That’s right, I survived the D.C. Big Flea. I’ve been to this show plenty of times, but this past weekend’s was the busiest I’ve ever seen it. The show is held at the Dulles Expo Center, which is a massive place with two large buildings. Despite the Expo Center’s huge parking lot, I drove around for nearly 30 minutes before finding a space. No joke — EVERY car was a GMC Suburban or F-150 pickup, and they were all parked at an angle that varied from 13-33 degrees.
Once I finally made it into the first building, I wrangled my way through the busy aisles on my eternal quest for pop culture goodies. Now, when I go to this type of show, I’m not the “typical” attendee. I like to walk at a normal, human pace, and glance quickly at the booths until I see some brightly colored plastic. That’s my cue to stop. It seems like everyone else likes to browse slowly, leisurely, and two or three abreast. And don’t even get me started on the people who decide they need to text and check into foursquare while meandering down the rows. After the parking fiasco, my blood pressure was on tilt, but luckily it didn’t take long for me to enter my zone of zen as I found some cool vintage toys.
One of my favorite things about the Flea is that I have an opportunity to talk with the vendors about their items and learn about what’s hot in the vintage toy market. I also like to see the huge variety of items that the vendors bring. I met a pop culture vendor named Brent, who had a ton of great items and even more great information. After chatting for a bit, Brent figured out what my collecting interests were and he pulled these figures out of one of his glass cases:
These are Miller aliens, and are possibly the coolest things I’ve ever seen at the Big Flea. They were manufactured in the 50’s by a company named Miller, who used a blow-mold process with a wax-like plastic. The fragile material makes these figures extremely hard to find in good condition. I checked on eBay and found the going rate for these guys is several hundred dollars — each! I’m amazed that these were produced in the 50’s, they are just so darn freaky. If you have deeper pockets than me, and want to buy these awesome toys, you can get in touch with Brent through his web site.
There were probably a half dozen booths dedicated to vintage pop culture items. I was tempted by a Buck Rogers painting kit ($25 in Brent’s booth, but $65 in another booth — always shop around!). There was a really neat Land of the Lost bagatelle game in its original packaging, that I am regretting not bringing home with me. There were some excellent Nutty Mads, and a bunch of Matt Mason items that caught my eye, but I found myself being particularly thrifty this time. (Mitch, I WILL buy that Conan movie poster one of these days!)
There are always some great vintage tin toys at the Big Flea. Before I die, I will own one of these rocking cowboys:
One of my favorite vendors at the Flea is the “Back in the Day Collectibles” booth, which always has plenty of drool-inducing movie posters for sale. I can’t recommend them enough, and if you’re looking for some amazing art for your walls, do yourself a favor and visit Henry Karp’s shop in Ellicott City, MD or on his web site.
I met John Hawkinson and James Wood who are expert vintage poster restorers, and linen-backing pros. They were generous with their time and information, and gave me some great advice on how I should frame a giant movie poster I bought recently (put it up on the wall and build a frame around it!)
It’s almost as if Henry knew I was coming. Check out this amazing poster — a repro, but still incredible…
There’s a display case vendor at the Flea who always has a great selection and excellent prices. I have bought plenty of supplies from him and always know where to find him when I need a new case. I picked up this small one for my vintage Batman pinbacks and flicker cards.
Well, I didn’t break the bank at the show, much to my wife’s satisfaction (and amazement). Of course, I didn’t leave empty handed, either. I scrounged up 15 vintage Batman and James Bond trading cards for a buck apiece, which was a great deal, and I found a few more spacemen to add to my growing army. It won’t be long until my troops are ready to take over the universe!
It was another great show with more pop culture vendors than ever before — a trend I certainly hope continues. If the show’s producers want to get more guys in the door, just sign up some more vendors like Mitch, Henry, and Brent (you know who you are — great seeing you at the show!) — oh, and more King Kong. Anyone else go to the show? Find anything cool?