Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Porte de Vanves flea market

I spent last Sunday morning scouring the goods at the "marche aux puces" near metro stop Porte de Vanves in the fourteenth arrondissement. I was enchanted from the start. Compared to the large and overwhelming flea market (the largest in the world) of St. Ouen near metro Porte de Clignancourt, this one is charming and relaxed -- I was actually comfortable enough to chat and bargain with the dealer in French (although many of them speak English, too).

If you like rummaging through bric-a-brac (sorry, not much furniture or jewelry), the flea market of Porte de Vanves is for you. Lots of beautiful Limoges dishes, glassware, antique silverware, art (mostly bad paintings, unfortunately), gorgeous antique tools like chisels, wrenches, and clamps, toys, buttons, and old keychains. I found some old, moving, metal coin banks that resembled those featured on PBS' Antiques Roadshow. The coolest one had a seated man with the politically incorrect "black face" from the '20s and a standing dentist who would move towards him and recoil backwards while pulling out a bloody tooth, upon the deposit of a coin.

Many of the items are without price tags so feel free to make an offer up front. Some dealers seem to have a set price for their goods, but I think most of the prices are still negotiable. I had an unsuccessful negotiation for the remnants of a clock from probably the 50s. What was for sale was just the face of the clock (with a cool, Bauhaus typeface) and a beveled-edge glass cover. No mechanism, no arms, no back. I was willing to pay five bucks. The dealer was firm with his ten-euro price, trying to convince me it was a good deal because it was originally marked fifteen euros. I said that was too expensive, that there wasn't much there, and he said the glass itself was worth the price. Give me a break. I walked away and he didn't seem to care. Oh well. It's kind of funny because later I found the exact same clockface and glass cover mounted on a huge slab of orange marble -- it was not done in a tasteful way at all. Can you believe it? Ninety euros. You can avoid dealers like those. I'll probably find another one of those clockfaces again someday (for one euro) and I will make my own clock with it.

I had a better time negotiating for seven, neat, elongated animal "porte-couteaux" (for propping up your knives at the dining table). Two sheep, a bear, a fox, a warthog, a rabbit, and a kangaroo. They're very nicely done. I forgot to ask but I think they're silver because some are a bit tarnished. The woman was asking for eight euros a piece. I offered five. She said maybe, depending on how many I wanted. I picked my seven out of the nine available (the other two were cats with amputated legs) and offered thirty for my set. She said forty. I said thirty-five. She said forty. I said thirty-five. She tried to convince me they were worth forty. I said I'd think about it, and that's when she caved in. Yay! I felt even better about my purchase when I ran across very similar items at another dealer's table -- six for sixty euros. Woohoo! I got mine for half price! Good day, good day.

I walked through the market for over an hour and still didn't see all the merchants. Can't wait to go back next Sunday with John and Maylin. Beware, flea market shoppers: the bric-a-brac magically turns into clothing around 12:30 pm.

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