Wynn Myers

Are you the type of shopper that prides herself on finding one-of-a-kind pieces at flea markets, estate sales, and thrift stores? Well friend, it’s time you made the trip to Texas’ Round Top Antiques Fair. As our Home Editor Zoë Gowen puts it, “My idea of heaven on earth used to be the famous Paris flea markets, but then I went to Texas.”

While Round Top itself has a population of just 90, twice a year thousands of people flock to the town to search for vintage treasures at more than 2,500 booths stretched over 20 miles. This is not the type of shopping adventure you want to begin without a plan.

We caught up with Anna Crelia, co-founder of Austin-based Loot Rentals. She’s spent eight festivals scouring the fields for vintage finds and has picked up plenty of wisdom along the way. We’re stealing a few of her secrets for our next antiques excursion.

1. A Little Planning Goes a Long Way
If you’re an experienced thrift store shopper, you know that the thrill is in the hunt. Pack your sunscreen, wear comfy shoes, and take your sweet time. “If you can spend a day scouring the field, you will find some amazing diamonds in the rough.” Anna said. She recommends picking up a hard copy of Show Daily, a free magazine and buyers guide that helps both first-time and repeat visitors navigate the booths. Study up before you shop and find vendors that might be selling the specific item you’re searching for. Don’t forget to bring along the publication’s tear-out map!

2. Know Where to Stop and When to Leave
“It’s easy to get lost in the mass of vendor tents when you are just starting out,” Anna said. If you’re hoping to stay under budget and avoid blowing your entire decorating fund on a single item, she suggests avoiding the air-conditioned tents and spending your time the open air markets. You can lose hours window shopping at beautifully style booths without finding anything in your price range. “Know when you’ve hit a ‘dead zone’ and move on.”

3. Find New Uses for Old Treasures
You know those vintage plates you spotted in your grandmother’s attic? She may have used them for afternoon tea, but who says you can’t hang them in your breakfast nook? Keep scenarios like this in mind when you see one-of-a-kind items at Round Top. “We recently spotted an old canvas gurney in a field and our eyes were drawn to it because of it’s unique patina and form.” Anna said. Just be sure not to purchase the item until you have an idea of how you’re going to use it. Getting it back home might not be worth the effort if you don’t have a plan. “We were so excited to shell out $40 for [the gurney], knowing we could use it as a headboard, art, or even a pin board in an office.”

4. Master the Lingo and You Could Save a Few Bucks
Smart shoppers know how to speak to the artists and antique dealers that come back to Round Top every year. That means always being polite and learning the language. “Vendors have come to expect the question, ‘Is that your best price?’ Anna said. If you ask them to confirm whether you’re getting the best deal, they will give it to you straight. Be sure to carry plenty of small bills and you’ll make the transaction easier for everyone. If you and the vendor agreed on a lower price, you should be able to be able to pay that amount without asking for change. 

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5. Don’t Forget Your Manners
No matter where you’re traveling in the South, it’s always a good idea to take Mama’s etiquette rules with you. “Round Top vendors are known for their friendly and chatty demeanor so be kind, slow down, stay for a chat, and smile,” Anna said. The thrill of antique shopping may be in the hunt, but hopefully you can make a few friends along the way, too. There’s typically an established trust between vendors and their shoppers. If you say you’ll be back to pick up an item later, be sure to come back at the time you promised. “Often, they will just leave it outside their tent if they know you’ll be by after dark,” Anna said. “They trust that you won’t anything you didn’t pay for, so don’t.”

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