Sunday, January 25, 2009

Big Little Books - Adventures in Reading

Howdy Folks, and welcome to Ol’ Whiskey Jack’s weekly blog article on antiques and collectibles. This week I’m feeling a bit nostalgic for the goof old days. Maybe it had a little to do with the Gene Autry film I watched the other day. At any rate, over the past few days my mind has been wandering back over the years to a time when I received my first ticket to big adventure – my first Big Little Book. Being a fan of westerns as I grew up during the golden years of television watching Wyatt Earp, The Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, and the Saturday Morning Cliffhangers. So naturally I gravitated toward the western Big Little Books, although I did have several others that were non western.

Big Little Books were just what they sounded like. They were small in the sense that they only measured a little over 4 inches tall and about 3 ½ inches wide, but they were thick, about 1 ½ inches thick, and packed with anywhere from 200 pages to over 400 pages. Full of illustrations and great stories, they were the joy of many kids just like myself.

The Whitman Publishing Company first began publishing Big Little Books in 1932. They were usually based on popular comic strips and radio programs such as Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie, Buck Rogers, the Lone Ranger, and many, many more. Once these great books began to catch on, other publishing companies jumped on the band wagon and began publishing their own Big Little Books. Publishers such as Saalfield, Goldsmith, World Syndicate Publishing, and others, as well as Whitman, published Big Little Books clear up into the 1960’s. Prices for Big Little Books ranged from 10¢ in the early years, and up to 25¢ - 50¢ in the later years.

Sadly, as with good things from our youth, Big Little Books faded away. Fortunately, however, there are still many of these big little gems still in existence, and collectors abound. Renowned actor, Walter Koenig (Chekov from the original Star Trek TV series, Mr. Bester on Babylon5, and scores of other great roles) is a collector of Big Little Books, and has an extensive collection (he also collects Star Trek figures and Pin Back Buttons).

Big Little Books can be found all over the internet, not only for sale, but also available to read. If you would like to take a look at a couple of these great books, visit the Antique Books Digital Library, where they have two Big Little Books available to read online for free. Tim McCoy on the Tomahawk Trail, and Bronc Peeler, the Lone Cowboy. Take a look, I think you’ll enjoy them.

For further research on Big Little Books, check out The Big Big Little Book Book: An Overstreet Photo-Journal Guide by Arnold T. Blumberg. The Broward County Florida Library has an online exhibit of Big Little Books, and Les Adams of The Old Corral of B Westerns website has a great article on his remembrances of Big Little Books. You may also want to visit two of the best web sites about Big Little Books, and I think you’ll enjoy these as well.

Well, Thanks for stopping by the Trading Post blog. I hope you’ve found this article both enjoyable and informative. If you would like to leave your comments, please do, they are always welcome. You can also subscribe to this blog and sign up as a follower – I hope you do, and I hope to see you around some more. Remember, you’re always welcome! Until next time my friends,


Whiskey Jack

Today’s Word of Wisdom: “If you're ridin' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there with ya.”

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tips For Buying & Selling At Flea Markets and Swap Meets – Part Two

Tips For Buying & Selling At Flea Markets and Swap Meets – Part Two

Howdy Folks,

Welcome to part two of a two part article on buying and selling at Flea Markets and Swap Meets. Where part one dealt with buying at these venues, part two covers selling at them. Hopefully you will find these articles both informative and enjoyable. Are you ready to sell? Well then let’s get into some essential tips that should help you in your flea market selling adventure.

Part Two – Need to Know Tips for Selling at Flea Markets & Swap Meets


I started the part one article with the old adage, “Failing to Prepare, is Preparing to Fail.” The same is true here. As with buying at flea markets, you must do some preparation before you head to the flea market to sell.

1. Do Some Research. Again, this is almost a recap from the previous article, but it is important. Read those antiques and collectibles trade papers. Many of them will list upcoming specialty flea markets that deal in specific antiques and collectibles. There are glass and pottery markets, toy markets, etc. Know where you want to sell. If you are selling primarily or exclusively antiques and /or collectibles, then make sure you are selling at an antiques and collectibles flea market. Stay away from the generic “any and everything” sold markets. You will find more buyers looking specifically for antiques and collectibles at a specialty flea market, than you will at a generic market. This translates into more exposure, more sales and more money for you. A good flea market selling maxim to remember is: Variety = Exposure, Exposure = Sales. Do different markets each week, and also do different markets around your county, your state and around the country. There are some very large national markets that you may want to consider selling at, such as the Brimfield show with hundreds of dealers and thousands of buyers. You can check them out at Brimfield Antique and Flea Market Shows.

You may also want to check out some of the resources that I mentioned in part one of this article, such as the U.S. Flea Market Directory: A Guide to the Best Flea Markets in all 50 States by Albert LaFarge; the Keys Flea Market web site and the Great Flea Market web site.

2. Plan For the Rush. If at all possible, reserve a booth as close to the entrance as you can. This will ensure that buyers entering and leaving the flea market will see your booth first, and then again as they prepare to leave. And plan for the big rush that almost always happens as soon as the market is open. Some buyers are in a frenzy to grab the best deals before they are all gone, so be ready to do a lot of standing, moving around your booth, greeting buyers and answering questions, and also making deals during the first 30 minutes to an hour of your selling day. This as well as the end of the day is the time to make deals and make your most money.

3. Plan An Adequate Supply of Inventory and Money. It is always a good idea to have an inventory worth at least $1,000 - $2000 on hand. You may not need to have all of it out at one time, but it is a good idea to be able to keep you booth stocked throughout the day. An empty booth and sparse tables will turn potential buyers away. Another thing that will turn buyers away is not having enough money on hand to make change. Don’t fall into the trap that many do by thinking you can sell items and use the money you receive from those sales to make change. Trust me it never works out well when you do that. It’s a good idea to have at least $400 - $500 in twenties, tens, fives and one dollar bills, as well as perhaps $10 dollars in change – pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. This way you are always ready to make change for any sale. This will help make sales smoother and faster. This is essential during the big rush at the beginning of the day.

4. Tag and Inspect All Items. Before packing your vehicle for the trip to the flea market. Taking time to tag them after you set up is distracting to both you and potential buyers. Plus buyers will tend to shy away from untagged items, thinking the price is too high for them. Like the old saying, “if you have to ask the price, you probably can’t afford it.” And make sure all your items are tagged with clean, bright, new tags. Remove the old tags and replace them with new tags. Old tags, dirty tags will generally indicate to experienced buyers that the item is old, well handled by previous buyers, and generally unsellable. Items tagged with dirty and worn tags will generally be passed up by experienced buyers. Also ensure that prices are clearly written and reasonable. It is important to mark your items up properly.

Also make sure you have inspected your items prior to packing them for the trip to the flea market. Make sure your items are clean and not broken. Not only do dirty and marred items not sell well, cleaning them while unpacking is too much of a distraction for both you and potential buyers. Don’t go too far with cleaning, however, when it comes to metal items such as brass, copper, silver, silver plate, or antique toys. You don’t want to remove any of the patina as this can devalue the item.

5. Tables, Chairs, and Shelter. It is a good idea to invest in a pop up shelter, as well as some good folding tables and folding chairs. Make sure you have some anchors (such as 2 ½ gallon buckets full of sandbags or cement) that you can use to hold your shelter down if the wind picks up. Tables should be clean, or have some table cloths (preferably white or soft earth tones) to cover them with. Fitted sheets purchased at a thrift store work well for this. Presentation is very important to buyers and will help increase sales. Nobody wants to buy an item that is presented on a grease or oil stained table.


1. Choosing your spot. Try to pick a spot with the heaviest foot traffic. This is just good common sense. Try to avoid remote spots, even if they provide shade. Remote spots are generally utilized by novice sellers, and they receive the least amount of foot traffic, and thus the least amount of sales.

2. Showcases. People like to handle the items they are considering purchasing, so use showcases sparingly. It takes time to unlock and open them to retrieve items for buyer inspection. Try to use them only for small and expensive items. Buyers will understand this.

4. Setting up tables and chairs. When setting up your tables, always leave enough room for three people to walk side by side between your rows of tables. This will encourage browsing as people do not want to be crowded while they are browsing. Having enough room between your table rows is an invitation to potential buyers to browse. If you bring some folding chairs to sit on (and if you don’t. you’ll wish you had!) set up one or two near the front of your booth as an invitation for tired or elderly buyers to have a seat and rest. This type of customer service will go a long way toward encouraging sales. Set up your chair or chairs near the back of your booth, at least 4-5 feet behind the back end of your tables. You may also want to invest in a small folding camping table (about 18 inches square by 18 inches tall) to set next to your chair. This can be used to place a cup of coffee or glass of water, tea or soda on while you are helping customers.

5. Special Items and Unsold Items. When you have special items, especially those that you are certain will be good sellers, don’t bury them in a crowd of lower selling items. Place them where they will be seen by potential buyers looking for that something special. When you have items that aren’t moving as well as you would like, move them around every hour or so. This will give your booth and tables a “new look” that may encourage browsing, even by folks who have already been to your booth.

6. A Special “Attractor”. A special attractor is usually a large item, often too large to be placed on a table, usually showy, that is placed out in front of the booth. Although it is there to be sold, it is also there to attract people. It is designed to catch their eye and draw them into your booth. Even if you don’t have a large cigar store Indian, or floor standing Victrola, you can put some larger unique items on tables near the front of your booth. The idea with the special attractor is to advertise your booth, so make your special attractor a good one.


1. Attitude. One of the most important aspects of customer service is attitude. Always keep a pleasant attitude not only when dealing with customers, but even when you’re not. You never know who is watching or within listening range. Always greet each customer with smile and a hello. Be courteous and friendly. Be willing to talk and know when not to. You don’t want to be too pushy and drive your customers away.

2. Encourage. Be willing and ready to encourage and accept offers whenever possible. Never have rack hard firm prices. Always offer a discount, and don’t be afraid to take an occasional loss. By encouraging sellers to “wheel and deal,” you are building a customer base, and good customer relations. Word of mouth among buyers travels fast, whether good words or bad, so always be cognizant of this aspect of your customer service.

3. Know your items. Be ready, willing and able to answer any questions your customers may have. If you know the history or provenance of an item, or any known facts about an item, being willing to share this information will go a long way to closing a deal on that item. And be honest about the item. Resist the temptation to embellish an items history.

4. Be helpful. Always offer to pack the buyers item for them and have boxes – bags – and packing material readily available to do this. Never use newspaper as it can stain some items. Use plain unused newsprint (available at some packing stores or newspaper offices) or clean white butcher paper. Always give your customers your business card, and always put one in the box or bag with the item. You may also want to include a flyer as well which will list not only your online selling venues, but which flea markets, swap meets, or antique and collectible shows you will be selling at in the near and or distant future. Keep your customers coming back. A little self promotion can go a long way.


Plan for the future. Don’t wait until the last minute to schedule your next flea market sales opportunity. Plan ahead. Also, if you have a helper with you, take a break during a lull in the selling, and look around the flea market. Take a look at what others are selling, what their prices are, what is actually selling as opposed to what is not. Ask questions and take notes (just don’t be obvious about it), and use the tactics of successful sellers to improve your selling methods. If you are planning to attend an unknown market, ask around and get the advice of some of the seasoned dealers who may have attended the unknown market. Most dealers are willing to help, and as you get to know them, especially after meeting them at several different markets and shows, you will become part of the dealers social network. A benefit that can go a long way to a successful selling career.

Well, that’s the end of part two of this two part article series, with 15 more need-to-know tips for successful buying and selling at flea markets and swap meets. As always, I appreciate you stopping by and reading my blog articles. I hope you find them informative and enjoyable, and I hope you’ll please consider signing up to follow this blog, and subscribing to it for more great articles. And don’t hesitate to leave your comments. They are always welcome. Until next time my friends,


Whiskey Jack

Today’s Word of Wisdom: “Don’t be easily discouraged. Every path has some puddles.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ebay vs Bonanzle: Smack Down!

Ebay vs Bonanzle: Smack Down!

Well, not really a smack down, but it sounds cool doesn't it? For today’s web site review article, I have decided to try and tackle the issue of Bonanzle versus eBay. Many Bonanzle sellers have openly expressed hostility toward eBay in many venues across the internet. Are their claims true, or are they simply a bit over zealous in their passion for Bonanzle? Hopefully, this article will address these issues. Now I admit that I am somewhat biased toward Bonanzle, as I do sell there, and in fact I have two booths on Bonanzle. However, I also sell on eBay, both in auctions and I have an eBay store as well, so hopefully, I can remain at least somewhat unbiased in this comparison. First lets take a look at the pros and cons of Bonanzle.

1. Listing / Buying / Selling

One of the first things I liked about Bonanzle was the simplicity of listing. Granted, eBay as well would be much easier if I kept my listings simple and used their TurboLister thusly. However, with the ability to use extensive HTML in my eBay listings, I alone have made listing on eBay, for me, much more difficult than it has to be. Bonanzle also has the ability to accept some basic HTML in the listing process, and I have to admit that although it is limited in its scope, I do like the Bonanzle listing process better than eBay’s. Plus with Bonanzle, you have the ability to customize your item categories within your booth, and you are not limited to only certain categories as you are with eBay.

Another benefit of listing on Bonanzle is the importing of listings from both eBay and CraigsList. You can also import your eBay feedback, and by doing so, if you have good feedback on eBay it gives you a certain trust factor with Bonanzle buyers right from the get go.

Both eBay and Bonanzle offer a local pick up option to buyers. However, Bonanzle takes it a step further by giving its sellers the opportunity to arrange for a pick up time and date.

Unlike eBay, Bonanzle offers the ability to run sales (known as “Bonanza’s”), offer customized discounts, and free items as well, all making for a more user friendly environment for both buying and selling.

I would have to say that as far as basic listing, buying and selling, Bonanza is far better then eBay.

2. Fees

There are no listing fees. This is a big plus for me. Ebay’s fee structure can be so complicated with various percentages in listing fees, final value fees, fees for extras, and so on. With Bonanzle the final value fees are very simple. If your item(s) sell for $10 or less, the final value fee is only .50 cents. If the item(s) sell for $10 - $50, the final value fee is only $1. Item(s) selling for between $50 - $99, the final value fee is $3. Items selling for between $100 - $1000 have a final value fee of $5, and those selling for over $1000 have a final value fee of only $10. With eBay, fees could reach into the hundreds of dollars. Plus, with Bonanzle, their fees are guaranteed not to increase through 2010.

As far as fees go, Bonanzle is the winner hands down.

3. Payments

Ebay currently only allows payments to be made through PayPal, which is an eBay company. One of the main drawbacks to me, at least on principle, is that this ensures that eBay gets more of your profits than it would if they allowed its sellers to accept checks, money orders, or other non-PayPal payment methods. Ebay, through PayPal, also has now instituted a new rule, which they claim helps bolster buyer confidence, is to withhold payment for certain randomly picked items for a specified of time up to 21 days. Not really a good thing for sellers who are depending on those payments to pay their own bills. I addressed this particular issue in an earlier blog article.

In the area of payments, Bonanzle has a far better, user friendly policy than does eBay.

4. Shipping

Ebay, on the plus side, does have a handle on shipping options. Ebay sellers have the ability to choose any form of USPS shipping, UPS, or FedEx. Bonanzle does not. Both venues give the seller the option to use calculated shipping, but with Bonanzle this is a limited feature that can be cumbersome. Plus sellers cannot add handling fees. With Bonanzle, these fees must be added to the item price, which gives the outward appearance of higher prices. Although this is not an issue for sellers who do not charge handling fees, it can be an issue for those who do. This does create a little more work for the Bonanzle seller. I have found that when I list on Bonanzle, I always use the “Fixed Shipping” option. I then set the shipping price based on shipping calculations that I have already figured out in advance. Unfortunately, this does always give me 100% accurate shipping price. Sometimes it is right on, sometimes I have to take a hit on shipping, and sometimes I overcharge by a few dollars. I suppose it all works out in the end, but I would like to see Bonanzle offer a better range of shipping options, so as to ensure more accurate shipping prices.

There is also the question of international shipping. With Bonanzle there is no differentiation between the two. If you charge $5.00 for fixed shipping, then you are charging that amount for both domestic and international shipping. If you use the calculated shipping, then you are limiting yourself as to the method of shipping as no real options are given. It makes for some seller difficulties that I hope Bonanzle can overcome.

As for now, however, eBay has the better shipping options.

5. Communication with Buyers

Actually, there is no comparison is this category. With eBay, there is only limited communication between the buy and the seller, and that only through eBay monitored messages. With Bonanzle, not only can buyers send messages to the buyers, but Bonanzle has a unique feature that eBay cannot compare with. The live booth chat. With this wonderful feature, Bonanzle sellers and buyers can literally communicate with each other in real time, and the possibilities are fantastic. With this feature, Bonanzle sellers can actually hold real time auctions right in their booth. They can deal with buyers, socialize with booth visitors, promote their items, and more, all in real time.

There is no question that in so far as communication with buyers, Bonanzle has cornered the market with the live chat feature.

6. Customer / Seller Support

With both Ebay and Bonanzle, there is the “community” that one can turn to for help for just about any issue or problem, and good solid advice is sure to follow any request for help that is given. But it is here that the similarities end. When communicating with eBay itself, users are sure to experience a level of frustration that can barely be coped with. I know because I have experienced it myself (as mentioned in a previous blog article). In a word, eBay is inaccessible. Unless you are a Power Seller (who due to their high volume selling and the resulting more money that they make for eBay), you are sure to be relegated to either an automated computer program that will attempt to answer your questions with canned answers that are rarely sufficient, or you will be forced to communicate via email with uncaring and non-understanding customer service agents.

Not so with Bonanzle. On Bonanzle, users not only have their questions and concerns answered by actual people, but even the owners will answer your questions. The owners also put out a monthly newsletter and a regular blog, all designed to keep users updated on upcoming changes and new features. They are also interested in user opinions and they are open to user suggestions for improving the site.

Without a doubt, Bonanzle received the highest of marks in this category.

7. Dispute Resolution

Although eBay does have a dispute resolution section, it does not always find in favor of the person who is in the right. Ebay has a tendency to find in favor of the buyer, presumably in an effort to protect its buyer base, and thus ensure future income. With Bonanzle, the simply transparency found in the booth setups tends to create a refreshing open faced honesty among the sellers, and thus reducing even the possibility of disputes. Although this may change as Bonanzle grows, it is very much within the realm of possibility that Bonanzle will meet any potential problems that may arise.

I have to give Bonanzle the highest marks in this category as well.

8. Promotion

With eBay, item or store promotion is going to cost you extra, above and beyond (sometimes well beyond) your initial selling fees. Ebay offers subtitles, bold print, borders, highlighting, “Featured Plus” packages, “Pro Pack” and “Value Pack” listing upgrades, and designer upgrades. None of these have ever really been shown to improve sales, but eBay does promote their use, and each of them does cost the seller more money.

Bonanzle does things a bit different. Not only does Bonanzle give sellers the option to sign up with Google Base (which allows sellers to have their items come up in Google searches), but Bonanzle also encourages, and offers tips on, self promotion. A tactic that is far better and user oriented than eBay’s method. On Bonanzle sellers also have the ability to hold sales known as Bonanza’s, which are 1-3 hour discount sales. These Bonanza’s are extremely popular among Bonanzle users.

Bonanzle also allows its users to offer free items. This is an excellent promotional tool that almost all Bonanzle users have taken advantage of. Let’s face it, everyone loves to get something for nothing.

Once again, a plus for Bonanzle over eBay.

9. Other Things to Consider

There are some other things that must be considered when comparing Bonanzle with eBay. Even though Bonanzle has been receiving accolades across the internet and throughout the ecommerce world, and although Bonanzle has clearly won this little contest, eBay still has some advantages over Bonanzle that only time can overcome. Among them, is the simple fact that eBay is still the biggest ecommerce site on the web today, and it is where the buyers are. It has the name recognition and familiarity with the general public that is needed to generate the high degree of sales that it has.

In plain terms, everyone knows about or has heard of eBay. It has become a household word much like Jell-O or Kleenex. Even computer spell check programs recognize the name, and parody singer “Weird” Al Yankovic has recorded a song, “I Sold It On Ebay!” The same cannot be said about Bonanzle. At least so far. With the exuberant and zealous Bonanzle community, this could conceivably change in the not too distant future. Again, only time will tell.

Because of this, many sellers are reluctant to leave eBay altogether. Myself included. I still have my eBay store, and I still run auctions on eBay, simply because I make money there. More than I do on Bonanzle. However, I am optimistic that Bonanzle can and will eventually eclipse eBay as the premiere ecommerce site, as long as Bonanzle continues to hold to its core values and goals, and as long as eBay continues to alienate the smaller volume sellers as it is currently doing.

Although I am a big fan of Bonanzle, and although I have no intention of ever leaving Bonanzle, this little “One-on-One” contest should encourage other online sellers to examine which of the two sites best addresses their needs as sellers. Perhaps it will be one or the other, or both. Sellers should examine which of these sites offers the best in customer service and the best in solutions to technical problems, and which is the most user friendly.

If I were to offer a prediction, I believe that eBay will continue to alienate its smaller volume sellers and increasingly cater to the larger volume sellers (i.e. Power Sellers), or those who ultimately make more money for them. I see Bonanzle as growing to be as large, if not larger then eBay, especially in providing a place for those smaller, lower volume sellers that are becoming increasingly disenfranchised with eBay. I believe that a clear line will be drawn as Bonanzle continues to be an ever increasing home for small business operators, and eBay continues to be an ever increasing home to larger retail businesses.

In closing, I would encourage everyone reading this article to give Bonanzle a try, I think you’ll be pleased. I hope you’ve found this article to be helpful, and I hope unbiased. If you enjoy these articles, I hope you’ll consider subscribing to and following this blog, and please don’t hesitate to leave your comments, they are always welcome and encouraged. Thanks for stopping by, and until next time,


Whiskey Jack

Today’s word of wisdom: “Don't go sellin’ your mule to buy a plough.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Collecting Salt and Pepper Shakers

Salt has long been a staple of mankind’s diet, and from the earliest days, people have looked for various ways to store and serve salt. Initially, salt came in rock form and had to be scraped or grated in order to flavor food. The grated salt was served in salt dips (also know as salt cellars, open salts) which were small glass (such as Vaseline, carnival, EAPG, depression ear, etc.) or ceramic bowls approximately 1-2 inches in diameter. Some of the nicer salts were made of silver with glass inserts, or crystal. Often they came with small spoons which were used to scoop the salt from the individual dips and then sprinkle the salt on the user’s food.

Quite often
individual salt dips were accompanied by a master salt. The individual salts were filled from the master salt, and placed around the table by or between the different seats. Many of the salt dips that are found in today’s collections are pressed or pattern glass (EAPG), depression glass, carnival glass, Vaseline glass, Czech crystal, or some other early form of glass, usually dating from the 1700’s to the early 20th century.

With the advent of the salt mill, a device which contained a grinding mechanism that broke up the salt rocks into fine granules. Salt and pepper mills are still found today in many homes and restaurants. Eventually, when methods were found to mass produce salt as fine crystals, salt mills fell into disuse, and the salt shaker was born.

With the birth of mass produced ceramics during the 1940’s, salt and pepper shaker production hit an all time high, and shakers of all shapes and sizes could easily be found. The market for advertising and novelty shakers grew due to the affordability and availability of shakers.

Today, most homes have at least two or three shaker sets for different uses. Whether everyday use, holidays and special occasions, or even picnics and outdoor barbecues, shakers are usually in abundance in most homes. There are some, however, that just can’t resist the charm that many shakers possess, and they collect shakers by the score. Glass, ceramic, wood, metal, and plastic shakers line shelf after shelf, and the adoring owner can usually tell you a story about each and every one. And no wonder, it is an enjoyable hobby, as well as in many cases a good investment.

If you’re just beginning to get in to the hobby, there are a few things that you may want to consider. Do you want to specialize in a particular style of shaker such as nodders, condiments, hangers, figural, stackers, huggers or minis? Perhaps you are interested in a particular material such as glass, wood, ceramic, plastic, or metal; or maybe a specific maker or era? All are important questions to ask yourself as the more general your collection, the larger it may become, perhaps to your own dismay as they take over your home!

Another thing to consider is condition and storage. When purchasing additions to your collection, pay close attention to detail and possible repairs. If possible, use a black light to check for repairs which will often fluoresce under the black light. (Remember, a small portable handheld black light should be a part of your buyer kit!). When examining salt and pepper shakers look to see if they have their original stoppers or have they been replaced? And while checking stoppers, check to see if the shakers still contain salt or pepper. Although these spices do wonders for many foods (especially those I cook), they can cause some damage to the shakers if stored in the shakers for long periods of time. Never store salt or pepper in your collectible shakers.

Also consider half sets or single shakers. Not only do they often display nicely on their own, but you may want to have a spare to that favorite set or two that reside in your collection in the event of a possible mishap.

As I mentioned above, many folks specialize in a particular style of shaker. Here is a list of some of the more popular styles.


These unique shakers, usually figures of people, will feature double sides that are opposite of each other. For example, on one side, you may find a happily married young couple, but on the reverse side of the same shakers you will see a pair of grumpy old folks.


Nodders are shakers that sit balanced on a base, and will wobble or “nod” when gently touched.

Carriers / Carts:

The base for shakers in these sets is usually a small animal or animal drawn cart. The shakers will hang from the animals saddle or sit in the cart.


Again, huggers do what their name implies. The two shakers in a set stand together in a hug. Some of the most well know of the huggers are made by Van Tellingen.


Hangers are a set of shakers that hag from the third piece in the set, which is the base.


A stacker set of shakers is a set where one of the shakers sits upon its mate.


Minis are just what they sound like, miniature shakers. They usually measure between ½ inch to 2 inches in height.

Bench Sitters:

As you may have guessed, bench sitters are designed to sit on a bench. The bench was sold with the figural shaker set, usually people, and the bench was their base.


A condiment set consists of two shakers on either side of a base which contains a small covered center tray or bowl which is used for mustard, relish, sugar or other condiment.

Long Boys & Tall Boys:

These are shakers, usually animals or people, with unusually long elongated bodies or necks that measure 6 inches or more.

These are only a few of the many types of shaker sets that are collected and available today. Below is a list of related books and web sites to help you in your research of salt and pepper shakers.

Web Sites:

The Novelty Salt and Pepper Shakers Club

Kim's Salt and Pepper Shaker Page

Cathy's Open Salts Page


Collector's Encyclopedia of Salt and Pepper Shakers: Second Series (Figural and Novelty 2nd Series) by Melva Davern

Florence's Big Book of Salt & Pepper Shakers: Identification & Value Guide by Gene Florence

The Complete Salt and Pepper Shaker Book by Mike Schneider

Some Shakers Found on eBay:

Sterling Bird Form Salt Pepper Shakers MARTIN BROTHERS

Sold As Best Offer for $700.00

Vintage Gas Pump Salt & and Pepper Shakers Hancock Gas

31 Bids, Sold for $560.00

RARE Mt. Washington Opaque Peachblow Pear Salt Shaker

2 Bids, Sold for $495.00

Mckee Depression Glass Salt and Pepper Shaker

10 Bids, Sold for $380.00

Today's Word of Wisdom: "Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. It comes to us at midnight, very clean, perfect when it arrives, and puts itself in our hands and hopes we learned something from yesterday."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tips For Buying & Selling At Flea Markets and Swap Meets – Part One

Howdy Folks,

When you’re selling online, just like with a brick and mortar store, the number one issue you have is finding inventory. Let’s face it, without inventory sales are kinda slow. One of the primary places we online sellers, especially those dealing in antiques and collectibles, find our inventory is at flea markets and swap meets. We also do a lot of sales at these venues during the summer months. I thought today I would start a two-part article on buying and selling tips at flea markets and swap meets.

Part One – Need to Know Tips for Buying at Flea Markets & Swap Meets


As with everything in life, preparation is important, and the old adage, “Failing to Prepare, is Preparing to Fail,” holds very true. When preparing to hit the flea market trail, there are a few points to remember.

1. Research and plan out your route. Read every antiques and collectibles trade paper you can find. Many of them will list upcoming specialty flea markets that deal in specific antiques and collectibles. There are glass and pottery markets, toy markets, etc. Know where you want to go, and how you’re going to get there. Note that new markets and small town markets can often provide some great buying opportunities. They are usually off the beaten track, and the lack of “high power, big money” buyers can often keep prices reasonable. You may also want to purchase the U.S. Flea Market Directory: A Guide to the Best Flea Markets in all 50 States by Albert LaFarge. Now in it’s 3rd edition, this great paperback book not only lists the best flea markets in all 50 states, it also gives days and hours of operation, admission costs, amenities available, types of merchandise and range of selection, and also contact information. Or, you can check online sites that give some of the same information found in LaFarge’s book. A couple of good sites are:

- offers some pretty good flea market links

- offers links to flea market websites

2. Have your field guides ready. Unless you have the supernatural (and very enviable) ability to know absolutely everything about everything, you’re probably going to need a couple of field guides to take with you to help in identification of items you find. If you have a basic plan to look only for specific items, you can probably depend on field guides that deal with that item. Warman’s Field Guides are great for this. Whether its depression glass, action figures, antiques jewelry, Pez dispensers, Matchbox cars, or what have you, Warman’s usually has a field guide for it. If you are looking for many different items, you may want to check out the Flea Market Trader paperback book. This book lists thousands of items, many with black and white photos. Although not as extensive as the Warman’s Field Guides, the Flea Market Trader is a great book to carry with you in your backpack or back pocket. Please note, however, that these books usually have price lists and what they call “current values.” Don’t rely on these prices and values. They are usually out of date by the time the book itself is printed, and remember that prices and values vary from one part of the country to another, and from one market to another.

3. Prepare your buyer kit. A good buyer kit is essential! Always have it ready to go, and never forget it. A good buyers kit will contain:

- A small high-intensity flashlight for shining on the inside of vases, cups and other containers to check for cracks; see relief and incised maker marks, and other uses.

- A small but powerful magnifying glass and or jewelers loup for closely examining glass, pottery, art, and other items.

- A small handheld black light for checking Vaseline glass, green depression glass, and also for checking for pottery repairs which will often show up under black light.

- A pair of white cotton gloves for handling vintage photos, tin types, and other ephemera. Many dealers will not allow you to touch these items with your bare hands, as oils from your fingers will damage these items.

- A small set of jewelers screwdrivers for opening the backs of vintage battery operated items, and other items to check for corrosion and broken connections and other loose parts.

- Personal Items such as Business Cards, Aspirin, Band Aids, a couple of energy bars, any necessary medications that may be needed during the day.

These items will generally fit in a standard sized fanny pack or a small backpack. I cannot over-stress the importance of bringing your buyers kit along with you, so if you don’t have one put together yet, its time to start.


1. Arrive Early. The best time to arrive at a flea market is early. I mean real early. If at all possible, try and be there when the dealers are unpacking. Although this sometimes means you may have to pay an early buyers fee, if you can afford it, pay it. This is the best time to make some good deals. Although you may not save much money, you will often get first choice on a dealers items. At the very least, you will have the opportunity to check out items early that you can always go back and check on later.

2. Check out Remote Tables and Booths. You may also want to check out the back spots and remote spots at the market as soon as possible. These spots usually don’t attract much traffic, and are often the last to be filled. Usually they are filled with new dealers who may either be unknowledgeable about what they have or the worth of their items, and they may be willing to make you some pretty good deals.


1. Be Ready to Make Deals. When arriving at the dealers tables and booths, you need to be in “Hagglin’ Mode.” Be ready to start making deals. When you find an item that you may be interested in, hold it an don’t put it down. If another buyer sees that you might be interested in it, they will grab it up if you put it down. Always ask the dealer if the price marked is their best price and if they can offer a better price. When they do (and the usually will), then you can offer a lower price. If they take it, great. If they offer another price, try and compromise by splitting the difference between the dealer’s price and what you are willing to pay. This is haggling 101. Sometimes the dealer will not come down in price. That’s okay. You can always go back at the end of the day, and if the item is still there, the dealer may be willing to deal at that point. Remember the “Haggler’s Golden Rule: Whoever names a price first – loses.” Another point to remember is to not irritate the dealer. Be friendly and courteous, even if you think the dealer is handing you a line of sheep dip when describing the item. Your knowledge of the item, its actual value and resale value, will help you out in the end. And, never make an offer unless you’re ready to back it up.

2. Closely Examine the Dealers Items. Take a good look around the dealer’s table or booth. Look for items that seem out of place. For example, if you find a tackle box full of old lures on a table or booth full of depression glass, there is a good chance that the dealer really doesn’t know what he or she has and you may be able to make a good deal. Check out the condition of the price tags and price stickers. If they are old and or dirty, then chances are that the item is old stock that the dealer has had around for a long time. Dealers are often willing to make some good deals on these items just to be rid of them. You should also check out any boxes that are left under the dealers tables. Sometimes these boxes will contain items that the dealers just didn’t have room for on his or her tables. If you see something you like, ask about it. You should also ask the dealer if they have any other items that they have not yet put out. You never know where that hidden treasure is that you’re looking for.


In closing, I’d like to offer these tips that will help you as you visit the flea markets and swap meets in your area and across the country.

1. Take advantage of the end of day pack up time. At the end of the day, many dealers just want to pack up and go home. And the less they have to pack up, the better. Remember that wonderful item you saw at the beginning of the day that the dealer would not come down on? At the end of the day, that dealer may be more willing to make a deal with you.

2. Cash Talks – Nonsense Walks. Never was this old adage more true than at a flea market. In fact, although some dealers will take checks or credit cards, many won’t. Believe me when I say that if you start counting out some green backs, a dealer, especially a new dealer, will be ready and willing to deal.

3. Buying Out A Dealer. Quite often a dealer will be more willing to deal when you are ready to make a large or lot purchase. Not only does the dealer stand to make a good profit for the day when you “buy big,” but you too will make some good deals.

4. Questionable Items. If you find an item that you are not sure of its legitimacy (as far as age or condition), you may consider paying for that item with a check rather than with cash. That way, if the item turns out to be bogus, after the dealer has “promised” you that it is legitimate, you can always cancel payment on the check. You may lose some money, but if it was a high cost item, at least you won’t lose it all. If you do this, however, make sure you return the item to the dealer as soon as possible. This is a “last resort” tactic, that you need to consider carefully before engaging in. Always ask the dealer about his or her return policy. After all, the dealer may have simply been mistaken in his or her claims about the item, and canceling payment on a check, especially without returning the item, will undoubtedly cause some hard feelings, and may get you banned from that flea market, or at the very least, word will get out among the close knit community of dealers and you could be blackballed from many other dealers tables and booths.

5. Hand out your business card. One of the best things about buying at flea markets and swap meets is the contacts you will make. Once you have developed a rapport with the dealers, many of them will be willing to not only put items aside that they know you are interested in, but they will also be on the lookout during their inventory buying trips to find items for you. So always leave a card with these dealers that contains your telephone number, your mailing address, and if possible an email address.

Well, there you have it folks, 12 essential need-to-know tips for successful buying at flea markets and swap meets. Next Thursday will be part two of this article, “Tips for Successful Selling at Flea Markets and Swap Meets.” I hope you have found this article informative and enjoyable. Please consider signing up to follow this blog, and subscribing to it for more great articles. And don’t hesitate to leave your comments. They are all welcome. Until next time my friends,


Whiskey Jack

Today’s Word of Wisdom: “It's better to be a has-been than a never-was.”