I picked up a two bright, floral Texas ware bowls. It might take me a couple of weeks to decide whether they are stunningly beautiful or really ugly - definitely one or the other. Regardless, they are destined to make an appearance in a future post or project, so I'm sure you'll let me know.

Tiny butter knives - detail

Occasionally I'll buy complete sets of things - for example the forks in the picture at the top of the page - there are six of them, they live in a blue, velvet-lined box above six matching knives. Sets are fun, but don't underestimate the fun of mixing-and-matching from different sets. I see drawers, and buckets, and boxes of interesting silver - now I keep my eyes open for pieces that have been monogramed with an "h"....and look to use that graphical element to tie my collection together.

Vowels and consonants from old signs

Speaking of letters or initials, flea markets are THE place to find letters and numbers from old signs. Fonts of all sorts, big and small, a wide spectrum of metals. They make neat personalized gifts, you can use them to decorate your kitchen or office, or look for numbers to identify your house or cabin in a distinct way...

A big H for my office.

My sister is also an H, Heather. So I've been on the lookout for interesting H letters (her birthday is coming up) - it's not the most popular letter out there, but there is certainly a bounty of S, N, P, and T's.

Platter detail

While it's not technically a flea market, Etsy is a unique global marketplace with it's heart in the right spot, and a talented group of people behind it. The possibility that I might discover something unique or one-of-a-kind fuels my compulsion to check-in often. Poke around a bit. It's a great place to find emerging artists and all-around crafty creators. If you fit either of those descriptions, its also fantastic place to sell your wares.

Folded Book - Katya Marritz

I fell hard for Katya Marritz's folded books, two of them have a new home here in my office. I was going to give one away as a gift, but I don't think I can stand to part with either of them. I also had my eye on a couple of Shayna Bethany's soft, ethereal Poloroids.

Folded Book - Katya Marritz

I'd be willing to bet quite a few of you have stumbled on some culinary-related flea market gems. Post some links so I can check them out.

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Great story on all!!! You give me an great idea! I will use the big belt buckle as the napkin rings!!! Thank you for the inspiration! Love the book ideas, too. Thanks!

Amy Jo

Heidi, Wow, I can't believe it. I bought a set of the same dessert forks and knives in their blue velvet-lined case at a Theatre benefit sale in New Haven about eight years ago. My set is missing one knife, but I just love the design. If you know anything else about them or what decade they might have been made, I would love to know. Thanks, Danielle


What a lovely post. I love how you mixed it up a bit. Cooking and vintage kitchen finds go hand in hand.


I know I've already commented on this post, but I just bought a new magazine, Premiere issue, of something called Junk Market Style and thought you would be interested. I think it is put out by Better Homes & Gardens as there are a few blow-out cards in the magazine for BH&G. It was $6 for the issue, which is pricey, but it gives you some very creative uses for some unusual flea market finds. Just thought you'd be interested. Great job as usual Heidi. Love the pictures. Wish I could find as great finds at the flea market as you did! The best one in the last couple of months has been an old Coca Cola box wooden box (from baseball stadiums I think) - it has handles - for $10 (saw it in a catalog for $18) and a stovetop espresso maker for $1. Keep up the good work. RisaG


I have a version of those forks, not as nice, not so much detail on the metal, but the beading at the top of the handles is the same, and the color, came as a whole set with 4 placesettings I bought new, not more than 3 years ago ... I think from cooking.com


Oh! I miss New Orleans!! The flea market in the French Quarter was a favorite Saturday morning destination for us. I, along with my two daughters and our little dog, Hieronymus, loved to spend the day rummaging through the different tables there then the french market (right next to the flea market) for veggies, more veggies and lunch at the farmers' market, and on every third Saturday of the month, the Bywater art market. Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans? We have relocated (temporarily!) to Florida since hurricane Katrina...haven't found any flea, farmers', french, or art markets here to speak of.


Oh! I miss New Orleans!! The flea market in the French Quarter was a favorite Saturday morning destination for us. I, along with my two daughters and our little dog, Hieronymus, loved to spend the day rummaging through the different tables there then the french market (right next to the flea market) for veggies, more veggies and lunch at the farmers' market, and on every third Saturday of the month, the Bywater art market. Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans? We have relocated (temporarily!) to Florida since hurricane Katrina...haven't found any flea, farmers', french, or art markets here to speak of.


Nice flea market picks, and pics too, lol.


Beautiful photos and great finds. What a wonderful antidote to the pottery barn-ization of our kitchens!


I haven't been up to anything today. I can't be bothered with anything recently. Nothing seems worth thinking about. I haven't gotten anything done recently, but oh well. Not much noteworthy going on worth mentioning.


Wounderful finds - the only shops around here of similar ilk are way over priced - a knife at £7 (US$13) each! Not exactly flea market prices.




The spammers have been killing me this past week. They're like flies. I don't know what to do to get rid of them. Sorry about all the pharma-spam in the comments and on the boards. I'm trying to stay on top of it. -h


These folded books are awesome! I'd like one ;))

James Nardel

FYI, those belt buckles look more like the things we used to tie our huge T-shirts up with back in the 80s. What a blast from the past!


that is one of the few things i miss about living in the states. a good (and true) flea market is hard to come by here! nice finds by the way


I do like the folded book, which I never seen before. My mom used to do that, straight line of course :-)

Fairuz Johari

I just discovered Etsy last week and love it too! I'm working on some jewelery to put up on it, I'm one of those who can't stop creating.


Hi Heidi...I love visiting your site but don't usually post. Your collections are wonderful, especially the books. I've never met a handmade book I didn't covet. Check out one of my favorite book artists -- I'd rather hold one of his books than eat (almost). www.danielessig.com Enjoy!


ohhh. i love flea market finds. if you like book art, i highly reccommend the cute and interesting little cookbook aglio 6 olio that is actually folded into garlic shape. there were only like 100 or 200 made and its oop and retails for like 190 american when you can find it. it's really rad to look at though. cheers.


the forks are gorgeous!


The folded books are great! As are the letters. I really loved the H that you put in your office. It gives the area some spunk.


Beutifull blog. I went in Florence Italy and i found a very very intresting things, if you shold go in Italy take a journey to the 'Mercatino delle Pulci' it is a great place to find almost everyhings


possibility that I might discover something unique in Italy is very high, try in Murano, Venice.

Mediterranean Food

we have a lot in common. Both our name letters are the same backwards. the books are stunning. almost all of my dishes & pans are flea market and thrift-store finds. I can't imagine what my kitchen would look like if it were bigger...

shuna fish lydon

great finds! the flea markets in singapore are typically collectibles like toys and coke memorabilia. hardly any culinary gems.


Has anyone tried to make those "folded books" with curves rather than straight lines. That would make them really funky.


Hey Heidi, Can't quite tell if those folded books fit this description, but there's a word for certain kinds of them: 'orihon'. Here's a link to the definition: http://wordsmith.org/words/orihon.html


Heidi, My husband and I are lovers of our local flea markets. On Sunday mornings, around 10 am, we go to our local one. I have found all kinds of great things - a stovetop espresso pot for $1, 2 mosaic flower pots for $1.50 each (the label on the bottom of them said $39 and $49), old fruit labels, old tin food signs, you name it. We try and go to local flea markets when we are on vacation. I found a really cool tin food sign in Nashville, TN last summer, and a great 1960's flower pin at the same one. I framed the labels and put them up in the kitchen, put the tin signs in back of my stove . I found a Coca Cola box (used to deliver it) for $10 - a really great catalog sells them for $18 plus shipping. So flea markets are great. I also great deals on cookbooks - both new and ancient. It seems that your FM finds are really great - all that silver and those cool buckles. Keep on shopping. RisaG


The folded books were a great find. I also like the forks you bought - the flowers are pleasant addition to the already elaborate silver.


You're so cool!

Amy P

thanks, i am resent transplant for LA so this is so helpful! i was so worried that the rain would never stop & now that the sunny days are here i will be sure to follow your suggestions! besos y abrazos!


what a joy! beautiful photos and i adore the belt buckles....never thought of them before! Great idea to post flea market finds.


Love this post, your flea markets seem to have so much cooler stuff than the ones I've been to around here. I've never seen those folded books before, they're amazing!!!


Come on down to our funky Ashby (BART) Flea Market and I'll treat you to lunch or brunch in Berkeley!


What beautiful photos. So cheerful and peaceful, they bring a smile to my face as I look at them!


i adore those belt buckles. have to keep my eyes open next time i'm there! you can also get vintage buckles at the ribbonerie on potrero.


hi h. Love those folded books...v


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