Return to Wolff’s Flea Market

Late on Saturday night, Liz and I decided we wanted to head back to Wolff’s Flea Market, at the All State Arena. To get there right when it opened (6AM), we needed to pull ourselves out of bed around 5:15 AM. We swing out to the bank, got some cash, picked up some coffee… and pulled into the parking lot as the sun was starting to brighten the sky.

Liz was looking for more sewing-related things, but I had nothing I was specifically searching for. I was on the lookout for old photos or yearbooks, but wasn’t really sure I was going to buy anything.

One of the first things I saw was this toy tank. There was a flap missing near the top (where the remote control is), but it ran and operated fine. I was able to try it out, and the gun swiveled and everything – ran forwards and backwards.

The guy offered it to me for $20, and for a split second I thought I could totally sell it for more than $20. I debated getting it – not because I wanted to buy the item, but because I had a feeling I could turn a profit on it. I think watching American Pickers and reading my friend Maureen’s book has put a little gleam in my eye.

I passed on it, but man… looking at it now, I’m certain I could have talked him down to maybe $15, and sold the thing for at least $30.

Seeing a box full of Star Wars figures made me itch to buy all the action figures I used to play with, as a kid. Mine were from the original movie, but I think these were later models that came out after Return of the Jedi.

Although… the labels and pricing on the boxes are a little confusing.

TONS of old WWF dolls.

Hulk Rules!

I’m always amazed at the breadth of items people put up for sale. This particular booth was filled with nothing but sanding/grinder wheels.

We were among the first folks shopping around, but there were a decent number of early birds going from booth to booth. In particular, this guy was skating from booth to booth (something I remember Maureen writing about).

It’s hard to pass up a book with the title The Royal Path of Life. It’s not often you get an owner’s manual like this.

The guy was asking $10 for the book (the price listed on the inside cover). I debated it briefly, but ended up passing. I may have been able to talk him down to $5, but it would have been a novelty/impulse kind of purchase. Still think the title is pretty great, though.

As I was walking down one of the aisles, I spotted a cab driving around. Not sure if it was dropping someone off, but usually cars this far into the flea market are vendors with booths. I figured he was going to set up shop somewhere.

I stopped to admire these two typewriters. Another guy was looking at them, and was trying to talk the vendor down from $30 to $25. When I swung by here maybe 30 minutes later, I noticed the Underwood was gone.

Lots of weird Halloween stuff. I’m betting there’ll be more of this, the closer we get to October.

I found a box full of old 16mm film canisters. There were a few silent movies in the bunch, and they were priced around $10 to $20 apiece. Sadly, I don’t have any kind of projector… which is actually good, since I would have been tempted to buy some of these, had I the means to view them.

In my undergraduate years, I used to work at the Monroe County Public Library. As a patron, you could borrow a projector, along with a handful of old 16mm movies – same as you could borrow books. We used to have a few movie nights at our house – makes me wish I had a projector again.

The guy selling the movies told me he had a few projectors, but they got picked up pretty quickly. When I asked him the best way to tell a good projector from a bad one, he laughed. He said: You can tell when you take it home and plug it in.

Found another tank, which seemed to be a small theme for my finds today. I think this one was for $10 (since it was missing the tracks that link the wheels together).

A nearby Peanuts lunchbox. All sorts of awesome.

I never owned a 2-XL, but I vaguely remember seeing them as a kid. In hindsight, I should have asked how much this was. Would have been a fun purchase.

One guy had a bunch of these Yes and Know pen/book combos for sale. I dug through them and got 4 packs for 50 cents each. I remembered these from when I was a kid, and haven’t seen one of these guys in ages.

Barbie and Ken, Star Trek style. Notice that Barbie is, unfortunately, wearing red.

One of the coolest booths I saw was this large display of geodes. The guy setting up had about four tables chock full of rocks, with a smaller table near his van.

I asked him where he found all his rocks, and he told me it was mostly in Southern Iowa. He goes hunting with a friend of his, and they spend two or three nights camped out in the woods near some rivers… and fish them out themselves. All the geodes on display were, according to the guy, from the last two weeks. Amazing!

He told me the two of them get along pretty well, though they’ve gotten into a few arguments. He also let me know that they had one fistfight on the river, and now that’s done and out of the way.

I also learned that geodes seemed lighter in the water, as opposed to on land: a 75 pound rock is about 200 pounds out of the water.

The guy I spoke with (never got his name) was incredibly friendly, and really willing to chat with me and answer my questions. As we were chatting, two women started asking about some of his rocks… so I backed off to let him try to get in a sale. After I saw them leave, I circled back.

Near his van, I saw this odd looking briefcase just sitting on a table. I had to know what was inside, and asked about it. He started laughing and popped it open for me to see…

I learned that he told his kids it was some kind of lie-detector, but he said he wasn’t 100% what it was. He thought it was some junk bit of electronics, some kind of fake/quack medical device. He fished out an instruction manual, and it turns out the machine was a EMS-250 Muscle Stimulator.

It was kind of neat being there, since I found out what it was at the same time he did.

Nearby, I passed this guy whose t-shirt I had seen since 6AM. Figuring what the hey, I stopped him and asked if I could take a photo of his shirt.

He seemed to pause a half-beat, and then said I could… provided I didn’t take a photo of his face. He said: I’m wanted in three states.

I was already adjusting my camera, and didn’t see the expression on his face – I couldn’t tell if he was joking around or not. I just zoomed in, snapped the shot, and then said “thank you,” as I walked away. Despite his shirt, he was pretty accommodating and seemed like a nice guy.

Elvis popcorn guitar. Enough said.

This was an odd moment. Though I love comics and know a lot about all the major superheroes… I never really owned very many comics, as a kid. I had (and still have) a small handful. This particular issue of Spider-Man was one I actually owned. Seeing it here, in a different context, was kind of a weird and jarring experience. Like happening to meet someone you went to high school with, while you’re vacationing overseas.

For some reason, I thought that Elektra comics were highly valuable. I was looking at the $2.50 sticker on each issue, but noticed that Issues 1-4 were available in the bin. I tried to do some quick searching online, but decided against buying these. I just now realized that I could have gotten three issues for $1, based on the sign.

Guess I should have worried less about taking photos. Some people never learn.

Up At 5AM, Searching For Treasure At Wolff’s Flea Market
Killer Stuff And Tons Of Money: Seeking History And Hidden Gems In Flea-Market America

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. It’s funny that you guys went again this past weekend. I was going to try to make it out there, but waking up that early is so HARD. Ugh. I don’t know how you guys do it.

    Marty J. Christopher Reply

  2. Thanks for visiting us again!

    Anonymous Reply

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