I generally love flea markets. I got my start in the 1970s selling cards at the old Twin Drive-In flea market in Wheeling, Illinois. I try and set up at least once a summer at a flea market. Last year, I spent a day at Wolf's Flea Market at the Allstate Arena, in Rosemont, Illinois. If you read my blog last year, you remember that it didn't go so well. My experience today in Wilmot was far superior.
First off, I just enjoyed the time with my son. It's not often that I get to spend a whole day with just the two of us. Well, I rustled him out of bed at about 5:30 a.m. He was trooper and didn't complain. Set up at Wilmot went smoothly. Kolby had two tables to spread out his toys and books. He kept changing up his display all day long which is kind of funny because his grandfather, a Chicago Maxwell Street veteran from the 1950s, always harped about the display when he used to set me up at the flea market some 35 years ago. Unlike gramps, I'm not such of a stickler on the display. The only words of wisdom I passed on was to make sure he didn't waste any table space. Pack that stuff in there. You can't sell it, if it's not out on the table.
I filled out the rest of the tables with some of my binders from the 1970s, my cheapy boxes, piles and piles of unopened packs of cards from the 1980s, some old programs, media guides and magazines, some of the kids' baby clothes, and assorted knicknacks including an old box radio I pulled out of my great-grandfather's Wicker Park apartment back in the 1980s. My guess is the radio is from the 1940s.
It was chilly in the early morning. Kolby was concerned right away that he hadn't yet had a sale, even though we had only been open for business for about 15 minutes. I had a customer right away. A nice lady who collects old basketball cards of the Chicago Bulls. She told me that she worked with former Bulls center Tom Boerwinkle at an oil company. She pulled all my Boerwinkle cards and a bunch more Bulls. I made table fee and was happy. Kolby was wondering where his customers were at.
I tried to explain the art of patience. I told him to just relax and wait. That's what the flea market really is all about. Just sitting back, enjoying the day, and waiting for some sales. Kolby didn't have to wait very long. Moms and grandmas seemed to purchase his books and smattering of toys all day long. He was fairly busy most of the day.
I had one guy, who I see from time to time at the Schaumburg show, buy a whole bunch of stuff, including some 1962 Post baseball, all my Exhibit cards from the 1950s and 1960s and all my 1964 Topps Giants. This guy made my day. By 9 a.m., I took in more money than I did that entire day out at the Allstate Arena last year.
But by 10 a.m., the sun had cleared some trees to the east and began cooking everything in sight. I was hot. Kolby was hot. We drank lots of Gatorade and water but we were still hot all day. I only had a smattering of customers the rest of the day. One lady claimed she grew up with Jerry West in Virginia. An older fella, who wasn't interested in any of Kolby's stuff but was impressed with his work ethic, gave Kolby a dollar. Quite a few people stopped to look at my great-grandfather's radio. An older couple gave me a low-ball offer that I politely declined. The vendors that were set up next to us stopped to chat. One guy buys stuff at an auction in Genoa City, Wisconsin, to sell at the flea market. The lady on the other side used to own a jewelry store in Delavan, Wisconsin, but shut it down to take care of her sickly husband.
There was a good number of vendors and a good crowd of customers. We had a steady flow of people walking by all day. There was one guy who had three or four different Chicago Cubs tattoos on his arms. I like the Cubs too but to tattoo their logo onto my arm is not even a remote possibility. I don't have any tattoos. I don't hate them, I just can't think of anything I'd want permanently drawn onto my skin -- least of all the Cubs' logo. I regularly see guys at card shows who have some sort of sports logo tattooed to an arm or calf. I don't get it. Someone needs to explain that one to me. My dedication to my teams doesn't go past the occasional donning of hat or a T-shirt. There were lots of tattoos out today.
There were also a lot of cigarette smokers. There was a time, way back when, when guys used to smoke at the card shows. Thankfully, those days are long gone. At this flea market, however, it seemed like most everybody had a cigarette dangling from their mouth. I was worried someone was going to drop an ash onto my cards. I saw one idiot pushing a small child in a stroller while a cigarette drooped from his lower lip and ashes dropped onto the child's head. It took a while to get used to all the cigarette smoke. Kolby held his nose or pulled up his shirt collar over his nose anytime someone walked by with a cigarette.
"Mommy told me that you lose seven minutes of your life every time you smoke a cigarette," Kolby said. That's right my boy. Smoking cigarettes is one of the stupidest things you can do. Might as well drink some tar, it has the same effect on your health.
Speaking of unhealthy habits, there were quite a few people drinking today. They had a full bar at the ski lodge along with a mobile bar which consisted of a woman driving around in a golf cart with a large sign reading "Bloody Mary's." While lots of folks were drinking today, nobody seemed drunk and stupid. I remember I always had to deal with drunks at the old Twin Drive In. There were also quite a few drunks at the old Friday night show in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. It's next to impossible to negotiate the price of a card with someone whose speech is slurred to the point where they can't formulate words.
Customer traffic died around 2 p.m. and we started to pack up. We were on the road by 3 p.m. Kolby passed out in the van on the drive home. While we didn't get rich today, we had a nice time together and we both went home with cash in our pockets. Hopefully, we get to do this again. I really enjoyed myself.
Next week, I'm getting back into my usual routine and plan on setting up at card shows on most weekends. Orland is scheduled for Sunday, August 25. It's been a while since I've been at Orland and my regulars have not seen my newly reloaded 1960 through 1963 Topps baseball binders, along with some 1963 Post, some 1955 Bowman football and 1956 Topps football. I'm looking forward to the show on Sunday and will be glad to be indoors away from that hot flea market sun. Have a great week everybody and hope to see you Sunday!