Fun with Flea Market Flip


You’ve watched the show. Have you wondered how it is made? How do they decide what to buy? Who does the refurbishing? Do the items really sell for those prices? Read on!

The Premise
Contestants are given $500 and one hour to shop for three promising flea market finds. They get one day to transform their items then another day to sell them. The team that makes the bigger profit wins $5, 000.

The Host
Lara Spencer, also a host on Good Morning America, is an avid flea marketer, has written several books on the topic, and enjoys creating personalized rooms with her finds. She created, hosts and executive produces the show which is now filming a new season.

Getting on the Show
• Contestants have found casting call information places such as Craiglist, Facebook, and the HGTV site. Others, who sell repurposed flea market finds on Etsy, have been approached by producers.
• Some of the requirements include having a teammate, submitting 2-3 pictures of furniture type items they’ve transformed, have big/interesting personalities, residing in or near New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, or Pennsylvania, and being available for 3 separate, non-consecutive days to film.
• If their applications are successful the next step is a Skype interview then casting.

Being on the show
Day one: The Find
• Filming starts early, around 6 or 6:30 am and multiple shows are shot at once so on a given day up to six teams will be at the flea market. All but the first team to be filmed has time to look around the flea market and see what’s available but they can’t talk to vendors so there’s also no guarantee that the items they’re interested in will be available when they go back to buy.
• Each team has its own producer whose job is to make them look good, less nervous, walk through them through the steps, get the shots they need, etc.
• An initial interview is done in which contestants get their Flip Lists (see sample Flip Lists below).
• Next the show does “hero shots” in which the teams declare they’re going to win and why.
• They then have one hour to shop and bargain for the items they’ll transform. The flea markets they shop at are huge and contestants can’t always remember where items are that they have scoped out. They stop filming to get vendors to sign waivers agreeing to be on the show. They also stop so contestants can explain why they bought what they did.
• Lara Spencer arrives later in the day (presumably after GMA ) to film her parts.
• After shopping is done, final interviews are conducted in which the teams are asked to comment on how they feel about what they purchased.
• Next there is an art meeting to discuss what each team will need to transform their items so that those materials will be available on workshop day.

Day Two: The Fix
• The second day of filming is shot days or weeks after shopping day. By all accounts, the workshop is amazing. It’s split in two: one side has every tool needed for building, painting and upholstering. The second half is where they film the before and after shots of each item.
• Contestants can bring their own materials such as fabric and embellishments.
• The teams get helpers who do a great deal of the work and in the accounts I read were praised for their talent and ease to work with.

Day Three: The Flip
• There is another gap between workshop and sales days.
• The items are waiting at the location of the sale and covered with blankets. Contestants have not seen them so there is excitement at the reveal.
• During the sale, the film crew hangs back so they don’t discourage buyers. This doesn’t always work.
• The goal is to get the highest price in order to win, however it’s even more important to sell all three items to increase the odds of winning. Contestants price accordingly and get more flexible as the day wraps up. The prices seem high for a flea market but flea market in the case of this show really means antique market.
• It’s not clear what happens to items that don’t sell. They’re owned by the show which has discretion as to where they go.

Sample Flip Lists
Touch of Glass, Stealthy Storage, Rescue Mission Project
Stylish Storage, Modern Americana, Mixed Textures
Sets and Pairs, Twisted Traditional, Elemental Design
Creative Lighting, Chic Storage, Unexpected Seating
Fabric project, House Party, Smart storage
Chic Storage, Mirror Project, Light & Dark Design
Industrial Design, Retro Chic, Multipurpose Design

Selected Locations
Brimfield Antique Show – Brimfield, MA
Elephant’s Trunk – New Milford, CT
Stormville Flea Market – Stormville, NY
Antiques Garage (now closed) – New York City
Long Island City Flea – New York City
Rose Bowl Flea Market – Pasadena, CA
Melrose Trading Post – Los Angeles
Long Beach Antique Market – Long Beach, CA

First person accounts
Click here and here for interesting accounts of what it was like to be on the show.


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