Over the weekend, I decided to grab a table at a local church flea market. It was $10 for an indoor table and I had a load of random items that I wanted to remove from my house, plus I didn’t mind trying to make a few bucks on a Saturday morning.
I like going to flea markets. It’s something that is a very unique experience from location to location. I enjoy bringing a box of old comics (1980s – 1990s) that I can’t unload efficiently online, and I usually bulk price them at 25 cents each, five for a dollar. Sure enough, a couple of kids each asked their mom for a dollar to pick out some books.
Seeing the look of awe as the two brothers sifted through the box was exciting. One brother, the younger one, was speed-shopping and grabbing books one at a time, then swapping them in and out. The older brother, not more than 9 or 10, was carefully working from the front to the back, and placing his copy of the Avengers or Spider-Man carefully on the table. Occasionally, he would stop and show a book of interest to his brother, and if it was chosen, he would place it in his own pile. It was great to see the care he took in making sure some of the “best” books made their way home whether it was in his stack or his siblings.
I did notice though during the day that some of the other young people who came up did not haggle on price. There were no counter offers to the prices I offered. I frequently said “I’m hoping to get X dollars” or some variation, but often kids would not try to negotiate. I had worked on every vendor when I was at the Pittsburgh Comicon, always starting with a “do you give a cash discount?” to open the door. At the flea market, either no one was that interested, or they didn’t think about it. I’m not sure if it’s some big social shift or just a skill that you learn as you get older, but I did find it interesting, to say the least.
These types of observations are the other part of the flea market fun. It’s also nice to see your neighbors, and you get a sense of the local economy. The seniors would take their lunch together, leaving their tables to sit and have dark burnt coffee and a hot dog or egg salad sandwich. I noticed at this point that I was the youngest person with a table, and maybe that’s part of the experience and transition of life, and again thought about the bartering (and lack of bartering). Are flea markets for the old, or are they a dying part of culture?
I thought about my comic collection, and how I was focussing mostly on 60s X-Men and 1940s Golden Age heroes, and the decline in popularity of physical comic books (despite box office successes), and thought either way, I’m a flea market guy now…