Sep 18, 2014

Flea Markets: The Times They Are a-Changin'

“Where are all the antique dealers?” I wondered as I wandered through the roughly one-square-mile of dealer booths at the annual Hillsville (Virginia) Labor Day Flea Market and Gun Show. The show, in its 47th year, has morphed over the decades from a local VFW-sponsored gun show and flea market to a national event that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
My first visit to the show was nine years ago, and I’ve attended every year since. In 2006, my opinion was that the show would attract bigger spenders if they would re-name it the Hillsville Labor Day Antique Market. I was wrong. Nine years ago, almost
Hillsville Labor Day Flea Market
This was a common sight at the Hillsville Labor Day Flea Market and Gun Show, in Hillsville, Va., as shoppers toted pull-carts brimming with purchases, albeit filled with fewer traditional antiques. (Photo courtesy Wayne Jordan)
every row of vendors had an antique dealer or two (or more). This year, antique dealers were spread thin and it wouldn’t have been much of a show if it was billed as an “Antique Market.” Gone were most of the antique machinery, phonographs, Victoriana and furniture. Instead shoppers would find mostly mid-century knick-knacks, pallet lots of various consumer goods and junkyard paraphernalia.
As my wife made a purchase, she commented to the vendor about the dearth of antiques at this year’s show. “What do you consider to be an antique?” asked the vendor in his distinctly Australian accent. I got “the look” from my wife so I jumped in with my opinion, which is always at the ready. I gave my usual spiel about the U.S. Customs 100-year standard and the regular re-defining of the word by some antique writers (thank you, Harry Rinker). The vendor disagreed with me, as did several neighboring vendors (none of whom sold antiques). It wasn’t long before a consensus was reached: No one really knew what defined an antique and no one really cared one way or another about a “correct” definition. Read More >>>

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