Monday, May 14, 2012

Post Card from the Flea Market

I had a few things left to share with blog readers from the flea market, along with wrap up. Today I'm going to send you a little postcard from the market, details about how I rated it and where it is.  I will also share a couple of actual postcards I bought that day from a sweet, smart, elderly man in a plaid shirt and feed cap, who had his post card collection meticulously organized in photo albums by date and category. Wow!

Because of this gentleman's flair for tidy display, I almost walked right to this unmailed postcard from the 1939 New York World's Fair, above, which depicts the Elgin Watch Building. The New York World's Fair, its impact on Mid-century culture and its memorabilia are one of my new pet hobbies, because it is the same year my house was built. The fair was the first with a theme of the future, "Welcome to the World of Tomorrow," a concept I find both forward looking and poignant, considering that the shadows of World War II were already upon Europe as the exhibits began to open. In fact, one of the best "interesting facts" about the fair has to do with WWII. Britain loaned Lincoln Cathedral's copy of the Magna Carta to the fair exhibits, and then found itself at war with Germany shortly after. It was decided the precious document was safer in America. It remained after the fair, guarded at Fort Knox and keeping company with the original copy of the U.S. Constitution, until it was delivered back to Britain in 1947.

I also picked up this one, which is a postcard from the 1933 Chicago Exposition, "A Century of Progress,"

I'm a bit amused with myself for this purchase, because technically it was a mistake; a goof. At least it was only a $3 goof. When I was at the market I thought it was another 1939 New York World's Fair postcard, and I was so tired, sun-baked, and confused by what I was reading that I didn't recall my history. The postcard didn't indicate the location, though the lakefront locale of the building should have been a big hint, and so it came home with me. Still, I'm not sorry I bought it. I love the clear, bright colors used during the 1930s, and the decade has always fascinated me design-wise. It's a keeper!

For those of you who have been asking, the flea market is held in a small town with an unusual name. The market is held three times a year (May, August, and October) in What Cheer, Iowa, pop. 678, at the Keokuk County Fair Grounds. Admission is $1. To give you a rough idea of location, What Cheer is located off U.S. Interstate 80 roughly midway between Des Moines and Iowa City.

I admit I haven't done a lot of flea markets, and I intend to change that! Nevertheless, I know it means I don't have a good point of comparison to review this one. That said:

1. This flea market had a lot of antique dealers. This meant the quality of items overall was high, but it also meant you were not going to score deals of a lifetime. Most flea market dealers know their stuff, and know how much it's worth. Even so, it's worth haggling. My sister's bargaining for a Westmoreland milk glass bird ended in a very fair price, better than an antique mall, even if it wasn't a "steal."

2. There's a lot of garage sale crap at this flea market. Granted, if you're going for used farm/lawn equipment, outgrown children's clothing, and second-hand household goods, that's a good thing. AND those nasty estate sale boxes I mentioned in a previous post were worth digging through, so it's best not to turn your nose up at these options. You just have to be prepared to sift through a lot of junk and a lot of crap. Sometimes literally. (I'm still shuddering at all the rat poop in those estate box lots.)

3. This is small town Midwest, which was never a mecca for cutting edge Mid-century design. You'll find housewares, linens, small kitschy items and even some good vintage clothing. But if you're looking for an amoeba shaped coffee table on hairpin legs, Heywood Wakefield dressers and the like, you'll look in vain. The people here lived modest farming lives and had traditional tastes. People who favor country rustic or 19th Century antiques will fare far better in the furniture department at this flea market.

4. There was too much to do. That same day was a quilt show and sale and church lunch in Deep River, a little community northwest of What Cheer, and there were other sales and activities going on downtown. Even if we'd showed up at the market start, 7 a.m., we wouldn't have made it to everything. We didn't even cover the whole fairground. It was enormous!

5. Come prepared for almost anything. I'm probably just using this as a platform to whine about my very foolishly earned sunburn, but still. The day started rainy and overcast, ended up 85 degrees F. and sunny. Early rains soaked the fairgrounds and foot traffic churned everything up into a giant mud pit. During the course of the entire day I could have used an umbrella, sunscreen, a hat, a pair of garden clogs or some kind of boots, an extra bag or two to carry loot, a tape measure, and a camera. I brought about $100 in small bills. I didn't spend anywhere near all of it, but most sellers weren't taking plastic or even checks. 

Would I do it again? Absolutely! And now I'm wanting to find flea markets closer to home, and further afield, and while traveling. What are some of the best in your area?


  1. Gosh, I really do love flea markets but unfortunately there are virtually none around here in AZ. There are a few small ones held outside of antique stores every now and then, but they are not really that great...and pretty small too. There are some amazing fleas in Texas and some in California, I don't get to them often but when I do it's really a blast!

    You should totally try to go on the World's Largest Yard Sale trip! I've been wanting to do that for years now. It's a sale that goes through like 6??? states, with Tennessee being the main hub - it looks like SO much fun! It's in the beginning of August every year. Google World's Largest Yard Sale - you'll be dying to go! :)

    1. I looked it up. It's from Addison Michigan to Gadsden Alabama! Dang! I'm pretty sure it couldn't be done in a day! :)

      I'm interest in the Kane Co. Illinois flea market, which I could drive to from my house, and also the Sparks Kansas Flea Market. Sparks is so small they aren't even on Google Maps, but the market draws 75,000 people in a weekend!

  2. I know, isn't it crazy looking! Yeah, I don't think it could really be done in one day, but maybe if you clipped on a pair of wings and flew over everything??? :D

    I heard the Kane County flea market was pretty good, I'd definitely check that one out if I were you! I've never heard of the Sparks flea, I'll have to google that one.

  3. 1. Cool postcards! We have a large photo from the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago, hanging in our living room. (And it includes the Electrical Building.)

    2. I'll have to ask my mom and mother-in-law if they've been to the What Cheer flea market ~ I bet they have... it's right up their alley! :)

    3. I live close to Kane County. (Just sayin', in case you decide to make the trip!)