Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Flea Markets

If you don’t visit the local flea markets – or whatever, similar places you have in your part of the world – why not start? You really have no idea of what you’re going to find at these places, and the prices are usually good. If you know something about what you’re buying (like how much that thing’s actually worth), you can walk out of there with all sorts of great, useful things for a fraction of what they’ll cost you at Walmart, the sporting-goods store, et cetera.

Mom and I visited the flea market over the weekend. We hadn’t been in a few months, so we decided to drop in – the weather being decent and all – to have a look around.

You have to look closely to see some things: otherwise, you might miss something that could be very useful. I have zero interest in car racing of any sort, for example, but I took a look at the NASCAR-gear stall anyway. Why? Because not many flea-market vendors specialize in just one thing. Even if they’re really pushing a type of thing that I couldn’t care less about, they might also have something interesting in the back of the stall.

The guy had a ton of racing-related items all over the place, including the walkway in front of his stall. A very-small sign on his door, however, informed the public that he’s in possession of old coins, including wheat pennies, silver half dollars, et cetera. This is good to know for future reference, because the flea market is only about fifteen minutes away from my house – and we don’t have any actual coin dealers in any shops around here.

While we were there, we stopped by the book store. A retired gentleman has had that stall for years, selling nothing but used books. Mom and I really like giving him our business because he charges less than Half Price Books does for the same titles in the same condition. Also, he’s trying to earn money to care for his chronically-sick wife, without ripping off anyone, so I’m happy to help. His selection is limited mostly to fiction, in paperback form of course, but there are some other gems hidden on his shelves.

During this last trip through his store, I found a copy of “Stocking Up” – an old, 1970s-era hardback from the people who edited “Organic Gardening and Farming.” The seller doesn’t like hardbacks, mostly because they take up so much room in his small space, so he’s currently selling them all for fifty cents each.

The two quarters that Mom spent on this title were well worth it, I think, because the book gives good information, with photos, about your food. You can learn how to wrap meat for the freezer; when to harvest your vegetables; how to build a root cellar or similar structure; et cetera. If you stumble across a copy, I’d pick it up if I were you, especially if you can get it for a few cents. The information in this title is all available, for free, on the Internet, but that would require me to spend more than half a buck on printer paper and toner, along with the protective sheets and ring binder that I use to preserve the printouts.

We were actually at the flea market in search of a stove because our old one is dead – really, truly dead. Most of the time, Mom or one of my brothers can fix the appliances around here when they go down, but this stove has had it. We aren’t going to buy a brand-new one, for various reasons (including the cost), but a used one from the flea market is fine by us. The vendor who sold us the washing machine a few months ago has a few stoves for sale, and his thirty-day guarantee applies to them, just like it did the washer. I’d give him my business again without any hesitation because we’re all happy with that machine.

However, there’s also a lot of total crap at flea markets. I paused to check out an octagon-shaped dining table because I wouldn’t mind finding an inexpensive, but decent, one and felting it myself (poker table). The table had hollow, metal legs; the whole thing was visibly leaning to one side; and the top was made of pressboard. This sucker was well used, too, with lots of dings and dents – no good if you’re trying to add felt. The seller wanted $75 for it: not in this lifetime, and probably not in the next one, either. If I want Walmart furniture, I’ll go to Walmart.

There was also the usual assortment of decent-looking clothes; overpriced sports memorabilia that might or might not be authentic; and slowly-eroding VHS tapes. Flea markets can be a lot of fun if you know something about what you’re going to buy, and if you don’t mind the fact that you’re going to find trash and treasure in the same stall (or, in some cases, the same bin).

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“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
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