One Thousand Words… Maybe It’s Not All Junk

I’ve never been a flea market person.

One of my employees loves them. He goes to yards sales all the time and is always talking about his great finds… old instruments, cooking utensils, stereo equipment.

He’s thrilled with his purchases but it all sounds like junk to me.

A board member recently told me that he found a $500 crystal bowl at a yard sale for $.50. He was all smiles, telling me how the people had no idea how much it was worth until I said, “Didn’t you feel a little guilty?”

He said no, but he stopped smiling. I don’t think it had occurred to him to feel sorry for the people from whom he had purchased the bowl.

I didn’t mean to take the shine off his victory, it just didn’t seem fair.

I guess in the flea market world it’s the opposite of buyer beware. The sellers have to beware. And be knowledgeable of the value of the items they are selling.

This past weekend I passed a flea market on my way to a nursery. The area was small, probably the width of a highway median, and a dozen or so vendors stood under tents and in front of campers.

I don’t know why I stopped. Maybe I was just in the mood to look at junk. Or maybe it was such a nice day that I wanted any excuse to be outside.

No matter what the reason, I pulled into the parking lot and got out to see what the folks were selling.

There weren’t many people shopping, which I always hate because it makes me feel like I have to buy something from everyone just to make it worth their time.

The first table was full of homemade doodads so I avoided eye contact and walked on. It’s not they weren’t well made, I just don’t have any use for a whirligig or a cut out of a woman bending over to show her underpants.

Who puts those things in their yards, anyway?

The second table had some interesting stuff, kitchen things and dishes, but everything was hideously overpriced. There was one pretty blue ceramic bowl. I had no intention of buying it, but I liked the color so I picked it up to look more closely. It was tagged $30.

Now maybe this was a case of it being some rare, valuable bowl like the one my board member found and $30 was a deal. But it just looked like a regular old bowl to me and $30 is pretty expensive for a regular old bowl.

After a few more tables of DVDs, orange juicers and legos, I had only been tempted by an ancient looking tennis racquet.

And even that wasn’t a serious temptation. Ii just was an old piece of tennis history.

As I approached one of the last tables, the seller was having his lunch delivered by the guy who ran the food truck parked at the end of flea market.

He grinned at me as he took a bite. “Grilled cheese and turkey!” He raised half his sandwich to me in a toast.

After he swallowed he added, “He even delivered it!”

I could tell that I was going to like this guy.

My mother wandered off to check out a wooden statue of a giraffe that had caught her eye. She has a small herd of giraffes, not even enough to be called a collection. A couple of them I bought off one of those street vendors in Manhattan and brought home to her and a few she purchased herself.

This one was nice, and in good shape.

The old guy stopped eating long enough to tell her that he had just bought the giraffe at a yard sale for $10 and she could have it for $12.

I guess that’s what some of these people do, go to yard sales and buy things just to sell it the next day for a little bit more.

It sounds like a lot of work for a little profit to me.

While they were discussing what kind of wood the giraffe was carved from, I spotted a card table full of jewelry. A sign read “$1 each, everything on the table.”

There were a lot of earring and pins. I picked up a really cute pair of silver earrings and was trying to decide whether or not I would actually wear flea market earrings or not, but I saw a small bit of chain with an alligator clip at either end.

It was a cardigan sweater clip and I was pretty darned excited to find it.

Heather's New Sweater Clip

The idea behind a sweater clip is that it holds your cardigan in place when you wear it loose over your shoulders so it won’t fall off.

I don’t wear cardigans like that very often, but I do like to wear them open and think buttoning just the top button looks dumb.

And without some sort of closure, the sweater hangs off my shoulders.

Thus the sweater clip.

I also think they look kind of retro-hip.

I don’t know where I got the idea of the sweater clip. They were popular in the fifties and I’ve certainly never owned one. I had just wanted one for a long time.

This wasn’t a fancy sweater clip. Two silver bars connected by a small row of silver hearts. No gems or rhinestones. Just my style, really.

I never thought when I stopped at a tiny little flea market that I’d find the perfect sweater clip. Or that it would only cost a dollar.

I was so excited that I even bought the pair of earrings I had been considering. (I wore them the next day, after soaking them in rubbing alcohol for three hours.)

My mother and I were both grinning as we returned to my car, her with her giraffe and me with my sweater clip.

I guess I understand the appeal of flea markets now. At least a little bit.

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3 thoughts on “One Thousand Words… Maybe It’s Not All Junk

  1. I was excited when I saw the sweater clip. I haven’t seen one of those in decades.

    Close to us is, believe it or not, The World’s Longest Garage Sale. It takes place the first full weekend in August and now stretches from Michigan to Alabama mostly along Route 127.

    A few years ago my family went (we do every year) and found some wall hangings in Kentucky. We came home with three purchased for under $20.

    Two years ago, I got to go to The Antique Road Show. I was shocked to find out how much a painting we got was worth. (Adding two zeroes to what we paid isn’t enough!)

  2. I’m not a fan of flea markets or garage sales myself; I know people find good things (like your sweater clip — awesome!) but I just can’t be bothered to look through all of the junk to find that one treasure.
    My grandpa loved going to garage sales, that was his Saturday entertainment. For him it was all about the haggling. He bought a roll of twine once for a quarter, simply because he talked the seller down from fifty cents.

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