By Gina Valencia
If there’s a monthly event where celebrity sightings have occurred, television shows filmed, and (possibly) priceless discoveries found, you had better pencil that appointment into your calendar and set your alarm!
Held on the 3rd Sunday of each month at Veterans Stadium, the Long Beach Antique Market - celebrating its 40th anniversary this year - spreads out over 20 acres with over 800 sellers of different items. Consistently listed as a Top Ten flea market in the country, the venue offers everything from furniture to jewelry, records to books, and dishes to clothes. Not to mention one of my new favorites, historical glass bottles! No matter what type of stuff you treasure, you will always find something you didn’t know you needed!
While some of the vendors are antique store owners, others sell online via Etsy, eBay, or Instagram. Some just sell at flea markets. “We have them all,” said Donald, market promoter. However, “Sellers are restricted to selling vintage, antiques, and collectibles [items that are 30 years or older],” he said.
Labyrinth of Vintage
Strolling through the maze of tents, I saw tables filled with silverware, porcelain cat figurines, teacups and saucers, old black and white photographs of random families, and vintage baseball gear. It was, I realized, the antithesis to a shiny mass-produced shopping mall. An antique market leads one on a surprising treasure hunt with frequent stops and plenty of time to ask questions.
Unless, of course, you are a serious market shopper with a goal in the brain and money in your pocket. Like Kris, an antique dealer who came prepared, wagon in tow while he shopped around for specific furniture items. Or Jess, who was looking to furnish her new apartment and found a cool lamp, a small table, and some artwork.
Brushing my fingers over a beautiful early 1900s Remington typewriter, handling a butter-soft leather jacket or carefully thumbing through an early edition of “Yosemite Tales and Trails” was a super cool transporting experience. Until I recognized the faded colors of a toy from childhood among stacks of old Popeye comics. My childhood qualifies as vintage.
‘It’s Always Good’
John Abraham, an antique dealer from Culver City, has been a vendor at the Long Beach Market since it was established in 1982. Sitting on a folding chair in the shade of his tent, John reminisced about some of his memorable customers, including actors Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson. Bronson would sometimes wait around for John after a market closed to the public for any new and interesting finds.
John finds most of his items at estate sales and has a keen eye for what’s ‘always good.’ “None of this cheap stuff,” he waved a hand. “I like quality.” He’s handled original Tiffany lamps, as well as valuable paintings, one of which sold for millions.
Real Life Indiana Jones
When Dave Carvalho was 12 years old, he found a glass bottle while digging in his yard. “All I knew was that it was unusual and old,” he said.
Fifty years later, Dave’s childhood curiosity has brought him full circle. He has been a vendor of ‘artifacts and old bottles’ at the Long Beach market for about 15 years. “The majority of the folks I meet at flea markets are not even aware of what they are looking at on my table until they start asking questions.”
Which is exactly how I came upon Dave’s display. Arrays of glass bottles in different shapes and heights, some cobalt blue, others emerald green or dark brown, many cloudy white and iridescent streaked from age, stand alongside shells, beads, and other fossils. A chat with Dave, and I was in the middle of a real-life history lesson, learning how to determine if a bottle was made in the 1840s or later by looking at the shape of the bottle’s lip, or for the pontil scar on the base.
Sometimes it’s just the sense of adventure that brings you to the antique market, as was the case for Tustin resident Janet Aguilera, who made her first trip to the market that warm June morning. She didn’t buy anything this time around, but was drawn by the jewel-toned glass bottles at Dave’s table and chatted with a patron wearing a Los Angeles Historical Bottle Club baseball cap.
You never know what you’ll find at the Long Beach Antique Market, as promoter Donald can vouch. From original Rockwell prints, Las Vegas Slot machines, Wurlitzer jukeboxes (the kind from Happy Days), and a 1930s Bullocks Department Store mannequin, he has seen it all.
There is plenty of free parking and general admission is $10 starting at 6:30 a.m., ages 12 and under free. Wear comfy shoes, a hat, and get ready for a totally unique shopping experience. And keep your eyes open for any celebrities. Happy antiquing!