Graveyard Consumerism: The Great American Flea Market


Ford pickup truck time machine spotted in the parking lot in Rogers, Ohio. (Photo: Matthew Newton)

The sights, sounds, and smells at a flea market are as much a part of the experience as sifting through the discarded possessions of strangers. Part of the appeal is the bizarre voyeurism it involves, gawking at things people once believed they needed but have since found no use for. And as any flea market veteran will attest, the experience is purest when the people you are buying from have just emptied their attic or garage, packed it into a car, and driven to a parking lot somewhere to sell it all. It’s a cleansing ritual — a hit-and-run way to quickly purge things that have outlived their usefulness.

Today, however, the great American flea market is less everyday people shedding unwanted possessions and more a loose-knit network of vendors hustling a clusterfuck of low-quality tools and impostor fashion accessories, black market DVDs and surplus health and beauty products plucked from the clearance bins at Walgreen’s. It’s graveyard consumerism, a last-ditch effort to unload goods to an audience with unusually lenient buying habits (present company included).

Nowhere in my travels have I better witnessed the rise of the new age flea market than when visiting Rogers, Ohio. Every year, for the last 12 years or so, my wife Michelle and I have been going there to soak in the chaos. At Rogers, you’ll come across everything from bingo daubers, live stock, and Amish furniture to firearms, homemade hot sausage, and yes, menopause kits — a combination of things that would defy logic if found anywhere but there. Last year, I decided to take my camera with me to document the experience.

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