Got Fleas? A shopper’s guide to Massachusetts markets


‘Tis the season for outdoor markets: farmers markets, craft fairs, town festivals, and my personal favorite, the flea market.  From Brimfield to Boston, Massachusetts is home to some of the country’s most eclectic antique and flea markets, and I ventured into some of the area’s favorites.

Not all fleas are the same; some host antique vendors, and others draw craftspeople selling handmade art or reworked vintage clothing.  What’s under the tent, on the card table, or laid out on a blanket seems to depend somewhat on location.  More antique-heavy markets appear to be held in rural areas.

On my trips to various flea markets this summer, I discovered an interesting subculture—an expansive community that’s hardly new, though lively and welcoming.  Flea markets have the ability to showcase the charming local flavor of a town or city while still gathering vendors from all over.  Vendors and shoppers can engage with a bigger community than a town, city, or county.  A market can bring together a region on a weekend morning in the summer: people who like old things, unique decor, items with regional significance (at Todd Farm: framed front pages of the Boston Globe, a 1994 special edition of the Boston Herald honoring Jackie Kennedy after her death, a vintage Patriots poster, a humorous wall hanging about “New England Girls” that spells out a Boston accent in words).

As most modern shopping moves online, in-person flea markets are alive and well.  Cash changes hands.  Vendors discover the power of Venmo, palm-sized QR codes taped to card tables and cash boxes.

I’ve been considering the existence of the flea market and its survival into the present day.  While it’s true that many flea market patrons belong to an older generation, the concept of vintage is the real reason these markets continue to thrive, drawing shoppers of all ages.

As trends change, as wood ages, as metal rusts, and as fabric fades, a new type of vintage calcifies with a distinct aesthetic and nostalgia.  The passage of time is the magical constant.  As long as the world is turning and society consumes material goods, there will be something for vendors to sell, for flea-goers to buy, collect, re-purpose.  The shuffle never stops.

We can’t shake our fascination with vintage.  We are all capable of feeling nostalgia for a time we have never experienced, and, truthfully, it’s addictive.  Welcome to flea market season in Massachusetts.

The Salem Flea Market

35 Derby Square | Salem
Third Saturdays, May - September | 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Nestled in the streets of Salem, the Salem Flea carves out a cozy local niche for artists, vintage sellers, and craftspeople.  Browse wares like fresh cut flowers, handmade bowties and jewelry, antique decor, vintage posters and board games, quilts, spiritual items and crystals, and thoughtfully curated vintage clothing.  This flea would definitely fall under the “craftsperson” category rather than mainly antiques.  If you walk home with a vintage item, you’ll be able to hold it in your hands: some vintage glassware or a vase, a retro purse, a funky figurine.  Set against the backdrop of old red brick buildings, every vendor’s items are eye-catching—and accompanied by a friendly local face.

Todd Farm Flea Market

275 Main Street | Rowley
Sundays, April - November | 5 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Parking: $5.00

Vendors set up their wares as the sun rises over Todd Farm.  Rows of tables and tents stretch across the property, so many that visiting every vendor at the market can take hours.  I spent two hours at the market, arriving early enough to feel the morning chill before the beating sun warmed things up.  Todd Farm attracts vendors of every niche antique interest, from model sailboats and cars to posters and music memorabilia, vintage clothing, statuettes, kitchen items, furniture, tools, art, and more.

I chatted with sellers who’ve been selling their wares at Todd Farm for upwards of 30 years—folks who are as much of a fixture in their community as the Todd Farm Flea itself.  Vendors are welcoming, relaxed, and rightfully proud of their unique displays.  The flea is so extensive that one might lose track of time, engrossed in wandering the rows and learning a bit of history from each intriguing item on display.

Parking is free after 11:00 a.m., but arriving early is recommended to get the first pick of merchandise.  The early bird gets the worm... or the flea?

Brimfield Antique Flea Markets
September 6-11, 2022 | 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. (times vary by show field)

America’s Oldest Flea Market is right here in Massachusetts and has been operating for over 50 years.  The Brimfield Antique Flea Markets are held three times a year: once in May, once in July, and once in September.  From Manchester, it takes roughly an hour and 30 minutes to drive to Brimfield, where 17 show fields await shoppers over the course of six days.  Each show field has slightly different hours, rules, and offerings.  It’s estimated that over 50,000 people attend Brimfield each year, shopping at thousands of booths; antique dealers come from all over the country to participate in the flea markets. 

Hardcore fans of the flea won’t want to miss this one.  The July market has passed, but gear up for September, when the weather has cooled off and the real crowds begin.

The Somerville Flea
Davis Square | Somerville
Sundays, August - September | 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Get ready: the Somerville Flea is coming up!  For the tenth year running, the Somerville Flea offers vintage and artisan goods, fresh produce, and live music in Davis Square.  Check it out for a more metropolitan flea experience.

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