Rhode Island Flea Markets Guide for the thrifty collector

Providence Flea Market

Written By: Sheila McElroy

You’ve heard it before; the glory is in the hunt. The find. The treasure.

Only a fool thinks people go to flea markets for a specific item.

It is all well and fine to have a vague concept of “oh, I need a bench for the front hall”, but what comes home maybe a tractor seat, wood crates, and/or salvaged architectural pieces that, when assembled, may become a bench for the hall.

It doesn’t matter.

It’s all about potential: a treasure amongst the trash, the repurposed and the re-appreciated.

On any given morning (once spring truly emerges) many folks get up at the break of dawn, ready for “the hunt”. Armed with a rolling cart, a beverage, and a pair of magnifying readers, crowds gather at entry gates while scanning the field of vendors. They ready themselves as they survey the battlefield and set a strategy of attach.

Once the hunters are set loose on the savvy, but seemingly unimpressed, vendors – it is every one for them selves. Nudging and elbowing, politely and sometimes not so politely, flowing and maneuvering, it is a contest of who can find The Find before anyone else does.

In the realm of flea markets there are the annuals (i.e. usually fundraisers), seasonal, weekly, and the pop-up.

Highly anticipated annual flea markets/rummage sales are usually associated with private institutions like St Philomena and The Wheeler School. Don’t let the moms fool you – they’re ready to bargain but these events are fundraisers so don’t try to steal the deal.

No discussion of flea markets is complete without mentioning the venerable Brimfield Antique Flea Market that has been running for over fifty years in Brimfield MA. Flea markets are held three times each year, in May, July and September for a six-day period each time. People come from all over the east coast. It is the holy grail of treasure hunts but is not for the timid. Be prepared to walk distances and be patient.

Another highly anticipated flea market is the Seekonk Flea Market that is held from mid-April to early December on the historic Seekonk Speedway track. Here there are a small percentage of new items sold as well as vintage so you may walk off with a bag full of sunglasses as well as a 1920s mink coat.

The seemingly overnight success of The Providence Flea has brought many newbie collectors to the fray. Well curated and managed it was inspired by New York’s funky Brooklyn Flea. But like Providence itself, it has a personality all it’s own. Awesome local food trucks as well. It runs every Sunday from June-September.

So get out of the house and have a mini-adventure in your own back yard. Even if you don’t buy anything strolling the flea markets will have you looking at the “stuff” in your attic in a whole new light. Think of it as the ultimate in recycling.

Besides, you may stop at a few garage sales on the way home and find just what you didn’t know you needed.

Other flea market sites: Not all flea markets and fairs are listed. Check for local listings





Rose Rundown