Antiques & Vintage in New York

Over Easter, the banker and I cashed in some air miles (or Avios points, as they’re known today) and took a five day Spring break in New York. We’ve both been lucky enough to travel there on business and pleasure before, so could relax rather than rush around and do all the tourist hot spots.
I even managed to take three days off – a very rare occurrence for me. I found myself itching for a good antiques or flea market after day two, but that was satiated by some quirky shops in the relaxed and trendy Williamsburg district that reminded me so much of Hoxton in London. I’m not sure who was ‘first’, but does it really matter?!
The antiques and vintage scene has really changed since I was last there. Many shops I knew and loved have closed down, and there’s altogether a quieter scene in Manhattan today. On a wander around the West Village, I passed the wonderful End of History shop purely by chance. of course, I had to pop in and say hello. I’m always completely staggered by the quality – and the amount – of stock that owner Stephen Saunders manages to pack into this space. It’s a total riot of colours and styles from across the world. One speciality is Blenko glass, and my imagination was captured once again by Stephen’s incredible display. We don’t really see it in the UK, so it’s always a treat to peruse designs by the likes of Wayne Husted and Joel Philip Myers, both legendary names in 20thC glass in the US.
Going back to the changes, one positive aspect was that there are many more flea markets in New York now. And, even better, they’re organised and easy to find. In fact, New York seems to have gone a little ‘flea market mad’! Two websites cover all of the markets worth visiting in the area. The first is Brooklyn Flea, and the second is HKFM.
However, hold your horses, as all is not what it seems. The term ‘flea market’ has a much wider meaning in the US – it can cover anything from a garage sale (household junk), to a market selling lower grade antiques, vintage pieces, and collectables. It can also be applied to an indoor or outdoor market selling contemporary crafts, fashion, and other stuff. Having visited most of the ‘Fleas’ over the weekend, the latter applies. And they’re jolly good too, if you’re looking for something fashionable, (usually) affordable, and quite unique. And you want to meet the person who made it. But, as you know, I was looking for something else…
So, my experience showed me that the best markets for antiques, retro, and vintage were the Fort Greene Flea between Clermont and Vanderbilt Avenues in Brooklyn (above), and the Williamsburg Flea down by the East River waterfront. Back on Manhattan, the legendary ‘Antiques Garage’ on West 25th St, (between 6th & 7th Aves), and the open air flea market a little further up the road were the best. I had been told that the Hell’s Kitchen Flea on West 39th St (between 9th & 10th) was also very good, but had missed it last time due to a potential hurricane! This weekend was hot and sunny so I expected every stallholder would turn up to sell, sell, sell.
And indeed they did, but nearly every stallholder sells, sells, sells costume jewellery! If you’re looking for bargain prices and some healthy bartering, this is the place to come for costume jewellery. Don’t expect top names, or the best quality, even though I did spot a couple of small pieces of Trifari and Miriam Haskell (priced accordingly). After scouring the half dozen or so stands selling other things, I even gave in and bought a piece – a large brass and silver asymmetric pin that I will enjoy wearing. Its colours have pleasingly mellowed over time, and it looks far, far better in real life than it does in this photo! I like the patina, so won’t clean it. It’s signed on the back, but the tiny signature is quite illegible. At $5, I was happy.
And that was pretty much it for me in terms of purchases! After the West 25th St market, I popped across the road to the excellent Showplace for a coffee and a browse. As ever, it was packed with items, and took a good hour to look around properly. I did spot one thing….but as it was Easter the stand was closed for the duration of our stay. I can’t say what it is yet, but it’s the first one I’ve seen…let’s just hope he answers his emails when he gets back from his holiday!

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