Wolff’s Flea Market: Random Images and Comic Books

Liz and I decided to do another early morning trek out to Allstate Arena, to catch one of the few remaining openings of Wolff’s Flea Market. There’s only a few more weeks left (they go until October), and with the weather being as amazing as it’s been this past week… we figured it would be a good day to go.

I’ll confess – I was incredibly unhappy this morning, prior to us hitting the road. We had gotten back fairly late last night (12:30 AM), and when the alarm went off at 5:15 AM… I was bleary-eyed for a good long while. After I downed some espresso and arrived at the entrance… only then did my mood lighten, and I began to enjoy myself.

On arriving, we marveled at how many vendors were already set up. The sky was still dark, and we were wondering how we would be able to even see anything (I could hear Mike and Frank from American Pickers, asking Where’s your flashlight?). When we parked our car and began walking towards the booths… all the parking lot lights were still on, illuminating everything. By the time we neared the entrance, the lights had just shut off.

I’m not joking around here, when I say “crack of dawn.”

A collection of Hitchcock VHS tapes. At several points, at several booths, I felt like I stumbled across some money and decided not to pick it up.

Two sleds for sale. Seeing these made me long for winter and a hill topped with snow. For the briefest of moments, I imagined owning one of these guys (I’ve gone sledding before, but never on a real sled).

This is the lure of flea markets – seeing things, and suddenly realizing you need them, practicality be damned. Luckily, I came to my senses and passed. Still, it would be nice…

As I was wandering around, lots of vendors were still pulling in to get set up. As I was waiting for the line of cars to pass by, someone walked behind me and said All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.

This is Dee Dee, who was the one channeling Gloria Swanson moments earlier. We spoke briefly, and I learned she was a vendor normally… but not this morning. Today she was just here to shop. I asked for her permission to photograph her, and she was nice enough to let me take a picture (and post it online).

No flea market is complete without some Barbie stuff for sale. It may have just been the clinical, meticulous arrangement, but seeing this display weirded me out a little bit. Felt like I was looking at a crime scene.

Oh that’s right. I totally forgot we were going to have that race this weekend.

Spotted these two old record players, and was drawn to them almost immediately. The guy selling these told me that just yesterday, someone had just stolen the playhead off the one on the left. Another guy was also checking out the machine, opening it up and looking at its innards. He seemed to know what he was talking about, and mentioned the part of the arm that’s missing was called a re-sounder or something like that.

Asking price for the machine with the blue speaker? $500.

The guy checking things out beside me (the one who knew his stuff, apparently) said that if pieces weren’t missing… he’d have purchased the item. This was all around 6:40 AM. Color me impressed.

The vendor showed me a smaller item nearby, which operated via a hand crank. When I asked if it worked, he was kind enough to put in a needle and started up the device. It played pretty well, though my attempts at video didn’t pan out so well… which is a shame, because it had a very unique sound. Asking price was $65, and I’d be lying if I didn’t seriously consider it, if only for a moment.

Bugs as the Statue of Liberty. What is there to say about this character? The man loves himself some cross-dressing, at any chance he can get.

Sad, pensive clown is sad and pensive.

I spotted a small stack of comic books, sitting on top of an old “Stop Thief” board game. 2 for $1 is a tough price to beat, so I started to rifle through the stack. I saw two older looking comics, which seemed like they might be worth some money… and decided, what the heck. Not a bad gamble for $1.

I overheard the vendor talking to another customer, saying that he knew nothing about comics… and that he had gotten these as an add-on, when buying something else. The vendor took my money, then said he was willing to get rid of all of them if I was interested. Make me an offer, is what he said… but nothing really caught my eye. I had started to walk away when the the vendor made me an offer, and said: five bucks for the whole thing.

I paused, and decided that was a pretty good gamble. An extra four dollars later, I was walking away with a large bag full of comics.

Seeing a large, novelty remote control (the day after our night of Ballsdurdash) was kind of funny. Asking price for this guy: $5.

I spotted a small set of router bits, but didn’t ask on the price. There’s a lot of stuff like this around, but I have no idea how to verify condition, quality or whether something is priced well or not. This seemed like something Bob might like.

Quick self-portrait, after coming across a very large and very beautiful mirror.

Beautiful in terms of its size and ornamentation, not due to the guy in the reflection. But hey… thanks for going there.

Though they were all empty, each one of these custom liquor containers was pretty cool looking. I spent some time here, admiring the collection.

On the same table – Call of Duty 4, Modern Warfare.

Once more – another giant, novelty remote control. This one was still in its plastic case, with an asking price of $10.

There were a lot of airplanes today, with one flying over the parking lot every six or eight minutes.

An old adding machine, made by American. I don’t know why, but this guy really jumped out at me. It looked old and valuable, though I have absolutely no information to back up that suspicion. It was sold, and fully functional – despite the age and look of the metal. Asking price I believe was $35, and I desperately wanted some kind of reason to purchase this guy.

The vendors were kind enough to let me take some pictures, and even went so far as to invite me to play around with the device and try it out.

At a nearby booth, I saw a box full of old Nintendo cartridges. One kind of jumped out at me, and I found out the games were $3 each. I tried haggling with the lady at the booth, seeing if she’d take $1. But though she was young, she seemed like an old pro. While she was taking money from another person, without even looking at me, she said I can’t take less than $2 for that. Sold.

The game I found was Platoon, based off the motion picture. Which is totally random and crazy – who would make such a game? Why would you make this game?

This seems like a knee-jerk “We need a video-game tie-in” reaction. I mean… why not make a game based off every movie that comes out? Why not make a video game based on The City of Lost Children, while we’re at it?

Spotted a Sega Game Gear at a booth, sitting on top of what turned out to be a carrying case. There were a few games included in the bag, along with some extra peripherals (some kind of video game converter, and a large magnifying screen). Total asking price: $10.

I was thinking of Chris, who had recently come across his own Sega device for sale.

And guess what – yet ANOTHER overly large, novelty remote control. This one, also still in its case and looking brand new. Asking price: $2.

Seeing this small box of newspapers stopped me in my tracks. For all the electronics and tchotchkes that are on sale at flea markets, every once in a while you come across something like this.

This looked to be a genuine Tribune paper, from Tuesday, July 22, 1969. Though it’s not a headline announcing man landing on the moon, it’s close – announcing the end of the historic Apollo 11 mission, and the start of the journey home.

Finding something like this reminds me why I’m drawn to old photographs. There’s a certain infectiousness that happens with particular items, where some things have a way of transmitting all their history, all at once. Seeing this was like getting hit in the face, and literally stopped me in my tracks.

All around me were various items for sale, detritus from attics and closets. Comic books, old guitars, typewriters. Here’s a mask for Halloween, here are some toy guns, here are some burlap sacks. By the way, remember when we hurtled through space and landed on the moon? Here are some novelty salt and pepper shakers…

Nearby, a guy was standing holding a wooden bow. Awesome.

Strangely enough, this is not the first wooden-hammer-from-a-carnival I’ve featured, on this blog. Looking at this photo now, I’m regretting two things. First, I’m regretting not asking how much the hammer was. Second… I’m regretting not getting a better photo of that dog, lazily humping the cart in the background.

Another plane, flying low overhead.

One of the last items I passed by, as we left… an old Fisher Price castle. I had one of these growing up as a kid, and I spent many, many hours with this guy – raising and lowering the drawbridge, dropping objects down the plank (at the top right), and retrieving them from the gate at the bottom.

This was another one of those moments where I got hit with a great rush of time, all at once. It’s a bit like seeing an old friend from your elementary school days, walking by you in the street. You don’t know what to say, and perhaps you don’t say anything at all.. you just stand there a while, dumbfounded. You just stand there, remembering.

So remember those comics that I purchased? Well, here’s the haul… broken down into various sets. There were a few individual comics, but for the most part… these were from someone who actively tried to collect smaller storylines, mini-series stuff. I recognize a few titles, but most of these are totally new to me.

First up: a series called “Rise of the Midnight Sons.” Six parts, and each one is still sealed in plastic and unopened. Hard to pinpoint a price on these, as I see them posted on ebay for a starting bid of $7… and also going for $50.

These are the two comics that caught my eye, and first made me pull the trigger on the $1 purchase.

Two unopened copies of Danger Girl.

Not sure if this means much (probably not), but both comics are sealed with a sticker… and also come with some kind of certificate of authenticity. Looks like it was a small run of 10,000 copies.

All four issues of Batman, Year 3.

A few assorted issues of Batman.

Fallen Angels, 1-8.

The New Mutants, 26-28.

Team Superman, Demons Mercy, and Spider-Man and the Black Cat. These all seem like throwaways to me.

Venom: Lethal PRotector, 2-6. I’m guessing someone got to the comics before me, and grabbed Issue #1. That, or the owner kept it.

Justice League Task Force, 1-3.

These are two, four-issue storylines for a character named Lady Death. The comic at the top on the far left is just a “preview” issue, as the #1 for both storylines is missing. Again, guessing someone got to these first, or the original owner kept them.

The big question for me is: am I seeing gold where there’s pennies? I haven’t done a ton of research yet, but enough to get the sense I’ve at least make my $5 back. I guess the next step is creating some kind of Amazon or Ebay account, and trying to sell some of these guys.

If I end up turning into guy-who-frequents-flea-markets-and-sells-comics-online, I’m totally going to blame my friend Maureen.

Up At 5AM, Searching For Treasure At Wolff’s Flea Market
Return To Wolff’s Flea Market
Killer Stuff And Tons Of Money: Seeking History And Hidden Gems In Flea-Market America
Vintage Bazaar At The Congress Theater, Chicago 2011

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. You are hard-core, up at crack of dawn! Great pics. Just tweeted this. Maureen

    Maureen Reply

    • My wife is the one that’s hard-core. I was just along for the ride.

      She’s very much focused on sewing-related finds, whereas I’m just rambling around from booth to booth… not doing much more than observing.

      Incidentally: the photos I took here were from the first two or three rows of the entire flea market. I’d say that I got to see maybe 15% of the entire space. We left after an hour and a half, but there were many more rows/vendors that I never even saw.

      avoision Reply

  2. I enjoyed the post and pictures, especially the first one of the vendor on his roof. Can you send me a copy?

    Dave Wolff

    Dave Wolff Reply

    • Thanks for the kind words, Dave. Check your Inbox – image sent!

      avoision Reply

Leave A Reply