I’d expected to lean more heavily on yard sales this season, but after my success at the Englishtown flea market a few weeks ago, I wanted to know if lightning could strike twice.
For me, it’s just been about developing my eye. My intuition. If you spend enough time at flea markets, you’ll gain a sort of sixth sense. By sight alone, you’ll know which vendors are going to have reasonable prices. You’ll know which dingy boxes will be worth making your hands dirty. You’ll know when to haggle, simply based on how much desperation hides behind a particular seller’s eyes.
It’s fun. It’s sociology through buying garbage.
We went there yesterday morning, with Jay of The Sexy Armpit. Everyone went home with piles of stuff. In fact, I was only there for fifteen minutes before accumulating too much junk to reasonably carry, necessitating a mile-long walk back to the car.
Jay and I shared a mantra: If we were going to spend two hours digging through dirty things, we at least needed to make it post-worthy. When you’re done reading about my finds, go check out his — they should be posted in a day or two.
Transformers & So Forth!
Price: $2 for the whole pile!
SCORE. On a table otherwise topped with wicker baskets and nothing but wicker baskets, I spotted a small pile of Transformers, Gobots and other robot figures of a similar vein. I might’ve walked right past them, if not for the two vintage Insecticons.
I couldn’t believe the prices. “50 cents for the big ones, 25 cents for the small ones.” It’s a pretty historic occasion when you can buy an unbroken G1 Decepticon Kickback for 50 cents… in 2015.
I had a hard time comprehending what the seller construed as “big ones” and “small ones,” so I just offered two bucks for the whole pile. What a freakin’ deal.
Kickback (the grasshopper guy in the center) was the star of the lot, but the other Insecticon was still worth buying even in his shoddier condition. Also included were a couple of Gobots, and things that were close to Gobots, and then something that didn’t belong in that pile at all: Chrome Dome, a vintage TMNT figure.
Special shoutout to that generic slot machine robot. If you’re around my age, you definitely owned him… or at least one of his 50,000 similarly-styled cousins.
Alice Sweet Alice VHS!
Price: 25 cents!
I’m always looking for old horror videos at these things, though I’ll admit that my success rate has been spotty. (I’m not so great at adhering to the “early bird rule” with flea markets and yard sales, so by the time I’m lumbering over those dusty folding tables, other tape collectors have cleaned out the goods.)
Finding Alice Sweet Alice was a very lucky break. Half of Englishtown’s vendors have huge boxes of videotapes for sale, and with that sort of volume, nobody has time to go through them all. You kinda just have to judge if the particular box is sort-worthy based on what you see on the top layer. (Like, if all you spot are Sesame Street videos, it’s best to move on.)
Well, while waiting for my compatriots to catch up, I dove into what seemed like obvious “dud box,” simply because I had a minute to kill. Lo and behold, at the very bottom of box of tapes nobody could possibly want, there was Alice Sweet Alice!
This 1976 slasher film was Brooke Shields’s film debut, and it’s something of a cult classic. The video isn’t exactly common, either. On cover art alone, I would’ve paid twelve times as much for it. (And judging by that “$3” annoyingly scribbled across the box, it looks like I would’ve needed to at some point in the past.)
Endless Magnet Collection!
That keychain collection I found a few weeks ago taught me a lesson. If you’re after several things from one specific pile of things, it’s worth it to ask how much the seller wants for the whole lot.
Had I inquired about prices for individual magnets, I’m positive that the guy would’ve wanted a buck each. Instead, I got the entire collection for ten bucks. Wow!
No, seriously: “Wow.” Study closely, because these magnets are extremely old. Some of them represent products that don’t even exist, anymore! (Well, maybe they do exist, but not with those labels.)
There are over 40 magnets pictured above, but I left out at least another 20 that came with the lot. That’s a conservative estimate of 60 magnets. Which means that the magnets were roughly 17 cents a piece.
17 cents for a Peter Pan Peanut Butter magnet! 17 cents for Sun-Maid Raisins magnet! 17 cents for a magnet made from a sample-sized bottle of Tabasco! It’s like someone spray-painted my teeth and took me to Valhalla.
Micro Machines Super Van City!
I’ve been eyeing the Micro Machines Super Van City on eBay for more than a year now, so for a mere two bucks, I couldn’t turn this down.
It’s assuredly missing pieces and it’s in kinda ratty condition, but at least now I have firsthand knowledge on what it’s like to transform a footlong Winnebago into a sprawling metropolis. I can plainly see how the Super Van City could’ve been many kids’ favorite toy.
I’ll admit that I’m not sure if this one’s a keeper. Two bucks was worth the experience and the photos, but it’s big and it’s dirty, and it’ll take a crazy amount of Clorox Wipes to make it presentable for indoor audiences.
Even if I end up trashing or donating this, the two dollars was worth it. Now I can say “yeah, I played with the Micro Machines Super Van City” without lying.
Vintage Ninja Turtles Greeting Cards!
This was the first of Saturday’s purchases: A sealed pack of TMNT greeting cards from 1989! (Twelve in all, with just as many envelopes.)
At flea markets, sometimes you buy things not because you’re dying to own them, but simply because you can’t believe they’re available to buy. I can only guess at the zigzagged history of these Ninja Turtle greeting cards. My assumption is that they’ve crossed more state lines than I ever have, or will.
1987 Mattel Cool Shades Set!
Price: 33 cents!
As we were exploring Englishtown pretty late in the day, many vendors had resorted to “3 for $1” sales, deciding that it was better to make decreased profits than haul a bunch of wacky shit back home for another week.
I bought two random videos from one such vendor, leaving me with one more item to pick. Sorting through a box of infant toys, I came upon this amazing thing. I don’t know if many of you will remember Cool Shades, but it was an official Mattel line from 1987, sold in every major toy store chain.
The collection included cheap plastic sunglasses with a rotating assortment of mix-and-match rims. If you ever wanted one eye covered with french fries and the other covered with palm fronds, Cool Shades was made for you.
Snagging a sealed 1987 Cool Shades set for 33 cents still has me giddy, even a full day later.
Russ Troll & Skull Thing!
Price: $1 for both!
These items are essentially worthless, but it’s not like everything you buy from a flea market has to pass the eBay test. Sometimes you just grab things because they grab you, whether they’re busted homemade statues, soundtracks for movies you’re sure nobody has ever seen, or maybe t-shirts that manage to misspell the name of your home state.
I needed that Russ Troll because I had the exact same one as a kid. I didn’t even mind that he came with a haircut, because my intention is to burn his hair anyway… much as I did back in the 6th grade. (It’s not some sadistic act, mind you. Trolls just look cool with burnt rainbow pompadours.)
The springy skull head was another must-buy, more for the abstract notion that I needed to “save him” from a pile of baby rattles and used dog toys.
And yes, the guy manning that table gave me a curious look when I went up to him with one busted Troll and one springy skull head. I thank him for not asking questions, because I know he was dying to.
Total spent: A bit less than $17 for everything shown above. Even with an overpriced Flea Market Snapple– not to be confused with regular Snapples, which are generally five years younger — I survived the whole day on one single twenty dollar bill.
Now I just need soap. Lots and lots of soap.