Mother’s Day at the I-80 Flea Market

Like last year, Liz and I went down to Frankfort to celebrate Mother’s Day at the I-80 Flea Market with Liz‘s mom. This flea doesn’t start until 7AM, but given the travel time… we still got up pretty early to get down there.

It was a surprisingly cold morning, given that it’s almost mid-May. And despite the fact that it was Mother’s Day, there was a decent-sized crowd that eventually filled the place.

Liz and Julie, with the long shadows of the morning, head out to check out their first vendor.

I parted off on my own, and wandered around a good deal. It had been a long time since I’d been to one of these things, and I felt awkward pulling out my camera and taking photographs. But eventually I started talking to a few vendors, and got into the old habit again: striking up conversations, asking questions, and then asking permission to take photos.

I had forgotten how friendly and nice most vendors are – if you express an interest in an item, they’re usually more than enthusiastic about telling you its history, how they acquired it, what they know about it. While some vendors are simply selling off old junk to get rid of it, many of them are collectors – passionate about a particular type of item, and very into the things they place on their tabletops.

On walking by this table, I spotted what looked like a set of vampire stakes. I had a hunch this was from the movie Blade, as there were a few other items around that were also from the movie (along with a pretty mint-condition bust of Wesley Snipes).

When I asked the vendor about this item, he told me that he collected lots of Blade memoribilia. He told me he bought two of everything, and when I asked him if he always kept one for himself… he told me that “one goes in the archives.”

I found out his name was Eric D. K. Reed, and that he normally sets up shop at Montana Charlie’s. But he was planning on cooking for some people later today, and needed to get an earlier start… and set up shop here, instead.

I also found out that he has a few “Blade guys” here at the I-80 Flea. And from what I saw, he had a ton of Blade-related stuff.

Case in point: the sword from Blade.

For whatever reason, when I go to flea markets… one object or one type of object usually catches my eye. It’s a bit like a theme that presents itself. And once I spot that thing, I’ll end up seeing it and focusing on it for the remainder of my visit. Starting with Eric’s table, I kind of marveled at all the various weapons that were available – and I ended up seeing weapons all over the place, at all the other vendor tables.

An interesting question that usually only gets asked at flea markets, I wondered to myself “Is $25 a good price for a spiked mace?” In hindsight, I think it was, and maybe could have talked Eric down to $20. I walked away, but as I did the 16-year-old in me was asking me what I was doing, if I was crazy, and why I was leaving our mace sitting there, unclaimed, on the table.

Funny thing I saw – next to the mace and other assorted weapons, I spotted a few first aid kits. Which makes a little bit of sense, if you stop and think about it.

Eric also had several old consoles for sale as well. While there aren’t a ton of PS3 items floating around, I definitely saw a good number of retro consoles and games. But Eric was one of the few vendors that had multiples: a Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and two Sony PS1’s.

If you’re interested in Eric’s stuff, he’s usually at Montana Charlie’s. But you can also get a hold of him via email or phone (708.334.1017).

At a nearby booth, I spotted two older telephones – and thought of our recent trip to Michigan, and how I kept seeing phones everywhere in all the antique stores we visited.

These two were the real deal – not replicas, and the older models where you’d have to click the mouthpiece holder a few times, to get connected with the operator. Who most likely was manning a switchboard (which I also stumbled across in Michigan).

Also spotted this box of old bottles. It made me think of my friend Maureen’s book, Killer Stuff and Tons of Money… and how her friend Curt Avery began his career collecting old bottles.

I found out from the vendor that these bottles were worth about $3-4 apiece. And look at that, they’re from Terre Haute, IN no less!

At first glance, the reversed text was what caught my eye. It was a strange thing to realize that the images were actually iron-on transfers… but that they were included with regular notebook paper, for schoolkids.

I was really torn about getting these, and should have asked how much the vendor was asking. Instead I just snapped a few photos. I’m guessing I could have maybe gotten them for $5 apiece, and maybe all three for $10 if I was lucky. But I have no idea – really should have asked.

A quick check on ebay shows that one of these guys is currently going for $12 and another is going for around $29. Missed opportunity?

A larger copy of an old Sears catalog. It’s similar to the one I found, as it’s also a replica of an older edition.

Who knew that there was a Welcome Back, Kotter board game? I saw a few episodes of this growing up, but never got into it much (beyond recognizing a few character’s names). Notably, the show featured an incredibly young John Travolta.

I wonder what the rules were to this? And again, in hindsight, I should have asked how much the vendor wanted for this game. I kept forgetting to do that.

In talking with the vendor, I found out he owns an Auction House nearby, along with a few other sellers. It’s the Frankfort Auction Gallery at 25109 S. Lagrange Road.

Also: a quick scan of e-bay shows that this game goes for around $20.

A series of older home catalogs. The vendor here spotted me eying these guys, and offered to sell all three to me for $5. They were cool, but I think I’m all catalog-ed out.

Spotted this small, toy sewing machine (Little Modiste). The seller was telling me it was a “Nazi” item, and pointed to the eagle logo on the cover. Not sure of this item’s true origins, as I’ve found a few other versions of this machine online that don’t seem to be specifically German.

I brought Liz back here to check this thing out, but she ended up passing on it (the seller wanted $50). But as luck would have it, she ended up buying a few storage boxes for $10.

A quick view of the growing crowd. Though it doesn’t look like it, there were a decent amount of folks here (the vendor rows are pretty spread apart from one another).

More weapons! This collection was from a kid who was moving out to Arizona, and was trying to get rid of some items so he wouldn’t have to pack them up. I asked if he was attached to any of them, but he seemed ok parting with most everything on the table.

At another table nearby, I find yet another spiked mace, but this time for $15. It’s a little smaller and less spikier, but that difference is reflected in the price. Flea markets and maces – who knew?

The selller at this table was named Daniel, and he was kind enough to let me photograph several of his items.

Not sure what this guy is, but it looks like a cross between Wolverine and Freddy Krueger.

This piece definitely drew a lot of comments and pauses, from people walking by. Situated strategically at the edge of the booth, it caused a lot of people to stop and stare.

It wasn’t until later, after I got home, that I realized this was a comic-related item… and that the metal chain thing is associated with Ghost Rider.

A case of throwing stars, which actually looked pretty darn neat. $8 for one seemed reasonable.

But if $8 was too much, you could get a basic throwing star for $2. On seeing these, I joked with Daniel that he was intentionally trying to make it so I’d buy a throwing star.

If you like what you see here, check out Daniel’s other items on Ebay.

Growing up, I remember somehow getting my hands on a catalog that featured a ton of weaponry like this. In addition to ninja stuff, the catalog also had replicas of medieval swords. And more than just your regular ceremonial sword that a king knights someone with… this catalog also had monstrous two-handed swords with blades the size of Volkswagons.

All those swords were way out of my price range, being a middle school kid… but man, did I really want one.

Walking around today, and seeing all manner of knives and swords (and maces) available, I was taken back to that time. And though I would have no use for them now, nor any way to display them, I still felt that younger me pulling at my coat sleeves. I could hear my younger me, asking But haven’t you always wanted a spiked mace? Wouldn’t it be cool to have your own katana?

Flea markets tend to stir up old histories – for the seller, as well as the buyer.

Mother’s Day at the I-80 Flea Market, 2012

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Casige’s eagle-grasping-a-key logo actually predates the Nazi era and is a leftover from when their main business was in making piano locks. The eagle is a much older symbol of Germany than your seller thought. This particular Little Modiste model is the one produced by Casige at the time of Occupied Germany, specifically from the British-occupied zone – which explains the English name. That said, 50 isn’t a bad price – eBay seems to have them generally going around $50-65, without any box.

    Amusingly, throwing stars are illegal up here in Soviet Canuckistan – but that display case did look quite handsome.

    Ian Reply

    • Nice info! Thanks for adding that extra bit of background, Ian. I have a hunch you’d do well at flea markets, as you seem to have a better head for objects/history than me.

      avoision Reply

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