One of the joys of bargain-hunting is boasting about the great buy you've just stumbled across at a flea market. Okay, it's my turn. For 25 cents, I got: a spotless flower pot -- the size that costs a half dollar or more at garden centers -- brimming with two dozen treasures, including a Keystone automatic-eye camera, an unopened box of flashbulbs, a brass doorknob, a pair of fingernail scissors, a forged high-carbon paring knife, brass wind chimes with a caged red-velvet bird, a set of dice, a new light-blue toy sports car, a pair of earrings for pierced ears, six new wood and metal screws, two lock washers, a pipe clamp and a double-snap clip. What a buy!
The site of this historic flea find was the 11-acre Royal Flea Market in Front Royal, where some collectors are on the field by sunup checking the sellers as they unpack and hoping to be the first to spot a rare and low-priced antique or collectible.
Among recent Front Royal finds was a perfect pale-green Depression glass cookie jar with cover for $4, which was discovered by a dealer who now has it for sale for $150. Another buyer spotted cranberry glass being unpacked and made an offer of $40 "for all of it," which was accepted. The box held pitcher, glasses and plates estimated to be worth more than $300.
One man who never misses the Front Royal Flea Market says he's had to add a room to his house to take care of his finds. He sometimes walks the complete market seven or eight times looking for old books. Recently he came across a set of 20 children's books in dust jackets for $3.50, which he says are worth "at least $20 each." He also found a handknit sweater for $1.
Other flea market addicts who can't afford to add a room when their possessions get out of hand simply come back as sellers.
What's for sale varies from week to week depending on who's selling. There are antiques and collectibles sellers specializing in books, bottles, bottle openers, glass, guns, jewelry, tools, furniture, china, cameras. There are also sellers of auto parts, ceramics, plants -- including herbs and pungent onions -- farm produce, jarred summer sunshine, home-baked breads and sweets, rabbits, ducks, chickens and homemade soap. PICK OF THE FLEAS -- Officially, the Royal Flea Market is open 9 to 5 Saturdays, Sundays and Monday holidays. But dealers will sell as they unpack, and some stay until dark. It's a good stopping place en route to a picnic on the Skyline Drive. From the Beltway, take I-66 to Front Royal, exit at Virginia Route 522 south, and drive about four miles to Virginia Route 55. The market is at the intersection of routes 522 and 55.