Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Culture of the Flea & Vintage Economy

*Scroll to the end for my surprise announcement*

In my day job I teach sociology [among other courses] and I frequently think about flea and antique markets from a sociological perspective. Certainly there is a diverse cast of characters  from far different walks of life. Today I'm looking at educational levels. 

I knew approximately 8 vendors near my space in the flea market plus an owner of a nearly food stand when I was a Renningers Flea Market. Out of those 10 [myself included,] at least 3 had a college education or higher which translates to 30%. That's not exactly what I was expecting when I came to the flea. 

Using the model of  Sudhir Venkatesh, as described by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner in "Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything," I do a lot of simple observing and don't ask a lot of questions. I believe all three of the college educated vendors I know at Renningers has the equivalent of at least a masters degree. I believe at least one other vendor has an associates degree.

 Now that I am at Adjectives Market, I see the same thing. The owner has a professional degree (in law) and many vendors are also teachers or nurses. Some continue to work in their fields and others devote themselves to vintage markets using skills learned in their other professions. The customers at Adjectives are often similarly educated. As a subculture, the flea and vintage arenas have a rich diversity not obvious from the outside.

I wonder if our little flea "neighborhood" is an anomaly or is typical. I don't think many people  go to college with a goal of running a flea market booth yet. What I do know is that to a person they must know if certain items will sell or not. Carol Turner of The Polka Dot Closet has an excellent series on what sells and what does not. 

And she has invited me to be a guest poster on what sells and what does not! I'll post when it will appear on her page and urge you to check her page out as well. You'll find that it's the best!

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  1. Thanks for the shout out! Interesting, in my previous life I was a nurse and sold pharmaceuticals for many years. I took all of my sales and marketing skills into the selling of antiques, blog writing, and online store. My past experience serves me well.


  2. This was a very interesting post. I am also a vendor in an antique mall and have a master's degree, and come to think of it, most of my dealer friends are all college educated as well. Maybe it's because hunting for junque is much more fun than any of our professions, and we meet other kindred spirits.

  3. One other comment, Kitty. Found you through Carol's blog. Have you done a tutorial on those fabulous paper flowers? They are stunning!

    1. Thank you for your visit today : ) I do plan on doing a paper flower tutorial. They take a little time but are pretty easy and dress up anything you put them in.

  4. I also found your post on the educational level of vendors interesting. Count me as another flea market vendor with a master's degree and I teach high school science full time. I do the vintage revivals as a creative and recreational outlet. I can live in the academic world by day and the arts word in in the evening and weekends. Thanks for sharing your sociology viewpoint.