AT Inbox: What was your favorite flea market find?

The question posed: What was your favorite flea market find? Was it something of monetary value or of special nostalgic value?


About 6 months ago, while cruising the garage sale trail in Naples, Florida, I came across a pocket watch in a box of misc junk, without a face crystal. When I asked the seller, how much, she said, 50 cents. I bought it on the spot and carefully put it in the car as I could tell this was a real watch, not just some dollar watch.

A few months later, my wife was crusing eBay and saw a watch similar to ours, a Ball Railroad watch that already had bidders up to over $300. We put ours on eBay and 10 days later, sold it for over $450. Not too bad for a 50 cent investment.

Jim Logie
Naples, Fla.

Dear Robyn,

I am a garage sale junkie I admit it freely. I love to get in the car on Saturday morning and go hunting. My children even bought me a license plate holder that read, “Garage Sale Attack Vehicle,” that my car displayed with pride.

My goal would be to spend less than $20 on these trips, as we were on a very tight budget while the kids were growing up.

I bought vintage and antique furniture, costume jewelry, rare books, kitchenallia, tin toys, Depression glass, pottery. In general anything that caught my fancy, or could be used around the house. It was fun, and the children would come along to see what they could find. As they grew older, less of “traveling with mom,” gave way to time with their friends.

Within a two-week span of time, in the summer of 2001, I was out shopping along my favorite route, and spotted an unlikely garage sale. I would say it was a junk sale, but pickings had been slight, so I decided to stop. There in a pile of old clothes was a clock. I asked how much and the answer was $10. With a pounding heart I bought it. The clock turned out to be a French barrel clock, from about 1880, pinkish marble, gold ormolu mounts and trim, Sun King pendulum. It was not working, so I took it in, and now it sits proudly in my dining area.

The next weekend, another buying expedition, and I spotted a small box of cufflinks, which I love, and asked how much. Ten cents, was the price for the entire box. When I got home I was going thru the contents and found an 18k apple jade ring, with dragons on the sides. I went back to the sale, and asked if it was meant to go. Yes, was the immediate response. So the ring was mine, it fit, and I still enjoy its beauty today.

I still enjoy the hunt, and have found many great buys over time. I also hunt at antique malls, the Rose Bowl Flea Market, and auction houses.

Margaret Caffey


Better than any object I’ve ever bought at a garage sale was our Bull Mastiff, Bess.    

We bought her at 13 months old, completely trained, from a couple who were having a sale because they were moving out of state for a job change  and couldn’t keep her. She was a joy until the day she died.

Karen Anderson


You asked for readers to send in their special finds.  Here was my “Roadshow Find”:

I didn’t think that I’d ever have one of those homerun finds where you paid a couple bucks at a garage sale and found that it was worth many times more than what you paid for it, but it happened on my birthday last week.

The 1870 Lithograph pictured was something I picked up at a local antique store due to the local significance. It depicts a scene from 19th century Philadelphia of people engaging in a neighborhood horse and carriage race, tearing through the streets. The building shown is Turner’s hotel and each of the horses are identified by name in print at the bottom. The humorous part is that the horses are named but the original artist isn’t.

It turns out this Lithograph can sell for 40-80 times the $39 that I paid for it, depending on the venue, and most probably would best be in Philadelphia. … and the little antique shop that sold me this has many more antique prints … I think I need to go back. You can see a pristine version of this print in the Harry T. Peters collection in the Smithsonian.

John Werry


My favorite find was a small blue bowl that kept calling to me to buy it at a local flea market. I passed it up over and over but it kept catching my eye. I thought about how I really dislike blue rooms and decorations. Why is this bowl bothering me this much? So, I finally inquired about it. The people didn’t know much about it. I talked them into selling it to me at a $2 discount since I wasn’t crazy about blue.

It turned out to be a small Marblehead pottery bowl with the original paper label still attached. It had a book value at the time of $325! Since then I pay attention to things that seem to call out and catch my eye, even if I don’t like them.

Jan |frisk_544
posted to the AT blog

A few weeks ago, the question was asked: Do you have a cherished heirloom, perhaps handed down through several generations? Does it have an interesting history that you can share when you pass it on to the next generation?

Yes, I have quite a few cherished family heirlooms. For instance one is a statue of the Virgin Mary holding Baby Jesus. It has been in our family since the early 1950s.

Rachael Martinez


I have a chest of drawers which I inherited from my husband and his mother’s side of the family. It has always been called “Grandma’s Drawers” in the family because it has passed from one grandmother to another, even when the receiver was the child of the previous owner.

This chest was constructed in the 1700s, so my restorer tells me. The bottoms of the drawers are hand-hewn, and the top of the chest is two boards wide, all cherry. One of the grandmothers destroyed the true antiquity of the piece, however; she was quite short, a couple of inches under 5 feet tall, and thus she could not reach the back edge of the top of the chest when she was trying to dust it – so she cut the legs down to a height where she could dust with ease. It was a well-done job and unless you are totally familiar with the style and period of this particular piece you might not notice that it is shorter than it should be. 

Due to some damage that was done to the front of a drawer I had to have a professional restoration job done, and it is superb. I had no qualms about having the piece “restored” since Grandma “Shorty” had already altered it.

We have a brass plaque inside one drawer with the names and DOB/DOD of each grandma that has owned the piece.

I am the 7th generation to have this piece, and until me it went from mother to daughter, but my husband was an only child and he insisted the piece was “mine” as opposed to “his” since I was the “Grandma.”

Sunni Bond Winkler
Vienna, Va.