Buying Trips Q & A

Bonjour! I get so many emails with questions about antique buying trips, that I’m happy to share some answers here about our own buying trips in this post : Buying Trips Q & A.  We’re on a trip, so this is the perfect timing. I’ve sent some boxes on ahead, and the online shop is open 24/7, shipping will begin on Thursday, October 6th.


Buying Trips Q & A


Buying Trips Q & A


What are your favorite places to buy for FrenchGardenHouse?


There are so many places to buy beautiful antiques. I buy from friends that are dealers { dealers that have become friends!}, from small out of the way antique shops in small towns, and at brocantes and European antique markets.

I keep in mind that we still have to pay for shipping, which can really add up. It’s why we tend to avoid antique auctions and buying in big cities such as Paris or Amsterdam because prices will always be much higher. We travel far and wide to shop the small dealers, the countryside antique fairs and shops to keep our prices as reasonable as possible.


Buying Trips Q & A


When buying in Europe, what does that look like?


I know some dealers arrive on the plane, and get working straight away. That’s not really my style, I like to get accustomed to the time zone and relax for two days before starting out on the adventure. Because Mr. FGH drives all over Europe, we don’t worry about trains and “ how to get places” although I’ll admit driving your own car can be nerve-wracking! Last time we were driving to Antwerp in Belgium I literally had to close my eyes or scream like a little girl as he was maneuvering around a parked truck on a street barely wide enough for one car, let alone a truck and our car. Eek!

The parking can be a challenge, too, on narrow streets or in crazy small parking garages. Never fear, I again just close my eyes until my driver says “we’re here!” Many of the European fairs and flea markets have both outdoor and indoor spaces, often the indoor spaces are inside a huge parking garage, so you have to be sure to go the right way when driving to the “park today” section, not end up in the midst of disgruntled vendors.




How Long Do You Shop?


That really depends on how much there is to see. And on how long Mr. FGH can take.  Since the day usually starts super early, by the time we arrive at an antiques fair or brocante fair, I’m usually in the starting blocks while Mr. FGH is ready for a coffee.  Once, not all that long ago when we were in one of my favorite weekly markets in Tongeren, Belgium, it was SO COLD.  Mr. FGH lips were blue after we started walking to the market from the parking place at the train station.  I hustled him inside the coffee and sandwich stall, and found him a warm place to sit for awhile sipping his coffee while I ran the market for the first time around. {I never drink coffee there, the thrill of the hunt is plenty of caffeine for me!}



There have been times that we have shopped and driven for 16 hours a day, but that was too much even for me.  No matter what, when you have traveled far and wide to arrive at an antique market, you want to shop for as long as possible. So the days are long….very long. But oh so rewarding!!


What time do you start each buying day?


For antique fairs that are outdoors, I like to get there super early {except in France, the dealers are usually having a coffee and saunter into their spots around 9!} Often that means getting up before 5 if we have to drive to another town for a particular market. I walk the whole market if possible, and if I see things I love and the dealer is there, I either buy it or ask for a hold. Since a lot of the dealers know me, they are happy to hold, knowing that 99% of the time I’ll buy the holds, and more, once they are completely set up.  If you are shopping for the first time, and you really want something, BUY it.


Antique French Pottery


Any good tips for buying at brocantes?


At really busy or very popular markets, or shows that are only once or twice a year, I take little tags with me with my last name and phone number, and those plastic ties they use in stores to tag the item and written SOLD on them. If the vendor isn’t there – which happens sometimes because they are either walking the market to buy some “steals” to sell that day, or using the restroom- I tag items with my name and phone number and  pls. Call me on them. I make a little bundle or group of the items by the vendor’s car, usually, or under their table, so other shoppers don’t grab my finds.

I snap photos of the items I love, plus a space number if there is one, so I can find the antiques again. Once I have bought pieces, I photograph the pieces on my phone, and the receipts too.


Buying Trip Q & A


How Do You Get It All Home?


When we do a big buying trip in Europe, the antiques we buy are ticketed and boxed, and our trucking company follows us and picks everything up. They professionally wrap every piece, crate mirrors or lighting in custom made wooden crates, and finally load it into a container for shipment. They also deal with all the custom brokerage paper work, the customs stateside and the unloading and truck delivery to us.


{At the really big European markets, they will have shippers available to do this for you, too. Just be prepared at the cost, it can cost quite a bit to have something wrapped, boxed and shipped.}


Buying Trips Q & A

You can read my post on getting a variety of antique souvenirs or purchases home >


What do you wear on buying trips?


What to wear is always a puzzle. A buying day is like an athletic event, so layers and comfortable shoes are a must. However, European dealers are fashion conscious – especially in Belgium and France- and I kid you not – they look down on sloppily dressed buyers. So I opt for a layered casual look, plus scarf. I try to leave the jewelry at home. Below is a really bad and silly picture of me on a spring day in Belgium, where another buyer almost pushed me on the ground to get to this stall with antique ironstone!!  {antique buying can be a dangerous contact sport!}

My standard outfit is comfortable flats, black leggings, a black t-shirt {sleeveless or long sleeve depending on season}, a jean jacket or shirt, and a small cross body bag. A light cashmere scarf is usually part of the outfit if it’s spring, fall or winter in Europe. I can tie that around my waist if it gets hot, or drape it over me for an extra layer. If it’s going to be really cold, I’ll add an undershirt {I love the Hanro Touch Feeling Tanks.}


What kind of arrangements need to be made beforehand with shippers? 


Most bigger markets will have a reliable shipper on hand, or they will refer one. Unless you are shipping home a container like dealers do, you just want someone to ship boxes etc. Packing is critical, and breakage is heart breaking. Make sure you keep all the original receipts, and any detailed paperwork and descriptions for everything you buy. Make sure your shipment is 100% insured. Make copies, as the shipper will also need copies of everything, the wrong dates or descriptions can lead to some big trouble when leaving the country in Europe or arriving in the states. It’s best to have a professional do this, because it’s quite complicated.

Some countries are much stricter than others, Italy, for instance, will determine if antiques are “a national treasure” and won’t let the item leave the country! I know one designer who purchased a gorgeous and very expensive creche in Italy, and it was deemed a national treasure. So not coming to the USA. She did get a refund from the dealer, but no beautiful creche. Every country has their own ins and outs of exporting antiques.




The Journey of Our European Antiques


1. Found, bought, labeled, photographed and loaded onto truck.
2. Trucked across Europe.
3. Unloaded into shipper’s storage warehouse.
4. Wrapped and/or crated by the shipper.
5. Carefully packed into shipping container.
6. Trucked to the shipping dock.
7. Documents handed to customs, passed shipment, and container fumigated.
8. Loaded onto ship.
9. Travels via ocean to the USA.
10. Unloaded off the boat at U.S. Customs, Los Angeles.
11 Inspection by U.S. Customs including X-ray inspection.
12. Trucked to FrenchGardenHouse.
13. Unloaded.
14. Unwrapped and inspected.
15. Photographed, researched, descriptions written, priced, added to website.
16. Loved by and sold to you!
17. Inspected one more time by me, wrapped carefully and boxed, labeled for shipping.
18. Brought to shipping location.
19. Delivered to you.
20. Loved and ready to be a cherished part of your home, and memories.


shop antiques from France


That’s quite a journey, isn’t it?! I hope you have enjoyed this peek into our Buying Trips Q & A .  We’ll be back with bells on from our latest trip soon…in the meantime our shop is open, and we will be shipping out your beloved antique purchases after Wednesday, October 6th.





Shop for the best in French Antiques, furniture with the patina of age, vintage accessories to delight you and your family & friends, and French Country utilitarian pieces. Treasures that make your home fresh, beautiful, inspirational and above all uniquely yours. Visit our shop

10 thoughts on “Buying Trips Q & A”

  1. Alice Genzlinger

    WHEW! You have to love what you do to go to all that trouble! And I for one appreciate your love of antiques. Please thank Mr FGH for being patient ..

    1. Alice, I do love what I do! And Mr. FGH is patience personified, as long as I feed and water him on time! 🙂

  2. Great tips!! Sounds like a dream vacation to me. I love antiquing and going to flea markets. Can I come along sometime?

    1. Thanks, Char! Strangely, it wouldn’t be half as much fun going for business as it would be for you to just go for pleasure! We do a lot of rush,rush,rush, and then spend hours in one warehouse or vendor booth for antiques.

  3. Nancy Brantley

    Swooning over those cherub planters! I know all this is tiring but it would be so much fun to me. Thrill of the hunt!!

  4. Nancy, it is a thrill, actually! You are right. What I love most besides the people in this business and the beautiful things, is learning about the history!

  5. Allison Herron

    Great explanation! You are obviously a pro at this. my sister-in-law did a lot of this with a friend in San Diego who has a shop there. She also shopped in Belgium mostly and had become friends with the warehouse owner. Maybe you are shopping at the same one? I have only gone to the local flea markets and had such fun discovering new elements that had reasons to be that were just amazing! Oh, how I long for that time ago. (We moved back to the states in Jan 2020.)

    1. Allison, there are many great dealer “in the trade only” warehouses all over Europe and they are all wonderful! It’s always exciting to discover treasures from the past, I agree!

  6. Vienette

    Love how you so honestly detailed out the journey of your European antiques. Unless you do it, many people don’t understand all the magic steps, and expense required to get that beautiful item from there to here but can definitely appreciate the effort when shared the way you did!

    1. Thank you Vienette. I agree, there are lots of important steps to get our antiques from there to here!

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