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.
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Sunday, April 21

Gapers Block

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Last month, I was helping my friend Doug out at the Kane County Antique Show. He has just scored a big load of antiques and collectables from an estate sale in Chicago and needed someone to help him sell it at the show. Things were going really good for us. We were the busiest booth at the show that month.

In talking with the customers, Doug was asked many times throughout the day, "Where do you get all this good stuff?" or "Where do you find antiques in the city?" Doug would always look at them in the eye and just say, "Dead people." Well, that usually ended the conversation right there and then. It got me to thinking, where do people go to find information on upcoming sales and auctions? Looking around the Chicago papers and online, I couldn't find much at all. With this column, I'm hoping to provide a little insight to where the dealers get their antique bargains and how you can crash the party, too. When I told Doug I was going to do the column he said, "Just don't tell them about RPN or Rosemont."

Here's this week's best bets:

May 4
RPN Sales
4451 N. Milwaukee Avenue (just north of Montrose), Chicago

RPN is one of the hidden gems of Chicago. It's a family run auction house featuring antiques, furniture, tools and everything else under the sun. They get some really interesting items and you can sometimes walk away with a real treasure at a decent price. Last month I bought a painting there for $45 that turned out to worth more than $500. It's a nice place run by good people who really know how to take care of their customers.

The auctions take place on Wednesdays once a month (sometimes twice a month if they have a lot of items). You can come in and preview the items for sale anytime after 10am the day of the auction. They start selling at 6pm and the sale usually runs until about 11pm. The antiques and small items are the first things sold and they then move on to the furniture at about 8. At the end of the night, box lots of all kinds of interesting stuff are sold in bulk to the highest bidder.

Over the past year, I've been able to buy something at a good price every time I've gone there. My living room furniture was bought at an RPN auction. It's an excellent place to find good used furniture and antiques at reasonable prices. There is a retail store connected to the auction where they sell new furniture. They have delivery available for a small fee.

Unlike many auction houses, there is no cash deposit required to get a bidders number. Another great thing about RPN is they do not charge a buyer's premium. (a buyer's premiums is a charge added onto your purchase by many auction houses. It's usually between 5 and 15 percent). Keep in mind though, you will be paying sales tax on your winning bids unless you have a tax resale number.

If you get hungry, the Lucky Grill is right across the street and there's a couple of pizza places on the corner of Montrose and Milwaukee that sell slices. You can bring food back to the auction. RPN has a small parking lot which fills up pretty quickly but there is great parking in the neighborhood. (don't park on the east side of Milwaukee before 6pm or tickets will ensue, and don't forget to feed those meters). In this week's auction is a killer Herman Miller orange lounge chair that I'll be trying to take home. See you there.

May 8
Wolff's Flea Market
Located on N. Mannheim at the Allstate Arena, Rosemont
(From I-294 or 90 West, exit Lee St. From 90 East, exit O'Hare, then exit Mannheim North, 1.5 miles on left.)

Overheard at an antique mall, one dealer to another:
"You doin' Rosemont this Sunday?"
"Rosemont, they started up again?"
"Yeah, all summer."
"You know I'll be dere."

Wolff's Rosemont flea market is the place to find antiques in the Chicago area. I can't even begin to tell you how many antique dealers shop here. The market is held in the parking lot of the Allstate Arena every Sunday in the summer. There are hundreds and hundreds of sellers who show up with truckloads of wonderful stuff. Many of the sellers are guys with hauling companies who clean out basements and attics. Many of these haulers don't know what they have and sell it all off cheap. Stuff shows up here that you'll later see on a dealer's table at the Kane County Antiques Show. You never know what you'll find there.

Last year I was walking by a guy's space when I noticed an older looking synthesizer for sale. I asked the guy how much. he said "forty bucks." Hmmm, $40 for a Minimoog? Needless to say, I bought it and it ended up selling for $1700 on Ebay. At the same show I bought a signed letter from cartoonist Charles Schulz for 20 bucks. It's a great place to buy.

Wolff's is a huge open air market. On a busy Sunday there are 600 dealers. In the summer the sun beats down on the asphalt and it gets hotter than all hell out there — wear comfortable shoes and bring some sunscreen. It's noisy, really noisy. The market is right under the flight path for planes landing at O'hare. The planes are so close, you can see the faces of the passengers in the planes as they fly over your head. I swear I saw someone I know once. There's also something that happens called the "Rosemont Pause," which is what happens when your conversation gets interrupted by the roar of the jet plane overhead. You both kind of look at the ground until the plane passes and you're able to talk again.

Restrooms are located inside the Allstate Arena. There is a concession stand inside that has limited food and is very expensive. There are no outside vendors selling food. Eat before you come and bring something to drink with you.

Sellers start getting in the market at 4:30am. Doors open to the public at 6am. It's a dollar admission, 50 cents for kids and seniors. Parking is free. If you drive up there early in the morning, watch out for the drunk drivers on the Kennedy. The bars let out at 5am and I've seen some amazing feats of stupidity from drivers who have had a few too many and decided to drive home.

Wolff's is closed today, May 15th and June 12 for special events at the Allstate arena.

I'll be there Sunday the 8th. Just don't buy what I'm looking for.

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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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