I swear I’m not a “hoarder”. I’m not even really a “collector”. I guess you could call me an “accruer”. (Is that even a word?) An accruer of the odd and juvenile, you might say. See, up until recently and for the past 30 plus years, I still had almost every toy I ever owned. There were plenty of things sold in garage sales through the decades, but usually the space they vacated would just fill up with newer stuff.
I haven’t been hanging onto these things because I‘m too attached to let go (okay, maybe some were saved for this reason), I just figured if I’ve held on THIS long, I should try to get at least SOME use of what it’s all worth. And when you move and get a wife and are 33 years old worrying about where to put your GI JOE’S, suddenly you realize that time has come.
Ebay just seemed so tedious, and you can’t really host an entire garage sale of nothing but old toys sold at “collectible” prices (because there’s always that asshole who wants to give you a quarter for everything). So recently I started working the vintage and collectible market circuit catering to actual hoarders and collectors; but rather than just throw things on a table and call it a sale, I wanted an identity, a reputation, a brand if you will.
You know those things you don't throw out because "it might be worth something someday"? Well, someday is now, and SLOP CULTURE is my quest to unload an extensive 30-plus year collection of toys, collectibles and other such nonsense that takes up space in my house and garage.
Named affectionately after a one act play I read in acting class at Columbia College circa 2001 that glorified the slop you find at the bottom of the pop culture barrel—including (but not limited to) Godzilla, Crunch Berries, Shamrock Shakes, and the Olive Garden.
I started doing this a few months ago and have managed to sell quite a bit at just the first few sales I’ve done, but my stock still shows no signs of drying up. Since looking into more local sales and markets that I could participate in, I discovered the Flea Market at Expo Gardens, which takes place on the last Sunday of every month. It’s been happening for years and is evidently a pretty big deal ‘round these parts. I only just recently learned about it but have heard good things. So that is where SLOP CULTURE is heading next. And it better be good, because I missed out on the “Meanwhile Back in Peoria Chicken Wing Showdown” for it!
An early Sunday morning in late August finds a much different vibe at Expo Gardens than what you’ll see during the Heart of Illinois Fair. No cattle are on display here now, instead it’s old “stuff” being put out to pasture.
The unloading part is not my favorite. Hauling boxes and other large heavy items from the car sucks when you’re doing this alone (and sucks even more when you’re running late like I am). It appears I’m not the only one riding the struggle bus at this hour. The early morning humidity sets in and I’m sweating before eight in the morning. It’s going to be a long day.
I get in and I’m shown my empty table—it looks to be in a good location not too far from the center of the hall. Within seconds, I recognize a familiar face: My godfather “Uncle” Doug, who is also a vendor today! He’s a regular here, so it’s nice to have someone to trouble shoot with for my first time.
I frantically set up as people are already roaming. Apparently you could set up the day before? Dang, nobody told me that. And of course, I have way more stuff than my allotted eight foot table can handle. I make do and finally SLOP CULTURE officially opens for the day’s business.
The hall fills with people and maintains a steady stream of traffic throughout the day, and the din that erupts from such a volume of aggressive haggling gives it a pretty loud atmosphere. I look around and can’t help but hum that song from Bedknobs and Broomsticks…“Portobello Road, Portobello Road, street where the riches of ages are stowed…anything and everything a chap can unload, is sold off the barrow at Portobello Road…”
Behold, my view for the next seven (!) hours. And since I’m the only one here to watch the table, I’m pretty much...stuck. That Ewok village you see is complete with all original parts—it tends to be good for business, an eye-grabbing attention piece that pulls potential buyers in…but alas, has still gone unsold.
A couple other attention getters are the Masters of the Universe playsets that I still have—Snake Mountain and the “Fright Zone” still in its box. Castle Grayskull sold at the Moss Avenue Sale back in June, and I managed to part with over 40 “He-Man” figures at this sale.
I take a look around at the other, more experienced and better prepared vendors—they keep things behind and under their tables so organized. But me? Not so much...
As can be expected, the people watching opportunities are prime and the haggling feverous. I find haggling petty and annoying for the most part, but also realize it’s a necessary part of the job. One guy comes by, picks up and fondles the exact same items four times throughout the day, and I start to wish I could charge a “fondler’s fee” or require people to buy anything you have to personally handle four times.
I do meet some nice and interesting people-they marvel at some of my items, comment on what good shape they are in, and it makes me feel good that I’m not just trying to unload my trash on other people and can actually compete with people who do this more seriously. I also had an extensive in-depth conversation with a really nice lady about Happy Meal toys. And later in the afternoon, I even got recognized from the blog! Hey Marty, now I know what it feels like!
The day starts to slow down...and gets a bit boring. Fortunately it hits a lull so slow it allows me to sneak away and check out what else is out there for a brief bit…
I’m not sure if videodiscs were ever actually a relevant form of media, but this videodisc of “9 to 5” certainly is, because it’s actually signed by Lily Tomlin! If you want it, you’ll find it at this table right next to the unopened Return of the Jedi models and “Mork & Mindy” trading cards.
I wander the many aisles trying to differentiate what is “rustic”, what is “vintage”, what is “retro” and what is “primitive”. All the while, keeping one eye on my table…
Whoa! I need one of these for my next show THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS coming up this winter! It’ll look great topping off the “Chicken Ranch” set. But the price is $125, a bit steep for not for profit theatre budgets (and besides, by the end of the day it looked to be gone…)
Remember all those Beanie Babies you collected in the late ‘90’s because they were going to be so valuable? Well, I just found where they all went to die.
This bevy of bobbleheads catches my eye…and as I entertain the notion of taking Top Cat or Frankenberry home with me, I snap out of it. Dammit, I’m here to subtract, not add.
And just as I stop to gape at this random assortment of knick-knacks, another afternoon wave of treasure hunters edge towards my table. Back to work!
Vendors are supposed to keep their tables operating until the market ends at 4pm (and an overhead announcement even firmly reminds us of that sometime around 2pm), but if this picture taken at 3:15 is any indication, it’s that nobody listens and many start to pack it up. I had a great/profitable day overall. I parted with a lot of stuff, but still took a lot home. Until next time, I suppose!
I’ll be back at this and other sales in the coming months. SLOP CULTURE also has a Facebook page featuring a lot of pictures of toys for sale, many of which have probably been sold since I posted them and is in serious need of updates, but that’s where you can go to check out where I’ll be next. And everything, eventually, must go! At last, my childhood can be yours...for a price.