4 The Daily Tar Heel Friday. September 16, 1977
Flea markets: for those who can tell 'junk' from 'junque9
Spare parts, antiques
leftovers, loose ends
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By JEFF BRADY
Roadside attractions are generally
nonexistent at 6 a.m. on Sunday mornings.
Most fast-food stores, gas stations and even
churches will not open until everyone has
eaten breakfast. Any fool who is up driving
at this hour thinks nothing of anything
except how much of the road he has left to
drive. In this case, the driver was slightly
hungover, but alert. H e never expected to see
a long line of traffic outside an entrance to a
flea market five miles south of Greensboro
on High Point Road.
The Sedgefield Flea Market attracts to its
gate nearly SO trucks, vans and station
wagons from all over the Piedmont each
Sunday. When the gate opens, the vehicles
acquire a $5-per-day space in a field next to a
long white building, unload their "goodies "
and set up shop. Around 8 a.m. the first of
over 1,000 shoppers will make the rounds.
What goes on is no ordinary retail
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This gentleman is one of the many who set up booths during the Flea Market, working from dawn to dusk.
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operation. The experienced sales manager
sits in a yard chair shaded by a beach
umbrella. The sales floor consists of one long
table, often just a board set on two saw
horses. The merchandise is dumped onto the
table and spread thinly, so the customer can
see each item. Anything left over is
positioned on the ground.
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The retailer's pocket is his till. Your
receipt, unless you ask for one, is the product
in your hand.
A price tag on an item does not necessarily
indicate the actual price. The smart buyer
not only looks for bargains; he makes his
own bargains. He knows the difference
between junk and "junque." The price tag on
a transparent, coin-filled toilet seat may read
$100. But if a buyer can convince the retailer
that he is a coin collector, and that the coins
are worthless, he could talk the price down
M ost dealers specialize in one type of item,
such as pottery, blue jeans, comic books and
8-track tapes, although they sell anything
they can find. One man sold everything from
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furniture and glassware to rusted farm
implements and hubcaps.
One lady who had an obvious business
interest in astrolr gy sold plates and leather
. pocket books th.i showed off your sign. But
she also sold those little life-size barnyard
animals made of cement that some people
use to decorate your front yards. I walked
away from that one thinking my sign was a
John Loftin and R. A. Eaton organized the
Sedgefield Flea Market 10 years ago and
held their first in May, 1968. The flea market
was held once or twice a month on Sundays
until it became popular enough to run every
week. "As far as I know, we were the first in
this area," Loftin said. "All of the others
came after us."
Now known as the Sedgefield Dealers'
Auction, Loftin and Eaton hold an auction
every Wednesday night, operate a wholesale
outlet, and have just recently started having
flea markets on Saturdays.
The center of action is the white building.
A square sign next to the wide, open door
reads, "No Hand Bills, No Solisting".
Formerly a farmer's market and Rudy's
Dance Land, it is now a long slender barn
full of the flea market's more collectible
Eighty-three booths in the center and
along the walls are partitioned by chain-link
fences and gates which can be locked. The
larger spaces in the middle of the room rent
for $45 per month and the spaces against the
wall for $40 per month. With the fence, a
dealer can lock up valuable goods and not
have to carry them back and forth from
home each weekend.
But most goods, antique furniture,
homemade pottery and the like, are not
insured. Last April, a fire damaged 40 per
cent of the building and destroyed much of
its contents, Loftin said. One man reported a
loss of $3,000 worth of uninsured
Nancy, a UNC graduate and associate
professor in English at Pfeiffer College, has
been involved with the flea market for nine
years. She and her partner, Lucille Lohr,
own an antique store in Lexington called
"The What-Not Shop," and specialize in
"I guess 'primitive' means everything's
homemade, including the nails and pegs,"
Nancy said. Pointing at a fire bench, she
added, "That wood is so old and weathered,
it's almost like concrete."
Also among the pieces on sale in their
booth were a spoon rack from the 1 700s and
an old desk from an abandoned post office at
According to the ladies, they got started
like everyone else, rummaging in attics and
finding things they no longer needed. Now,
with the shop, they go to auctions, private
sales and buy from "pickers."
A "picker" is someone who keeps his eyes
open for antiques and sells them to antique
dealers. Nancy's and Lucille's favorite
"picker" is a professional exterminator. "He
has access to everywhere!" Nancy said.
"While he's spraying the back of your house,
he may notice something in a remote corner
or in a closet and tell you that he can get rid
of it for you."
Nancy seemed to be the right person to ask
where the "flea" in flea market originated.
"Well flea markets started in Europe in the
lOth-or-llth century. They were open-air
markets, and a lot of the stuff was so dirty, it
was filled with fleas."