Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Friday, April 12

Gapers Block

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When I first started going to antiques shows, I would try and get up early to be one of the first people in line. I wanted to get the good stuff. We all do. After standing in line at a few shows, I began to notice something strange. Looking inside the fence I saw people running around buying antiques as the dealers were setting up. "How the hell did they get in?" I thought. I asked an older woman in front of me what was going on. "Damned early buyers," she said. I looked at her with a puzzled expression. "If you pay extra you can get in an hour before the general public," she explained. We both looked back inside the fence and watched an early buyer loading up a box with old records. He was wearing a t-shirt that said "old records wanted". He seemed really happy. I too wanted to be really happy. I wandered up to the front of the line and asked the person at the gate about early entry. The guy inside the gate just said, "Twenty bucks." I looked back at the long line of people waiting to get in, then turned back to him and said, "Got change for a fifty?"

Early buyers are the dirty little secret of the antiques shows. The early buyers get the pick of the litter while the rest of us wait outside for the show to "start." The show promoters love early buyers. It's a money issue. Thirty early buyers a show at $20 dollars each comes out to 7,200 extra dollars a year for the show promoter. It's like found money for them.

The three biggest antique shows in the Chicago area all have early buyer admissions:

Kane County Flea Market
Here they call them "Buyers passes. For $50 you get to enter the market Saturday at 9:30am. You get to shop for 2 1/2 hours before the general public gets let inside.

Grayslake Antique Market
Walk up to the gate and ask for early admission. $20 will get you in at 6am. Everyone else gets in at 8am.

Wheaton Antiques Market
Same as Grayslake. $20 gets you in at 6am. Fill your car with goodies and be home in time for brunch.

Is it worth it to shell out the extra bucks just to get in early? Well, that depends. If you're a casual buyer it's probably not worth it. The early buyers are mostly collectors looking for a specific item. You'll see guys wearing hats that say "Pens, Pens, Pens" and guys with shirts like that record buyer I mentioned earlier. (By the way, the pen collectors are the strangest group of people I've ever met — that's a whole other column.)

If you're a serious collector (or your goal in life is to be on The Antiques Roadshow screaming, "Oh my god!!!") go ahead and spend the extra money. You never know what you'll find. It could be worth it.

I'll be helping a friend sell at the Grayslake Antiques Market this Sunday, the 10th. I'll be wearing a loud, heinous Hawaiian shirt. The first person to find me and mention Gapers Block gets a special prize.

Good luck and happy antiques hunting!


One special auction this week. I'm a sucker for 1970s motorhomes.

July 19th
Direct Auction Gallery
7232 N. Western Avenue
Chicago 773-465-3300

Auction starts at 3pm

In addition to a fine selection of antiques, Direct is auctioning off a 1979 Lindy Motorhome at 8pm. If I happen to win this baby, I'm turning it into one of these.

If you have any questions about antiques or auctions in Chicago, email me at ronbighappyfunhousecom.

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About the Author(s)

Ron Slattery is a collector of interesting junk and other wonderment. You can visit him at and

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