About This Word

swap meet

or swapmeet or swap-meet

[swop meet]

What does swap meet mean?

A swap meet is a physical or virtual place where vendors sell or exchange goods, usually secondhand.

Related words:

  • flea market
  • CraigsList
  • eBay

See how it's used

swap meet

Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Where does swap meet come from?

The term swap meet appears to have been in use since at least the late 1940s and early 1950s, though the concept predates it. The Paramount Swap Meet claims to have started in 1955. Like their modern descendants, swap meets around this time were gatherings where people could trade or sell goods, usually secondhand and between parties with mutual interests. They had become so popular that much of the early documentation for swap meets concern laws introduced to regulate how they were run.

Though it was first used to refer to an engagement where any items could be sold, in the 1960s swap meets could also refer to similar engagements that dealt solely in car parts, with swap meets being popular among auto enthusiasts. At these meets, patrons could buy odds and ends for vehicles. This trend continues decades later, with the largest hosting over 9,000 vendor spaces.

It makes sense that swap meets would remain popular throughout the decades. Acquiring goods, especially rare or antique items, secondhand is considerably cheaper than paying full price. The rise of the internet, especially Facebook, has allowed for a greater number of swap meets as well, especially for niche interests, such as Japanese lolita fashion. Swap meets are also important in the sale of antique and vintage goods. Because items are usually sold secondhand, pieces that would otherwise be impossible to find new may be more easily found here. These aren’t the only kinds of items present at swap meets, however, as items can also be handmade, unusual collectibles, or eccentric items of yesterday, giving swap meets somewhat of a “garage sale” quality.

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Digital classifieds and e-commerce sites like Craigslist and eBay have pioneered a new frontier of virtual swap meets, making a whole new range of treasures available and connecting entire new communities of buyers and sellers across the globe.

Who uses swap meet?

There may be several swap meets present in a city or area at designated dates and public spaces (e.g., fairground parking lots). Many can even be virtual, allowing for the potential of more customers or vendors to participate. Swap meets may have a theme or they may be more general in purpose, like a flea market. For example, there could be somewhat regular swap meets for the greater Melbourne, FL area or there could be a swap meet exclusively for owners of Volkswagen Jetta cars.

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Swap meet can often be used interchangeably with flea market, as both involve selling secondhand goods. Like swap meets, flea markets consist of individual vendors or stalls, usually stationed outdoors. However, to some people, the difference between the two lies in the fact that some swap meets involve strictly swapping goods with no money involved, as opposed to flea markets, which usually deal exclusively in cash. Bartering and trading are permissible depending on the individual swap meet.

For example

Days like this remind me of waking up, going to McDonald’s and then going to the swap meet and target

@Uhh_For_Why, January, 2018

Only two things have really changed. For years, the swap meet was held on low, grassy fields that instantly became muddy bogs when it poured, as it often did.

Ken Gross, Car and Driver, October, 2015

The Roadium was originally a drive-in theater, but after those became less viable, it just organically became this swap meet. It’s open every day of the week.

David Weible, National Trust for Historic Preservation, November, 2015

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