Sifting Through Other People’s Junk (Part 1)

One of my favorite things to do is sift through other people’s junk. Not their trash, but just the crap they want to get rid of. Personally, I blame being stuck in the mountains with nothing but the History Channel in the 00s. The mountains rule but being stuck watching American Pickers (a great show by the way) and then stuff like Pawn Stars does something to a man. Since then, I’ve developed a love for looking at used goods.

Fastforward n+1 years and you have me writing a multipart series on sifting through other people’s junk. To a lot of people, most of this stuff would belong in a landfill—and they’re largely right. But there is so much more to it. It gives you a glimpse into the lives of others. All these little things have stories to tell and I love to find out what I can. People cherished these things at some point in their life and I want to give them a second chance to experience that. As a Christian, I recognize these are nothing more than inanimate objects with no soul or feelings, but they still hold emotional weight.

There are so many avenues to find junk. I want to go over some of my favorites with you and share some of my favorite finds. To start, we’ll be looking at flea markets.

Flea Markets

Oh, flea markets, how junky you are.

Flea markets are the wild west of junk. People come from all over and throw their goods on tables and carpets for you to peruse; most of it being absolutely bunk. They hock their crap and then some. Sometimes you’ll find really cool antiques, nice instruments, odd guns, tools, and knives. Then sometimes you find something that never earned a right to exist.

I’d say almost half of the space at a flea market is occupied by people trying to run a business: soap makers, coffee shops, dollar stores, record stores, headshops, window tinters, and produce are some of the big ones. It’s pretty normal to see people succumb to “entrepreneur” traps like pyramid schemes and those crappy tumblers everyone prints. Often you can find some cool things at these shops.

Some old school turnout gear

Back in Jacksonville I’d go to flea markets almost every weekend. Saturday or Sunday would roll around and I’d be driving all over town. There was one dude who ran a camera shop and he’d often have neat gear come and go. It was cool to see pictures he’d bring back from snorkeling trips. In Melbourne, I’m always excited to see the music shops, military surplus guys, and tables.

Knock off products are easy to stumble into. Cologne clones, off brand Chinese LEGOs. The names on these are always funny too.

Totally legit goods.
These are totally legit goods, trust me.

Really Weird Stuff, Unhinged Even

Tables are often where you see the wilder stuff. They’re basically people running a garage sale, and you can find some good stuff for good prices. Right now, I’m listening to Herb Alpert’s Whipped Cream & Other Delights on a vinyl I got for super cheap from one of these guys. It sounds great considering it came from a dusty box and was stored outside. You can often find used tools from these tables too.

On the other hand, you’ll find some absolutely unhinged things. I’m all for historical memorabilia as we should document the past, but I’ve seen some questionable things. When I was going through a cowboy phase (again, thanks Red Dead Redemption and Clint Eastwood), I was looking for a cool old school bowie. And boy howdy how I THOUGHT I found one. So, cue me picking up this wicked looking knife. I then notice it had “K.K.K.K.” engraved on the scales. Flip it over and there’s a wonderful engraving of “Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.” Yea, I put it down. I then noticed she had more of these, Nazi pins and medals, and iron shackles on the ground under the table. I noped out of there so fast and she still has this literal junk like a year later. On their own, things like these could go to a museum so we don’t forget the past but these has obviously been passed down. Few months later I saw a dude with a bunch of old iron signs that said stuff like “Whites Only” and “Colored to the back.” Yuck. Though the two funniest things I’ve seen are a guy selling porn DVDs in the late 2010s and multiple people using Second Life style graphics for advertising.

Things I Do Love

Of all the things I enjoy the most at flea markets, it has to be food, milsurp, and records. The food is always questionable, but usually it’s good to go. There’s a gyro place at the Melbourne flea that I love to visit. Good price, good food, and run by a nice dude. Yanni’s, I hope you stay around for a while longer. Milsurp can have some outrageous stuff show up and some really mundane crap. I think the funniest thing I’ve found is a box of surplus lightbulbs in a big box with custom cut foam. It makes sense, but the fact they never got used still confuses me.

Military surplus light bulbs (and case)

You’ll occasionally find some cool anime stuff; old DVDs, manga, and figures, those sorts of things. I’ve bought a few old box sets and some simple memorabilia.

Anime stuff

Music stores are my absolute favorite when at the flea market. I love vintage audio equipment, vinyl, CDs, and instruments. Electronics quality will always be questionable at flea markets; I mean they store this crap outside in Florida humidity for who knows how long, but the price can make it worth the dice roll sometimes. I should probably stop going as I’m now stacking records, CDs, and cassettes and running out of storage for them—oh, how I wait for the day I can have a listening room. I’ve been using the same flea market JBL subwoofer for years, and until I can drop $500+ on a new one, it’s staying.

But yea, check out a flea market sometime. Bigger is usually better for flea markets. Next time we’ll be looking at thrift stores, hope to see ya there.

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