1. Junk in the rough: This my favorite kind of junk, simply because the people selling or giving it away do not realize that their junk has potential. This misconception on their part translates into cheap prices or freebies for you the junk lover. The down side to this is that you may have to wade through lots of unworthy junk in order to find a true diamond in the rough.
2. Previously discovered junk: This is the sort of thing you find at flea markets and nice second hand shops. Someone has already done the dumpster diving and estate sale gleaning for you. The upside of this is loads of the good junk all in one place. The down side is that the seller already knows the junk has great DIY potential and has priced accordingly.
Let's take a closer look at possible junk finding places in both categories:
1. The side of the road/some one's basement/attic/barn.
shabby telephone table previously known as "barn junk"
When it comes to prices, we're all pretty happy with free. Great free junk is often waiting to be found on the side of the road the night before trash pick up. It has also been found when family and friends need help cleaning out their attic/barn/basement. Sometimes it lingers at the end of a yard/moving sale when people really don't want to lug their junk somewhere else to get rid of it. Free junk has even been known to appear on Craig's List. The lesson here: keep your eyes open!
2. Junk Shops
Vintage paint-by-number coastal scene previously known as "junk shop that may collapse at any moment junk."
There are a lot of fancy vintage/shabby/french country shops out there masquerading as junk shops. I am not talking about those. In a true junk shop, stuff is piled everywhere in layers of dust, rust, and possible health hazards. The building is probably not up to code. You may find a hobnail vase full of dead insects next to a rusty saw blade, behind a classic parsons table. You will emerge from the shop covered in a layer of grime, but you will have gotten a bargain. Take the back roads during trips, or get lost in a remote corner of your state and you may just run into one of these hidden treasure troves.
3. Yard and estate Sales.
These are a bit tricky. It's easy to spend a Saturday running all over town and find only baby clothes, particle board furniture, and over priced "antiques." It's impossible to predict what you'll discover, but there are a few ways you can increase your chances of striking junk gold. Find out where the old people live. New neighborhoods usually have new stuff and young families, which is great if you're looking for some things, but not that helpful if you're looking for sturdy old furniture. Figuring out where the older neighborhoods are can help you find sales that are more likely to yield the good stuff. Church sales sponsored by congregations with a large number of older members can also be great places to look.
4. Goodwill/other Charity stores
Fresh kitchen table and chairs previously know as "Goodwill junk"
Not all Goodwills are created equal. Some have a surplus of clothing and newish household goods, while others have a ton of great old furniture and china. In general, I've found that the stores on the older sides of town have better stuff.
5. Other thrift and second hand stores.
Vintage typewriter table previously known as "Family Thrift Store junk"
There are lots of non charity thrift stores out there. You can find these in the phone book or by googling your city and thrift. They vary in quality, so it's worth figuring out where the good ones are.
6. Flea Markets/The Big Flea
As you may know, there are flea markets and there are Flea Markets. You are not looking for the tube sock/boot leg video/hemp blanket kind of flea market. You are hoping to find the piles of glassware/heaps of vintage linens/stacks of botanical prints kind of Flea Market. You can find the good kind through our friend Google. Many cities have reoccurring Flea Markets in conjunction with farmer's markets or at the fair grounds or expo center. It is a good idea to go into one of these places with an idea of how much you are willing to pay for something. Prices will probably be jacked up a bit (or a lot) but most dealers are willing and expecting to bargain. I was taught to politely ask, "Is this the best you can do?" or "Would you be willing to take $?" If you find the right kind of Flea Market, almost everything will be good junk, and though the prices may be higher than elsewhere, everything is still loads cheaper than new furniture prices.
7. Junktique shops
Coffee table previously known as "Class and Trash junk"
Junktique shops fall somewhere in the middle of true junk shops and those vintage/shabby/french country fake junk shops. Almost everything in the store will be good junk, but things still might be a bit jumbled. You can often haggle some over prices, and if you're looking out for something in particular, the owners are usually willing to take your information and contact you when they find something they think you'll like. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between these shops and their high priced cousins. If the area is pretty swanky and the rent is likely to be high, then the shop is probably not going to offer up any bargains. If the shop is in a outlying or more run down area, the rent is likely to be lower, and the prices much better.
I'm sure I missed something, so be sure to comment if you think of other tips. I hope all of you are ready to go out tomorrow and find some awesome junk!