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. 


Wednesday, June 19

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I'm got this email from Stephanie in Chicago:

"I just moved to Chicago and would like to know where there's a flea market in Chicago. Back in my hometown there were three good flea markets where you could go every weekend. Here there seem to be none. Where can a girl go to get some good swag?"

First off Stephanie, thanks for using the word swag. You just don't hear that any more. Swag is a good thing. In my world, swag is king.

Secondly, the Chicago flea market scene (like most of Chicago) isn't what it used to be. Fifteen years ago there were still flea markets being held at the old drive-ins and vacant lots in the city. Now they've gone the way of affordable housing and good neighborhood dive bars. Gone but not forgotten.

There are still a few flea markets left that are worth the trip. Here's a list of flea markets in the Chicago area with accompanying swag ratings.

There are three Swap-O-Rama markets in the Chicago area. Every one is open Saturday and Sunday but they also have an "extra" day which they are open. On these days the alley pickers and haulers show up to sell their finds. You'll need to get there early, they open at 7am. Stop in before work and make your co-workers green with envy at your finds.

• 4350 W 129th St., Alsip
Saturday, Sunday. "Extra" day is Wednesday
Swag rating - 6

• 4100 S. Ashland, Chicago
Saturday, Sunday." Extra" day is Thursday
Swag rating - 8

• 4600 W. Lake St., Melrose Park
Saturday, Sunday. "Extra" day is Friday
Swag rating - 6

Buyers Flea Market
4545 W. Division, Chicago
8am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday
Swag rating - 1

The Buyers Flea features mostly new merchandise. You'll be hard pressed to find any antiques here, but you sure can get any kind of knock-off product under the sun.

The New Maxwell Street Market
1500 S. Canal (at Roosevelt), Chicago
Swag rating - 6

Maxwell street has been turned into a giant open air Zayre. Lots and lots of new merchandise. There's one trick to this flea. The haulers and people who clean out estates sell at the north end of the market. If you stick with the area north of Roosevelt, you stand a better chance of finding the swag you crave.

Wolff's Flea Market Rosemont
6920 N. Mannheim Rd., Rosemont
At the Allstate Arena
Swag rating - 9

Rosemont has grown into a giant quasi-antique show. I know some dealers who have quit going to the big shows and now just sell at Rosemont. There are hundreds of dealers selling everything you can imagine and a few things you'd rather not. Get there early for the best finds — doors open at 6am. If I had to pick one market to go to on a Sunday, this would be it.

Wolff's Melrose Park
2301 N. Mannheim Rd., Melrose Park
Swag rating - 5

Wolff's is an antique mall with a small outdoor flea market (about 60 dealers). Don't forget to stop inside, I've found some good deals at the mall.

You can still find quality swag at most of these markets, but the key is to get there early. There are regular dealers who show up every week at the crack of dawn to grab the goodies. Get up early and beat them to the punch. There's nothing better than finding a nice piece of swag, getting to your house and having a friend point and say, "That's awesome. Where did you get that?" You look at him and nonchalantly say, "Oh that. I paid a dollar for it."


This week's auction pick:

Tuesday, August 30th

Cucina Roma Italian Restaurant
944 Elk Grove Town Center (southwest corner of Arlington Heights and Beisterfield Roads)
Elk Grove Village
Bob King Auctioneer: 847-854-9913

Preview time 8:30am
Auction starts 10:30am

Cucina Roma has lost their lease. Everything inside the restaurant is up for sale at this huge auction. What makes this one a little different from your typical restaurant auction is the huge amount of decor available. Why pay designer prices to decorate your house when you can get it all here for half the price? They're selling everything from chandeliers and sconces to pot belly stoves and oak cabinets.

You'll need to give a $200 cash (only) refundable deposit to get a bidders number. At these auctions, when the auctioneer says "sold," you own it. Keep an eye on what you buy so it doesn't end up somewhere it shouldn't.

This one looks like it could be a great auction. I'll see you there; just look for the tall guy in the loud hawaiian shirt.

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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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