There it was: a small black purse shining like a beacon, beckoning me to take it home. I hadn’t gotten close enough to examine it, but I didn’t care if it was vintage or of any value. I only knew that I loved its oval-like boxy shape and metal handle, and the funky vibe it was radiating. I wanted it.
Trouble was, there was another woman also eyeballin’ it and inching her way closer.
I didn’t want to be rude, but I knew I was not going to leave without that purse and I’m sure she was thinking the same thing. I wondered if she would fall for the old “What’s that over there?” trick, or, despite not wanting to be rude, I would have to still push her out of the way and grab it. Or, worse yet, if I would fall for a sob story and let her have it. Both of us just stood there coveting it, and I swear I could hear the classic showdown theme of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” playing in the background. It was about to be handbags at dawn over an actual handbag. (I, of course, would be Clint Eastwood.) Then I heard some little kid say, “Mom, can I get this car?” With her attention diverted, I snatched the purse and dashed off with my find, happy as a clam. After all, all is fair in love and flea marketing.
It’s no surprise that I and my fellow members of the antiques and collectibles team at Krause are big fans of flea markets and garage sales, yard sales, rummage sales, estate sales, thrift stores, auctions, dumpster diving, and anywhere else bargains and cool stuff can be found. We know many of you are feeling the same giddy anticipation we are that it’s the start of prime time for these sales. To kick things off, Toni Rahn and Karen Knapstein, illustrious editors of Antique Trader, have put together a special kit of the month, Ready! Set! Flea! You can get it for your first bargain of the season: retailing for $72.48, your price is only $25 – and you didn’t even have to haggle.
This kit has lots of great advice for antiquing and discovering treasures great and small and includes a digital subscription to Antique Trader magazine, a custom picker’s journal for keeping track of what you’ve already found and writing wish lists of things you hope to find, and three books I coincidentally worked on: The Picker’s Bible, Antique Trader Guide to Fakes & Reproductions, and Fantastic Finds.
In The Picker’s Bible, ace picker and collector Joe Willard helps you unleash your inner picker and become a mix of pirate and Indiana Jones. Joe shares his philosophy of picking and secrets for such things as improving antiquing skills and where to find hidden treasures for the best prices, explains the finesse of price negotiation, covers the ethics of buying and selling, and the benefits and drawbacks of picking. Joe’s book is a quick read, but you’ll learn a lot, whether you already have picking skills or would like to acquire and hone them.
The world is unfortunately full of unscrupulous people and the antiques and collectibles business is no exception. In Fakes & Reproductions, Mark Chervenka, noted expert on antique fakes and reproductions, teaches you how to tell the difference between authentic items and forgeries, so you don’t end up making costly investment mistakes. Mark covers the biggest categories of antiques and collectibles where fakes are most prevalent: black memorabilia, china and porcelain, the Civil War, Coca-Cola fantasies, cookie jars, folk art, furniture, glass, Halloween items, jewelry, marbles, pottery, silver and toys. The book includes 800 detailed color photos, and fake items are put side by side with the genuine article for quick and easy identification. Arm yourself with this knowledge and don’t let the scammers win.
There is nothing more exciting to collector geeks than finding a big score at a flea market or even something of more sentimental value at a junk shop. In 2009, Antique Trader magazine launched a Favorite Finds contest, asking readers to share stories and photos of prized items they’ve found over the years and the response is still overwhelming. Favorite Finds is a collection of stories of discovered treasures of comic books, jewelry, furniture, glass, paintings, pottery and even a cookie recipe. Some of these finds have yielded big rewards, like the sapphire necklace that was bought at auction for $700 and appraised at $38, 500, and a flatware set that was purchased for $15 at a yard sale and sold for $600. Others are more sentimental tales of items that turn out to be priceless, like the photos returned to a composer’s family in Connecticut after they were found in Florida. Big or small, prized or priceless, the stories in this book are a lot of fun to read and will get you itchin’ to go on your own hunts.
About that black purse: Years after I scored it that day for $5, I took it to a party and an antiques dealer offered me $100 for it on the spot, but I declined. It’s stuck with me for life. I hope you all find a special treasure this season that you’ll feel the same way about.