How to find unique gifts at flea markets and tag sales


You don't have to spend a lot of money to find gifts that dazzle with their thoughtfulness and special flair. Bruce Littlefield, author of Merry Christmas, America, shows how he finds the perfect gifts for the people on his holiday list - gifts that say, "I was thinking of you."

How to find unique gifts at flea markets and tag sales
  • Think about recycling gifts differently.  Gently used items from flea markets, tag sales or the bargain table at your local antique store is NOT a short-cut; nor does it demonstrate a lack of generosity. It can be the opposite: the effort you put into finding an item with unique significance can be a thoughtful, creative way to make a gift's recipient feel special.
  • Finding a used toy or book at a garage sale that was a "favorite" of your recipient is a heart-felt way to recognize something that happened in their life.
  • Consider things that acknowledge something important in your recipient's life. These can be life events, hobbies, relationships, or nostalgic items from childhood.
  • Look for items that have panache and style.
  • Rethink what a gift means, and how a (gently) used gift that demonstrates great consideration -- perhaps one you had to search for high and low -- might be a more meaningful way to give this season.
  • Don't just recycle the gift that you received last year.  Set up a space in your home to store the treasures that you find throughout the year, and label them with the recipient's name.

LISA: I'm Lisa Birnbach for You know we always think of re-gifting as the short cut to gifts and not being generous, but…wrong. If you re-gift with style and panache you will do very well. With us is Bruce Littlefield, the author of Merry Christmas America. And here are some…these aren't just re-gifts, these are actual antiquities.

BRUCE: Yes, but you know we want to think of re-gifting in a different way. I certainly don't want to give something that somebody gave me last year to you this year. But I do want to find things that maybe somebody has used before, gently used, and give them things that they will enjoy. That they will find special. And also that reflects great consideration and thoughtfulness on the part of the giver because you had to search high and low for these things.

LISA:Why thank you.

BRUCE: Not at all. Now like this for example, this is a Bingo-matic, now that's pretty darn fabulous.

LISA:Is this for me? Do you like Bingo?

BRUCE:  I do. Well, I really do too and my friend Michelle, her mother passed away this year and I went to the funeral, and Michelle spoke of she and her mother and how they used to love to go to the Bingo hall and play. Michelle’s a dear friend and so I literally was at out shopping and came across...and it is in perfect condition.

LISA:Oh my gosh. This is beautiful.

BRUCE:  Every little thing is there and this cost $10. And please do not tell Michelle. This gift is going to mean something to her. It's very thoughtful. It's going to let her know that I recognize something that happened in her life.

LISA:What about this chenille, I guess it's a bed spread.

BRUCE:  A chenille bed spread now, my sister just had a little boy and this chenille bedspread is in perfect condition and it has an entire baseball game on it.

LISA: Seriously, it has the whole diamond?

BRUCE:  Yes, it has the whole field, the whole diamond. Look at that. That's beautiful and she will enjoy it.

LISA:And it's from a... basement, tag sale, flea market?

BRUCE: No, it’s from a smoke-free home.

LISA:Oh, of course. I knew that.

BRUCE:  This is a fabulous gift, she'll enjoy it and I will enjoy giving it to her. So, I have a little system down pat. I have a closet in my house that I have as my gift closet and I label everything such that I put the smaller items in Zip-lock bags and then I put who the gift is for.  Now, let me show you a couple more things.

LISA:These are vintage table cloths?

BRUCE:  Vintage table cloths. My friend Barbara Corcoran collects vintage table cloths so I saw these and knowing that she pays about $400 for each one of hers...these were not $400 but they are...

LISA: Old?

BRUCE:  They're vintage, come on! But they come from a smoke-free home. These are charming. And she'll love them. But, the big topper for the outside of her package is a book. A vintage book by…who is that by? Barbara Corcoran.

LISA:But not the real estate Barbara Corcoran?

BRUCE:  Not the real estate Barbara Corcoran, this is a different Barbara Corcoran. So this is great.

LISA:But what's the title?

BRUCE:  You Put Up With Me, I’ll Put Up With You.

LISA:She's going to love it.  Okay, this...everybody here has been very excited about this.

BRUCE: I know, this is really very exciting for me and I actually have to tell you I cried when I bought this. And it really got me choked up. The reason is, is because my mother's favorite toy from childhood is Farmer in the Dale. And, as you said I had just written a book called Merry Christmas America and I dedicated it to my mother and shortly after I locked the book I went to a sale and there was a Farmer in the Dale. And when I saw it...

LISA:And you know that it was a mechanical Farmer in the Dale that your Mom...?

BRUCE:  Yes.

LISA: This could have been your mother's?

BRUCE:  This could have been my mother's but you know, what happens is... And it's Mattel. Hi Ho the has the words here. But anyway, as you...

LISA: Your mother is gong to freak out when she gets this.

BRUCE:  Do you think I'm the new favorite son?

LISA: Yes, compared to your brother? Absolutely, I think you are anyway.

BRUCE: That's fantastic.

LISA: So, re-gifting. It's not really what we're talking about. We're trying to recycle in an interesting thoughtful, creative way. It won't cost you a fortune. But it will make the recipient feel special.

BRUCE:  I could not have said it better.

LISA: Thank you Bruce. For, I'm Lisa Birnbach

meet theexpert
  • Bruce Littlefield

    Bruce Littlefield Design and Lifestyle Guru Bruce Littlefield is a New York-based designer, writer, and restaurateur. Hailed as a "design and lifestyle guru" by Publisher's Weekly, he is the author of the recently published Merry Christmas, America!: Megawatt Displays Across the U.S.A. (HarperCollins 2007), Garage Sale America and Airstream Living (HarperCollins 2007), and co-writer of the best-selling Use What You've Got and Other Business Lessons I learned from My Mom (Penguin Group) with real-estate magnate Barbara Corcoran. The Today more about this expert »