Journal

West Coast Flea Scenes

02.17.2015

On a recent trip to visit family in Los Angeles and San Francisco, we spent a couple of mornings at well-known flea markets in each of the cities. We were curious about the buying and selling scene at west coast flea markets, and were also hoping to find some things for inventory.

Before dawn on the morning after we landed at LAX, we made our way to the Santa Monica Airport Antiques and Collectibles Market. It was not yet light when it opened to early buyers at 6 am, but there we were, trained from years of attending the Brimfield, Mass markets to arrive while dealers were unpacking to get the first look at their wares.

santa monica airport flea market

Jeff took off ahead of me to start roving the field, while being cautious not to make purchases in the dark – even a flashlight is no substitute for daylight when examining an antique’s condition and authenticity (does that sound like we’ve learned this the hard way?!)

santa monica flea market

A few dealers already had their booths set up, and had even brought good camp lanterns to illuminate their wares. This booth had a sign that we sort of liked (not pictured), but ultimately passed on (and now neither of us can even remember what it said, so that tells you something).

santa monica flea market

Other booths had no lights at all. We were momentarily attracted to these painted surveyors’ poles in the dark, but decided they were nothing special after all.

santa monica flea market

Before we arrived, Jeff had said “I bet I’ll see at least one dealer I know.” As he was walking around in the murky gray light shortly after we arrived, he heard a voice behind him saying, “Hey, what are you doing here?” So here is a blurry photo taken in low light of two high-speed walkers – Jeff and a California fine arts dealer whom he knows from Brimfield shows.

That dealer, who sets up at the flea market every month, described it as “A lot of shabby chic, but you can sometimes find things.” The operative definition of “things” in this context of dealer-speak, is real antiques with intrinsic value.

santa monica flea market

I wish I could follow that sentence with an illustration of real “things,” but shabby chic, as in the booth pictured above, did indeed rule the day.

santa monica flea market

When the day dawned, Jeff began focusing in earnest, revisiting booths again and again until everything was unpacked. The palm trees helped me realize I was not in Maine and not at Brimfield, but in fact was on vacation, sort of.

santa monica flea market

Other popular categories were vintage clothing and industrial lighting, not so different from trendy vintage goods back east.

SMlights

santa monica flea market

This tailored wool jacket from the 1920s tempted me, but it is hard to shop for oneself during business hours (wait, did I say I was there on business? jet lag confusion, I guess).

We kept our eyes sharpened for anything related to our rustic specialty, but the pickings in that regard were indeed slim.

santa monica flea market

This coppery surfaced leaping stag caught my eye, but close-up I could see that it was new and cheesy. However, I did take a shine to the (newish) gilt-painted wooden tiered serving stand which I might have purchased to use at home, if I was indeed anywhere close to home.

santa monica flea market

These owl andirons qualified as a rustic accessory, but in addition to being heavy they were in bad condition – definitely not worth buying. Keep Reading