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I know this is not the first time I’ve written about flea markets and garage sales. Probably won’t be the last time either. Do you want to know the secret behind a successful flea market shopping spree? – never expecting to find anything of use. It really works, and I’ve tested it a couple of times.

See, when you go with a shopping list in hand, chances are you find zilch or end up buying crap you really didn’t need. That’s the beauty of browsing without purchasing I guess – expecting nothing, but, boy, when you do finally find that one item you were looking for, it’s as if the skies themselves opened up to you (with trumpeting angels and everything).

Anyway, as I’ve said it countless times, the flea market is treasure troves, especially to us preppers who are always on the lookout for more stuff to enhance our survival kits or B.O.Bs. And since “old is the new, well, new,” in today’s article I’m going to talk about some neat vintage items I picked off from my last trip to the flea market.

Why vintage? Because they’re cool and, of course, most of them have no need for electricity or whatever to work, which makes them invaluable in just about SHTF situation. If you’re interested in visiting this flea market, I was talking about, come to Bozeman, Montana, and check at the corner of S. Wilson and W. Main Street. If the weather holds out, the chances are that those wonderful guys will probably stay for a couple of days more.

Now, before I bore you to death, here’s my list of retro\vintage things I bought from the flea market.

  1. Adze

No, it’s some kind of STD or ad on someone of those websites with a lot of onomatopoeia, it’s actually a very useful wood-working tool. See, if you’re into carpentry and would like, say, to make the surface of a log smoother, you need this bad boy to scoop out the excess wood.


It kinda resembles a pickaxe or a garden hoe, except for the top part which is shaped like a cone or scoop instead of being pointy. I guess you can buy one from any hardware store but, in my experience, special tools like the adze are very hard to come by – a friend of mine had one custom-made ‘cause he was unable to find one for sale. Picked up mine for $10. ‘Twas a little out of shape; the scoop needed to be straightened, but there’s nothing a little hammering can’t solve.

  1. Apple slicing implement

How about them apples? Everybody loves ‘em (except for docs, of course, who tend to cower in the corner like Nosferatu or something) and for darn good reasons. Still, the most annoying thing about them is having to peel and remove the core. Well, for me, that’s kind of a thing of the past, since I’ve managed to get one of those apple slicing and coring gadget. Nothing too fancy about it: just a squid-like metal ring with several tiny jagged strings in the middle.

Handy to have around the house, especially if you like (or are forced) to prepare stuff like baby purees, salads or are plain lazy. I got mine for two bucks, and I can wholeheartedly say that it was money well spent. Dunno why it’s considered a vintage item though. Sure, compared to a food processor, nearly every kitchen tool can be considered obsolete. However, sometimes, simple is better. Doctor, it’s safe to come out now! Finished talking about apples.

  1. French press

Of course, brother Eddie is going to write about another nifty coffee gadget he bought from the yard sale. This time, it’s an awesome and, why not, a peculiar contraption called the French press. No, it’s not used to print newspapers or counterfeit money, but for making coffee. I really can’t figure out why people stick to coffeemakers instead of using one of these bad boys. Anyways, the French press is basically a glass jar with a little flat piece in the middle that can be moved with a lever.

All you have to do in order to make a great cup of coffee is to add water, coffee, and wait a couple of minutes. Then you simply press the lever all the way down – coffee ground remains on the bottom, and you’re free to serve. The one I got from the flea market is made out of the tin, which means I can also use it to boil water. If I’m not mistaken, there’s even a tea version of the French press – works the same, but the strainer is thinner.

  1. Cameras

Time and time again, I’ve been trying to convince myself to go digital. Sure, nothing beats the 35mm for a mirrorless or 8mm for one of those vintage cam records, but the thing is, they’re very hard to come by these days. In fact, the last 8mm dozen I bought came from an online auction on eBay.

If you really don’t want to spend hundreds of bucks on something you may or may not use (if you’re not into photography, selfies or whatever, you should at least have a digital with you for insurance purposes), you should definitely take a closer look around the flea market.

My wife managed to get ahead of me this time, and, oh boy, the stunt she pulled! We managed to get ourselves a brand-new Canon EOS (thing was literally inside its original packaging). For this jewel, we forked over 25 bucks. Now that’s what I call a great bargain!

  1. Electric bum warmer

Before there were self-heating chairs and portable heaters, there were the so-called electric bum warmer. Basically, it’s a blanket with heating elements placed on some kind of support. These things sold like hot cakes during the early 50s and were very much appreciated by the ladies, especially during those not-so-pleasant-days of the months.

If you happen to come across one of these babies during one of your trips, do yourself a world of good and buy one. I purchased two of them for my hunting cabin – beats cranking up the heat and it comes really handy when it’s cold outside, and I have to do some tinkering in the garage.

  1. Keyhole saw

Also called the jab or alligator saw, this nifty little tool is great for jobs that call for precision cutting. Yes, I know that you can probably find one in every hardware store, but do keep in mind that the manufacturing tech has changed quite a bit.

In other words, you might end up doing more stuff with the one you found in your grandpa’s toolbox than a brand-new one. You should also know that the first batch of alligators ever produced had their blades made from stainless steel, and the handles from sterling oak – not that’s what I call solid, all-American craftsmanship!

  1. Goosewing axes

And because we like to enjoy the little things in life like splitting a fire log evenly, here’s on an item that shouldn’t be missing from your tool shed – the goosewing ax. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the terms, goosewings resemble those broad axes Vikings used during their raiding parties.

The ‘civilian’ version, if we can call it that, has a smaller head, shorter handle, but preserves the same curvature. As for the answer to our Friday night trivia: “what the Hell can I do with the midget version of the executioner’s blade?” (dramatic pause). Busting knots. Plain and simple. No matter how much strength you put in that swing, the blasted thing will not keel.

That’s where the goosewing comes into play – the blade chops and, at the same time, splits the wood. Careful though, because this ax version is heavier than most. And yes, you can find goosewings at any flea market. Just give it a good sharpening after you bring it home (handle might need some polishing too).

  1. Stanley’s Zig-Zag Rule

No, it’s nothing like Occam’s blade or Murphy’s rules which should, by the way, be taught in prepping school, if there ever will be such a thing. Stanley’ Zig-zag is a foldable measuring device that can fit inside any pocket. Shorter than a tape measure, but far sturdier, it’s the kind of tool carried around by engineers and constructors ever since the late 19th century.

The most common Stanleys had 15 folding points and a total length of 35 inches. Now, this is the kind of tool you would want in your shed, especially if you’re into carpeting or metalworking. I found one at a flea market in Toronto last year. Think I must have paid 2 bucks or something. Ka-Ching!

  1. Plumb bob

Sometimes it’s hard to guess whether the thing you’re working on is straight or will turn out crooked. This is why it’s always a great idea to have a plumb bob nearby – a nifty and very basic tool that lets you determine the true vertical faster than you can say “preparedness.” Of course, if have the right materials, you can build one at home. Still, if you come across a flea marketeer selling one of these thingies, you should definitely go in for the kill.

  1. Vise clamps

I very much like wood-working, but I always had trouble gluing pieces together, especially when I have to use fast-setting epoxy. Vise clamps are great for this kind of job and, if you’re lucky, you can probably walk off with a whole bunch of them.

That about wraps it for my list of 10 retro items bought from flea markets. Before going away, I should give you a bit of a heads up – don’t expect everything you buy to be in tip-top shape. Sure, there’s always a chance you can end up with a mint-edition item, but those are very rare instances.

In fact, in most cases, the items have some kind of defect – missing screws, paint scratched, faulty wiring, extensive warping, and the list goes on. My advice to you is this: don’t blow a gasket and don’t throw the object in the trash. Yes, I know it’s very frustrating to end up buying a big nothing, but do keep in mind that with a bit of love, care, tenderness, and the right Philips screwdriver, everything can be fixed.

So, what are your thoughts on this list? Think something’s missing from it? Then hit the comment section and let me know. I would very much also like to hear some of you more “unusual” experiences from trips to the flea market. Who knows? Maybe some of you managed to find a missing Rembrandt or perhaps other treasures from the past.

Do you want to know the secret behind a successful flea market shopping spree? – never expecting to find anything of use. It really works, and I’ve tested it a

You’re looking at a man who is 50 bucks richer than yesterday. Why? Because I just won myself a bet, that’s why. See, a while back, I got into an argument with a prepper friend of mine – great guy, but a bit of a shrewd when it comes to buying survival equipment. His theory is nothing can beat first-hand, mint, hot-off-the-press items (yup, he’s that kind of dude who believes in the power of new, I’m not talking about religion here).

Anyway, we were out talking about the finer points of pre-EMP prepping (meaning that we cracked open a couple of cold ones and watching the game), when he got around to telling us how he spent this $1,000 monthly bonus on gear.

Can’t say that I was too impressed about the sum, and neither were the other guys. Now, a couple of minutes later, I wagered him that I could probably get the same items he got for $20 if not less. Of course, no wager’s complete without something to sweeten the pot – our bet was 50 bucks. Kind of have to admit that it was like taking candy for a tyke because I knew that the yard sale season was coming (sorry, dude, but you kind of asked for it).

And so, at the crack of dawn, I got up, put on my awesome lumberjack jacket and went around the neighborhood to see what’s cooking.

Living in the suburbs does have its perks – neighbors are annoyingly friendly and, with a bit of luck and, of course, a wide smile painted on your face, you can probably end up buying everything you need from the house without having to spend more dough than necessary.

And wouldn’t you know it, I managed to spend no more and no less than 20 bucks. Needless to say, my wife gave me the death stare when I got home with all that stuff because I knew too well that we have a major storage issue. But, a bet’s a bet.

So, after my glory dance and in-your-face-loser moment, I thought I should let you guys on the spoils. Now, I know that most of you are not quite taken aback by the perspective of buying survival stuff from an old man’s garage, but if you know what you’re looking for and know how to haggle a bit, you can even walk out with stuff you usually find in antique stores (a friend of mine bought a fully functional pair of WW2 field binoculars from a guy with a “$5 everything” sign on his table).

Now, without further ado, here’s what 20 bucks got me from yard sales.

  1. Radio

I was planning on buying myself a CB radio for the family van, but never really got around to it. Luckily, while doing a bit of snooping at the yard sale, I managed to find a fully functional one.

The owner, who was a cab driver in NY before retirement said he bought the thing back in the ’70s for his pickup but never used it. After a bit of haggling, I’ve managed to convince him to sell me the thing for five bucks.

Apparently, he was so grateful for getting rid of that thing, that he even gave me the matching antenna and car dongle. Neat!

2. Hiking pack and frame

One does not have to be a mountain junkie to get a hiking pack. Those things are great for most any job that requires some serious lifting.

Can’t say I needed a pack, but seeing that this dude was selling and an army-style pack with a metallic frame – those things are so old-school, that even pops said he hadn’t seen one of those since his days in the Army. The pack was in a pretty good condition, considering the price (paid $4 for it).

Still, I had to sew back one of the straps which probably came lose some time ago and reinforce the metal frame with some pieces of sheet iron. Other than that, I think I got a pretty good deal if I say so myself.

3. Propane tank

Propane tanks aren’t that pricey, but hauling them can give anyone nightmares. I personally abhor to go and refill the propane canisters for our generator, that’s why I always avoid using it till the very last moment.

In searching the yard sale, I came upon a nice lady who said that she no longer has a use for a BBQ propane tank since the thing broke down years ago. Scored one full propane tank for a couple of bucks. Great! Now I got to figure out what to use it on.

4. Suturing kits and medical instruments

One of the biggest frustrations is not being able to get into pre-med. Don’t quite recall exactly what happened, but it doesn’t really matter. Anyway, I’m sort of a freak when it comes to med stuff (even got my own CPR dummy in the garage), which means I’m always on the lookout for a way to make my super-duper first-aid kit even more awesome.

In searching for stuff, I came upon this elderly gent who used to be a gynecologist back in the day. We chatted for a while about the med, disease, pills, aches, and things like that. Didn’t leave empty-handed, though – got a couple of sealed 3.0 silk suturing kit, forceps, and a pair of pickups for $6 (of course I’ll sterilize them before use!). He was nice enough to throw in a scalpel, as a bonus (love you, gramps!).

5. Gold and silver coins

You don’t know a thing about swindling if you’ve never been to a yard sale. One of the guys living next to my house was offering for sale a small chest which he claimed to contain golden and silver coins from Napoleon’s time. Was a bit skeptical at first, but I soon came to realize that the man was right.

What follows is a “don’t try this at home, kids” moment – took a bit off one and told the man that all of them were tin replicas of Napoleonic coins. Yes, I know I should be ashamed, but that’s how it went down. I bought the chest and lot for $8. The things you find at yard sales nowadays!

6. Hand-cranked lantern

Remember those oil-powered lanterns you see in any Victorian movie? I managed to get myself a pretty decent electrically-powered replica of one for $3. Still, I think it needs a little bit of work – the bulb flickers from time to time, and the reflector dish is smudged.

The crank could also use a bit of oiling. Other than that, the lantern’s pretty good, and I can’t wait to try it out the next time I go camping with my wife.

7. Shit-ton of books

You can never have enough books. Yes, I admit to being a true-blooded book hoarder, and f-ing proud of it. Now, I’m painfully aware of the fact that electronic gadgets such as Kindles are great for the environment and all that, but I wouldn’t trade the smell of old books for anything. Not even at gunpoint.

Anyway, this time I managed to restock my poetry shelves with some classics – Tennyson, Whitman, Coleridge, and a little bit of Edgar Allan Poe. Some of them are in a deplorable state; the complete poetical works of Tennyson is covered in childish doodles, and even Poe’s not in very good shape. Still, two bucks are two bucks.

8. Canning jars

Whether it’s for pickling meat, stock, bouillon or storing MREs, canning jar are always a sight for sore eyes. Yeah, I know you can buy them by the dozen from any supermarket, but why bother when your neighbor is selling them at ludicrously low prices? I picked three jumbo pickling jars for 20 cents, each. Wife won’t be thrilled to find out that I’ll soon pickle more stuff, but, hey, can’t a man have fun around the kitchen?

9. Weathering stones

If you’re just as obsessed about keeping your knives razor-sharp, you know that weathering stones are a must around the house. Each time I go out shopping, I never forget to bag at least two or three. My yard sale tour was quite fruitful in this regard – managed to buy several sharpening stones of various smoothness for 10 cents each.

10. Intact tarps

Tarps are the Tom Mix pocket knife of B.O.B prepping, meaning that you can do just about anything with them – collect rainwater, use them for cover, make them into rain ponchos.

They’re also quite useful for keeping firewood dry and covering swimming pools during fall. The trouble with buying tarps from yard sales is that most of them are either warped or have small holes in them.

Yes, I know that you can fix those in the jiffy, but what’s the point of paying for a tarp if you have to patch it afterward? I got lucky on this one – my next-door neighbor sold me a couple of military-grade tarps for 2 bucks each. Quite a bargain and after getting them home, I realized that they were in pristine state.

11. Sleeping bag

It’s not what you might call hygienical, but who cares about germs and all that when you’re in an SHTF situation – probably the man with an infected wound.

Anyway, I really didn’t need another sleeping bag. Still, who can resist those granny eyes telling you that you’re as sweet as her grandson? A couple of minutes later and minus five bucks, I had a brand-new old sleeping bag.

12. Vacuum cleaner

You know what irks me the most about today’s electronics? They’re so fragile. Two years ago, I had an argument with my wife about what kind of vacuum cleaner we should buy. I may be stingy, but compared to her, I’m a spendthrift. So, we got this cheap-ass vacuum from the electronics store. Fast-forward in time, just before the bet, the wife called me to say that the motor burned out.

Great! More money on electronics, I told myself. But that yard sale really managed to sort this one out. There was this man who was selling a brand-new, no-sack, water filtration Samsung vacuum. The thing was in perfect condition – he didn’t even open the box. After haggling for a bit, I managed to convince him to sell it to me for $25 (yes, I know that I didn’t play fair, but the vacuum wasn’t even on the list).

13. WWI gas mask (I shit you not!)

On the topic of curious picked up from flea markets, sometimes, I have to admit, that these things are veritable treasure troves. During one of my raids (yeah, that’s what I like to call them) I actually managed to get my grimy paws on an authentic WWI gas mask.

Sure, it had no filter, and the bag was a little warped, but other than that the mask was in pretty good condition. I spend around $7 or $8 (can’t remember) for this piece of war memorabilia.

Dunno for sure what I’m going to do with it, though. It’s obvious that it can’t be used in this state, and spare WW1 gas masks filters are pretty expensive. Anyway, if you know someone who refurbished infantry equipment, do give me a holler. Beer will be on me!

14. Portable ashtray

Yes, I know I should give smoking for Lent – easier said than done. Meanwhile, I have had some issues over what to do with those butts while hiking.  Lucky for my local yard sale, because I managed to pick up some sets of three portable ashtrays (they even come with a lanyard hole in case you want to attach it to your backpack). The set was 2 bucks a piece. I bought three of them!

15. Spare ammo

Well, if you’re missing a couple of ammo boxes, you can always call upon your neighbors’ stocks. Haven’t picked up ammo from yard sales, but I’ve seen a guy who sold shotgun shells and AR ammo for $5 apiece. So, whenever in doubt, check your local flea market.

I know that most of you are not into buying survival stuff from a yard sale, but if you know what you’re looking for you can even walk out with