Lovers of the old and unusual — vintage furniture, jewelry, glass, clocks, rare books, tools, coins, stoneware, knickknacks, novelty items and more — are in luck when it comes to finding, collecting and restoring antique items in Texas, since the Lone Star State is filled with shops, stores, malls and markets offering a wide assortment of hidden treasures from days gone by.

One of the prime spots for bargain hunters and curio chasers is located about an hour’s drive southeast of Dallas at the city of Canton’s First Monday Trade Days, known as “the world’s largest and oldest continually operating flea market” in the country.

Twelve times a year, this 450-acre market is open one weekend a month and attracts as many as 6,000 vendors vying for business from 100,000 shoppers from all across the state, as well as places like Louisiana and Oklahoma.

First Monday Trade Days runs year-round for four days from Thursday through Sunday prior to the first Monday of each month. The next sale on the calendar is Feb 2-5.

Dating back to the mid-1800s, Trade Days began with residents from all over Van Zandt County traveling to Canton, the county seat, to watch court proceedings and take care of various items of business. Many brought goods to sell or trade, and Canton earned a statewide reputation as a prime place to buy a good horse.

In the 1940s, trading hogs and dogs became more popular, and First Monday became the go-to place to find a good hunting dog. Residents then started to call First Monday “Dog Monday.” By 1965, First Monday Trade Day had outgrown the Courthouse square, and the city bought six acres of land two blocks north of the Courthouse as the new location of the monthly sale.

Navigating First Monday Trade Days can be a daunting task for newcomers, so officials provide a list of helpful hints for the uninitiated:

Crowds are the smallest on Thursdays.

Wear comfortable walking shoes. Flip-flops and dress shoes are not recommended.

Due to crowds, your cell phones might not work at First Monday. Please have a meeting place to meet your party. We are not allowed to page except for lost children or medical emergencies.

Be prepared for changing temperatures by layering comfortable clothing.

Wear sunscreen and reapply frequently.

Non-aggressive dogs are permitted in the Original First Monday Park, but they must be kept on a leash and owners must clean up after them.

The “original main grounds” (owned by the city of Canton) are located on the west side of Highway 19, also known as Trade Days Boulevard. These contain Trade Centers I-IV, Dry Creek Landing, the Canton Civic Center and outdoor lots.

Adjacent to the original ground is the Lewis First Monday Arbors, Original Trade Days Pavilions I, II, III, and Pavilions 4000, 4500, 6000 and 6500.

Indoor, air-conditioned shopping can be found at the Canton Marketplace on Highway 19, north of the original grounds, and at the Canton Civic Center.

The Old Mill Marketplace pavilions, the Village and the Mountain are located on Highway 64 just east of downtown. Across the highway is Dog Alley.

Normal operating hours are “sun-up ’til sundown,” but some vendors may open and close at different times.

Parking in most areas is $5 a day; have cash available to pay.

Closer to home, the Bell County Flea Market along Highway 190 at George Wilson Road (200 booths on 14 acres; 15 miles east of Killeen) is open 8 am to 5 pm Saturdays and Sundays.

John Clark is a longtime contributor to the Fort Hood Herald and a former teacher with the Copperas Cove Independent School District.