Sell at an Orange County Swap Meet

Sell at a swap meet in Orange County

Swap-meeting in Orange County

This is a series of three articles which cover similar topics: Swap Meets , Artisan Sales, and Farmers Markets. There are a lot of items which can be sold at all three types of venues. We had to split it up into three pages. We also have a page on buying Wholesale
There are great opportunities to sell at art fairs, and community fairs. See our website Arts and Crafts Page
There is usually an opportunity to sell non agricultural goods especially if you have hand crafted the goods yourself. Farmers Market Page 
We have some information below about buying inventory for your swap meet business. And we have added a page buying wholesale. Buying Wholesale Page 
Content goes here


This is a great weekend business.  And you don’t have to sign a lease.  If it doesn’t work out, you are just stuck with some inventory.  If you are not sure you can handle the hagglers and morning hours, try selling the junk in your garage.  Most swap meets require that you stay into the afternoon, so after getting up early and setting up it can seem like a long day.  Count on being at it for at least seven hours.

There are two factors that will determine your success what you sell and where you sell.  You will also need a re-sale permit from the State Franchise Board so you can pay sales tax.  (See the compliance section on this site to find out how to obtain a permit.)

But these factors are connected.  What you sell will determine where you can sell.  You might be better off selling a lower margin product if you can get into a better meet.


List of Orange County Swapmeets


Orange County Fairgrounds Swap Meet aka OCMarketplace

This is the largest swap meet in the OC .  You will find products that have a higher price-point than at other meets, you can think of it as the Fassion Island of Swapmeets.  It has a lot of new inventory.  Since 1969 the same family has run this meet now under the name Tel Phil Enterprises Inc. It is held on the fairground parking lot which is owned by the county.  (During WWII this was part of the Santa Ana Army Air Base.) If you are just selling garage sale stuff, this might be too much of a hassel to get in; but if you have good products and want to reach as many customers as possible you should apply to become an OC MarketPlace vendor.  It’ll take a while, so you can sell at other meets while you are waiting.

Becoming an OC MarketPlace Vendor

Getting In as a Vendor There are  two ways to get a space.  You can be a “permanent” vendor, or on a daily basis.  Most of what you need to know is on their new website.  You will have to start out as a daily or walk-up vendor,   But just don’t show up on Saturday.  You need to be pre-approved and have a reservation.  Contact their main office at 949 723-6660 after you have read this document   Becoming a permanent vendor requires that you have rented a space on a daily basis at least three times and have not caused any problems.  After your third day of rental, see their office at the fairgrounds for information about bidding to become a monthly vendor.   Except in the slow months after Christmas, (when customers are broke) there will not be enough spaces to go around.  And just because you have applied to be a monthly vendor doesn’t mean you will be approved.  It might be a good idea to rent during the slow period for a few days just to be able to apply to become a monthly vendor.

Basically Tel Phil Enterprises runs the show so you have to go along with their rules.  It’s the hardest meet to get into, but it’s worth the hassle if your product appeals to middle or upper income demographics.   (1) You need to have a liability insurance policy that names them as an additionally insured.  According to their insurance clause you also shall provide evidence of insurance protecting the legal liability of Tel Phil Enterprises, Inc. from occurrences as to bodily injury liability, property damage liability, personal injury liability, and contractual liability which are limited to the operations of the Permittee. The minimum limits for the general liability insurance is $1,000,000.  You need to talk to your insurance agent about a business liability policy.  Your home-owners or renters policy will not work.  (Print this page out and give it to an agent who writes commercial policies) (or according to the operations manual section 2.0 subsection C subsection 3 you may “Purchase a “daily” type policy at the Orange County Market Place on the day that you wish to sell”  Rates are not given.

(2) You need to have a resale permit in hand with the address of the meet on the certificate.  (This is free from the California Board of Equalization.  See 2/3rds down this page for info about how to get a resale certificate)

(3) You have to be selling something that they think is appropriate  There is a list of banned items; and if you have to ask its probably banned.  (click here to see)  You have to have a decent stall set-up preferably with signs and tables–you cannot just throw your stuff on the ground; and you have to clean up when you are finished.

Okay, once you have all of these things in hand, you need to be pre-approved by sending a letter with copies of this info and a description of what you want to sell and maybe photos of your proposed set up.  From their operations procedures “[A] letter must be submitted to the Orange County Market Place … addressed to the Operations Manager.  In the letter, please introduce yourself and the product, explain exactly how you plan to operate at the Orange County Market Place, and detail what value is going to be offered to the customer. The approval process takes approximately two (2) weeks.”  The address is:

Orange County Market Place

c/o Operations Manager

P.O. Box 11929

COSTA MESA, CA 92627-0293

According to their old website, the Cost to Rent was: $55 + $15 == $70.00/day most of the year.  (January and February are discounted because everyone has spent their money in December.)  The $15 is for additional fees.  Their is not a similar figure on their new website, but you can figure it’s north of $100.

From what we understand, they have two types of venders—general merchandise and arts and crafts.  The reason this meet works so well is that they have done a good job attracting and selecting the vendors.  The people selling sunglasses and t-shirts have been there a long time.  You need to have something unique.  They may give a preference to a craft product over something that five vendors are already selling.    This  video of vendors shows how big this meet is.

(At the same location they have the OC Fair.  Although the OC MarketPlace and OCFair are at the fairgrounds, they are two completely separate and different events.)

OC’s Biggest Meet Closing ?

What’s the deal with the swap meet being evicted?   A lot of you are worried that OC Market Place Swap Meet will close.  And the roomers are still out there.  You can read about the dispute in this OC Weekly  article .  But they seem to have settled their disagreement, and the MarketPlace Swap Meet will not have to move. OC Register Article 

Orange County Fair Vending Opportunities

Okay, technically, this is not a Swap Meet.  But vending at the fair is basically the same work.  And it’s a lot of bang for your rental buck.  That’s why we included it in this section.  It takes a bit of capital to get in, so if your might be better off starting at one of the other meets listed.

(July—August – 1 month in duration) Click on Fair if it doesn’t come up first.  Then go to General Information to see the vendor page.  This is the biggest one of them all.  Prices start at about $3,000 and go up to $7,500 plus a $50 application fee for the entire fair period–about one month.  So on a per day basis, it’s not much more expensive than a regular meet; and on a per hour basis or per potential customer basis it’s probably less expensive.  And you get tons of customers with cash in hand.  It’s a different crowd than at the swap meet.  They have made a special trip to the fair to see their favorite band, take the kids on the ride, eat the latest thing that has been fried, or see what a real cow looks like.  They are want to take home a something that’s unique and are not as bargain oriented as your regular swap meet customers.  When you add every thing up, many families will spend more at the fair than they would at Disneyland, but they may not realize that when they arrive.  There is a variety of criteria used to select vendors.  The salient point is that products must be unique (as in not sold by someone else at the fair or something you can find at Wall Mart) and the committee has to feel you offer value to the customer.  The quality of your booth is also a factor.

Note that the OC Fair and Swapmeet at the OC Fair Grounds are two different businesses.  The fair is put on by the OC Fair Board which owns the fair grounds and the OCMarketPlace is a swapmeet that happens on the Fair Ground’s Parking lot.

The other big event in Orange County is the TET festival.  This happens for on weekend a year.  See our Artisan page for more info, they do allow commercia vending of non homemade items including CDs, DVDs, electronics, phone cards, cellular phones and plans, travel packages, palm reading, newspaper subscriptions…

Long Beach Swap Meet

Not too far from the OC, this meet has an upscale vibe. and attract Hollywood celebs .    They focus on Antiques and and collectibles.  Their website says that no new items are sold at the event.  It usually occurs on the third Sunday each month at Veterans Stadium near the Long Beach Air Port.   They have a big event with over 800 Sellers and, for what it’s worth, have been named “Top Flee Market in the US” by Good Housekeeping Magazine.  Spaces go from $75 – 100 and are about 19’x16′ or around 150 sq ft.  You need a CA resale permit if you you sell more than twice in one calendar year. Also check out the App for rules.

The rules seem pretty standard except for #9 – CUSTOMER REFUNDS – If a customer requests a refund for an item purchased from a seller at this event, Seller may be required to give customer a full cash refund, at the sole discretion of Americana.  Looks like the Meet has been sued by some unhappy customers.  Welcome to LA, where people sue if not 100% satisfied.

Check out their TV commercial.

Oceanside Swap Meet

This is a huge swap meet just South of the OC boarder.  You will find a lot of customers are from the near by Marine base, and they also draw customers from the large number of Hispanic residents in South Orange County.  The nice thing about this meet is that you can rent storage containers (Old shipping containers with locks on them) for $220/month.  This saves you a lot of time hauling your display equipment and inventory around.  They also have the lowest rents.  You can get a month of Sundays for only $140.00 and a month of Saturdays for only $45.  They also do TV advertising to bring customers in, and have live music, have car shows, and special guests like Santa.  TV Commercial on YouTube.

Swap Meet website in the OC best viewed in Internet Explorer.


Santa Fe Springs Swap Meet

(Near valley view and the 5.) ( )

This is more of a permanent setup They are open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday Evenings in addition to the morning hours on Saturday and Sunday.  One anonymous internet reviewer pretty much summed up the vibe ((This is a great place for both buying and entertainment. You can get drunk listen to music and shop at the same time.))  That said there are a lot of other people who enjoy going to this meet to see the pitch men and large variety of new products but shopper reviews were mixed.  And recently management has been promoting the Meet by having special events such as a Craft Beer Fest, autograph signing by celebs like professional wrestlers, and shows by local bands–mostly Rock & Salsa .  Promotions try to bring in both English Speaking shoppers and Spanish Speaking residents.

Their fees are the most reasonable for vendors and it looks like they have the least hassle over licenses, insurance, ….  I haven’t been there in years so I cannot make a recommendation.  Let us know if you have had a good experience selling at this location.

ACP Computer and Electronic Swap Meet in Santa Ana

This Swapmeet has been going on for a long time.  It is focused on Computers, computer equipment, and electronics.  It’s located on Edigner and Grand in Santa Ana and takes place ton the last Sunday of every other odd numbered month.  The crowds might not be huge, this meet is attended by those in the know because they can save a lot of money on equipment that works great but is not the newest.  It’s also the place to find that cable or part an old system needs.  They limit exhibitors to selling used computer/electronic equipment. They organize the same sort of the thing the last Sunday of every month at TRW in Manhattan Beach.


Indoor and Permanent Swap Meets

The Swap Mall concept may be new to a lot of you.  Basically it’s the same type of vendors that you would find at a swapmeet; but they are indoors and usually open every day of the week.  This concept is popular in the mainly hispanic area of the county known as Santa Mesa–Santa Ana and Costa Mesa.  Recent immigrants are used to dealing directly with the store owner and not paying the asking price.  If they pay the regular price, they feel they are getting ripped off.  This is the way it works in most of the world that does not have shopping malls or access to  Swap Malls have more expensive items than typical at swap meets such as new TV’s, Furniture, and expensive Jewelry.  Swap Malls also attract customers that need to feel they got a bargain.  Swap Malls are near a bit more affluent areas, such as the one in Stanton, and focus more on urban bargain hunters.  So if you are a vendor, prepare to haggle.  For vendors the advantages are that you can do business every day of the week, you have access to power, permitting with the city is easier than if you rented retail space, you don’t have to get up at 4:00 am to set up, and lease terms are short term.  Disadvantages are that there may be few customers during weekdays, some lock you into monthly rental agreements and may not allow people to just try it out for a couple of weekends.  An additional advantage of a Swap Mall is that you can build up experience running a retail store without paying as much as you would in traditional retail space.  


Anaheim MarketPlace Swap Meet  This meet allows for weekend and long term rentals.  You can also rent kiosk carts and sell food.  The venue is promoted on-line and on paid TV.  The theme of their advertising is that customers can get a big bargain.  They even have a shuttle van from Disneyland.  They have a lot of special events to get people into the markets See Video

Bristol Swapp Mall in Santa Ana/Costa Mesa Area  This a large indoor store that has been turned into a permanent swap meet.  They have 45 spaces they rent.  Vendors cater to the county’s large first generation Hispanic community.  It’s in Santa Ana and minutes away from Costa Mesa.  Both cities have are predominantly Hispanic.  They also have bands to attract shoppers.   Rental costs were not available on their website.


Stanton Indoor Swapmeet


The Indoor Swapmeet of Stanton bills itself as “more of a boutique marketplace than a traditional swap meet.  As such, we pride ourselves in providing unique businesses and services for our customers in an atmosphere where they can feel at home.” The idea is that it is more of a mall for vendors who are just starting out and not ready to deal with the high rents and commitments involved in signing a lease at a traditional mall.  That said, many vendors have been successful there for a long time.  An additional benefit is that you will not have to go through the occupancy permitting process with the city.  The manager helps people start new businesses, and many of the startups transition to a shopping center after they have gained valuable operational experience.  They have been helping people get a started with their own businesses for more than 20 years.  Stanton’s Indoor Swapmeet is located on busy Beach Blvd.   Spaces vary in size from 8′ by 12′ (about 100 sq ft), and rent starts at $450 for a four week term.  Rent is $600/ four week term for three spaces (about 300sq.ft.).  For more information contact David Anderson

We couldn’t find any good videos taken on this site, but this video shows you the meet.  Maybe you could think of it as a mall with a swap meet theme.

Community College Parking Lot Meets

Golden West College Swapmeet

in Huntington Beach. ( ) This meet is usually packed on Saturdays and Sundays between 8:00am and 3:00.  It kind-f tails off in the afternoon and many vendors sneak out around 1:30.   They run out of parking, and the shopping center across the street has had to put up NO SWAP MEET PARKING signs, so you know there is a lot of people.  Spaces go for about $45/day and are about 9 feet by 18 feet (162 sq feet)  Venders can rent up to four spaces.  That comes to about 650 sq ft—about the size of a one bedroom apartment.  If you can get it, they offer two of the coveted corner spaces for $100.00—definitely worth the extra $10.

You don’t need a city of Huntington Beach License until your 9th day of selling, and after your second day of selling, you will need a Seller’s permit from the State Board of Equalization.  In other words, if you just want to try it out, you can sell a couple of times without getting any permits.  See the government compliance section of the website for more information.

It is best to buy spaces in advance from the swap meet office.  There is a $5 discount for reserving early.  The office is located at Community Center Room 104. and they are open during academic business hours.    If you want to rent on the day of the event, go early to humanities building room 123.  The doors open at 7:00 am.  If they are sold out, you can try to get in on a stand-by basis.  You need to be there early on the day of the meet.  See their website for more info.


Cypress Community College SwapMeet

They require a Seller’s Permit with the meet address on it from the State Board of Equalization.  They also require you have a valid car insurance policy and a valid drivers license.  The average space fee is $45 on Saturday and $60 on Sunday.  To get a space, you need to be available 10:30AM on Friday (your out of luck if you have a job) at their office in the parking lot for a drawing, or show up early in the morning.  The same day spaces are allocated on a first-come basis.

Bargain oriented shoppers like this meet because it’s not as crowded as other meets.  There are a lot of vendors.  And there is no charge for parking or customer admission.

We found this video which is like a infomercial for the meet, and this other video which shows the relaxed vibe of the meet.

Orange Coast College Swap Meet

This is bigger than you would expect—especially since it is across the street from the county’s biggest swap meet.  You will find more used stuff being sold here than at the OCMarketplace.  The customers at this meet tend to be first/second generation Hispanic and this swap-meet fills this niche that is apparently not being met by the OCMarketplace across the street.  This is a good opportunity of you are selling a product that appeals to the Hispanic culture.  An OC Weekly review was a bit critical,  but this CSUF news report puts a different spin on the Ethnic Vibe.

The cost is $35 for Saturday and $40 per Sunday if you reserve ahead of time.  You can go there early in the morning and try to get a space.  Day of event pricing is $40 and $50 for Saturday and Sunday respectively.

The meet is run by the school, and they seem to be happy with what they have going on.  We contacted them by phone, and they do not have any internet site or e-mail.  If you want to reserve a space, you need to go there in person during academic business hours.  Call before you go to make sure they are in.  You meed to have a valid drivers licence from an US state.  They do not take foreign ID’s including those issued by the Mexican Consulate.

They did not say they checked for re-sale permits or city business permits.

There is not restrictions on what can be sold.  They are non-judgmental and rent to anyone who wants a space.  So there might be a lot of similar items being sold.  The only no-sales are weapons and things that they feel might be counterfeit (including replica items)  like DVD’s or handbags.

You need to call (714) 432-5880 during college business hours and dial 1 to talk to a lady in the administration department.   If you try to e-mail the college, your e-mail will just be deleted.

Irvine  Grooves Antique Market at the OC Great Park

(formerly held at Irvine Valley College)  According to their website, this event is held the first sunday of Every Month at the Great Park in Irvine info (949) 786-5277.  They accept arts and crafts vendors.  They do not have any vendor info posted, but when we contacted them a few years back they made it clear that they wanted only quality type of stuff and not junk that would appeal to Irvine shoppers and not “swap meet people.”  We found this video of what is referred to as the flea market but we think it’s the Antique market [video]  This was awarded the “Best flea Market in Orange County” by CBS Los Angeles [link]

Surf’s Up–Stall Location Try to avoid being in the middle of some long aisle.  The best locations are near places people can remember like an Exit or by the bathroom.  Being along the end of an aisle is also helpful.  In large meets, some people argue that it’s best to be near the entrance.  The logic is that people will have spent all their money before they get to the middle.  If you have never sold at a swap meet before there is an etiquette   Shoppers will say I’ll come back and buy that on my way out.  That’s just a way for them to be polite.  It sounds better than I don’t want to buy it.  Don’t get discouraged if only 10% of the I’ll-be-bakers actually come back.


What to sell at Swapmeets

There are three categories of things you can sell: New Stuff, Artisan Stuff, and Used Stuff.  (See our section on Artisan.)

New Stuff to sell at Swapmeets

One way to find interesting things to sell is to just do a search for “pallets of” on e-bay.  These are offered by businesses that just don’t know what to do with unwanted inventory.  So they just advertise a pallet of whatever to move out the door.  Their problem could be your swap meet inventory.    You will have to sort through a lot of stuff, but you will find bargains.  Another good search term is Wholesale lots and a word like tools or toys.

Another website to find stuff on is According to Nightline, they have a contract to take returned stuff from “7 of the top 10  major retailers.”  It looks like most of the stuff has been returned.  And manufacturers also dump stuff they cannot sell on them.   (Nightline story about them from 2012)  The story says that the typical discount is 40% off.  Off of what we are not sure–wholesale prices,  full retail prices, or the sale prices shoppers typically pay.   Who pays the full retail price anymore?  There seems to be a big sale every weekend at the major retail outlets.

Another site we found takes care of retail store’s inventory problems.  B-Stock Supply  Basically, it’s returned stuff and stuff that would not sale at reasonable prices.  So why not just lower the prices and sell the unwanted inventory to customers?  Well, some stores have an image to uphold.  They don’t want their shoppers to come in one day and feel like they are at K-Mart.  Another reason is that it costs them a lot of money to hold inventory and move it around.  So they just liquidate it.  They also seem to run Sam’s Club excess inventory site

O.Biz  This is the B-2-B site of  Click on the wholesale tab.  But be careful, just because you are buying in bulk doesn’t mean you can make a profit.  When we looked, some of the stuff seemed like a value, but some wholesale for about what you would expect to pay retail.  And they had a lot of Made in USA products, if you think your customers will appreciate that.

There is also a directory of wholesalers who sell to swapmeeters and retail stores This seems to be an open directory, so you will have to search around a bit.  Yes, if you ever wondered where people get the “replica” handbags or sunglasses they can sell for $5, you can find the suppliers by combing through this website.

Surf’s Up A lot of meets are cracking down on the sale of Replica products.  Replica is the industry term for almost violating someone’s copyright by making the product look almost like the real thing.  For instance Mike shoes, Nicky Mouse and Darnald Duck toys…  They used to be very common.  (True story, the first time I met someone with and actual Gucci hand bag, I said to her, “it looks like we both like shopping at the swap meet.  Turned out not to be a good way to introduce myself, but I thought they were just swap meet hand bags and did not realize they were copies.)

Wholesale District Los Angeles A good place to get product used to be in what is referred to as the wholesale district.  Other people call it the Skid Row area.  Some wholesalers have moved away, they are still around the same area.  See our page on buying wholesale–LA’s Wholesale district and beyond.  

Pre-Owned Stuff to sell at Swapmeets

Storage Unit Auctions Well, thanks to the TV show the secret is out.  So you can expect more bidders than in the past.  You have to be okay with coming home with out buying a unit—otherwise you will overpay.
The best way to find these things is still in the Public Notice Section of the Orange County Register.  They have to publish these notices before stuff can legally be sold off.  But if you have been watching the show for a while, don’t quit your day job just yet.  According topapers filed by Dave Hester, “almost every aspect of the show is fake.” Producers plant items in storage lockers for participants to find.  –So you might not want to base your expectations on the TV show, its harder to make money on these things than it looks.  We don’t know why he would say such tings in his suite unless they were truc, but a spokesperson for the network explained that it was a “garden-variety breach-of-contract claim into a tabloid-worthy drama” linkRead more:

Estate Auctions The Orange County Public Administrator sells off the estates of people who have passed, but did not have a will, had no people to inherit their stuff, or had relatives who did not want to deal with their affairs.  Usually it is stuff found in a home or business location, and it must be of some value otherwise it would have been trashed-out.  Unlike many “estate sales” you see advertised, this is the real thing–not a glorified garage sale.  Stuff goes to the highest bidder, and you submit sealed bids.  In some auctions, stuff goes unsold–which means you could have bought it for a dollar.  Click here to see the county’s website  It looks like they don’t update the webpage that often, so you may have to call in for up to date information (714) 567 – 7509.  They distribute an e-mail list of stuff that will be auctioned.  Sign up for e-mail info on auctions.

Lost and Stolen Stuff Check out bulk lots available at the website   This is how police departments get rid of the stuff that’s never claimed.  They offer good deals on bulk lots; and if you know what you are looking for you can pick up bikes, laptops, computers …  The name brand stuff is sold individually and prices can be up there with e-bay.  But not as many people are watching this site so some bargains could slip through.  And we saw lots of 20 bikes, and forty computers that with a little work could be sold at a nice profit.

Unwanted Stuff owned by Public Agencies and Cities.  Public Surplus auctions off all of those unwanted items that cuties, public agencies, and public universities don’t know what to do with–and they seem to buy a lot of stuff that they did not need.  When we looked we noticed several items tagged as “never used.”  These used to go to people who had a friend at the agency, but now in the age of the internet, everyone has a chance to buy these bargains.  The best deals seem to be on office stuff but they also have a lot sporting goods, Street Signs, older computers …  The only problem with the site is that stuff is categorized by area, and California is considered one area.  And for reasons unknown, a lot of these public agencies insist on customer pickup.  (Unlike e-bay or Amazon you cannot pay for shipping.  If you could, prices might be a bit higher as people could buy stuff out of their driving range.)  But there is a huge variety of things.  We saw everything from a $1.75 blue office chair to a $11,000 used police motorcycle.  So you may find a bargain if you are willing to search the site.

General Auctions in Buena Park This auction house has big monthly auction events where people can bid on pallets of items.  They get them from a lot of public agencies.  When we looked they had a lot of bikes, electronic goods, computer equipment, video games, tools, clothing, appliances …  You can also bid on-line and via proxi bids. (note their website was having issues)

South Coast Auctions in Santa Ana  They have different stuff coming in, every month.  They seem to get stuff from businesses that have gone under and need to get rid of their inventory, and from landlords who end up with stuff after the lock-out.  And they take consignments for people who just need to get rid of stuff and are not into garage sales.  You need to  be ready to bid because they sell stuff off fast.  They take cash and credit cards.

Dumpster Diving Just for the sake of being complete, it’s an open secret that a lot of the stuff at swap meets comes from trash.  People say the best place to dumpster dive is in upper income apartments.  The city of Newport Beach has recently outlawed this, and it is illegal in several other cities.

Handmaid Goods to sell at Swapmeets

Artisan Goods.  The swap meets like this type of stuff, and when space is limited you may get to move up in the que ahead of the guys new stuff.  You also can go to art fairs sponsored by cities.  See the section on becoming an artisan for more info.


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