Tess Vigeland: Every few weeks, the parking lot of the Pasadena Rose Bowl is turned into one of the biggest flea markets in the country. People come from all over Southern California to browse through junk, clutter, stuff — also known to some of them as found treasure. And if you have an eye for that kind of thing, you truly can get bargains galore on items that you’ll not only use, but will potentially be able to sell down the line. Vintage — that’s the key.
Commentator Zac Bissonnette has one of those eyes and he says if we all developed a taste for old treasures, we might just get ourselves out of the consumer spending spiral we’ve been in these last few decades.
Zac Bissonnette: I decided to become an antique dealer because I was too young to get a real job. I spent countless hours scrolling through sold items on eBay to become an expert on vintage video games, records and first edition books. In sixth grade, I bought a new-in-the-box Magnavox Odyssey, the first home video game system from 1972, a thrift shop for $2. I sold it for $710. A 25-cent Robert Parker first edition brought a $130. And a 50-cent promo copy of Eydie Gorme’s “Blame it on the Bossa Nova” album sold for $26 for someone in Japan.
I no longer buy and sell antiques and collectibles with any regularity. But I decided I would furnish my first place the way I had always dreamed of: With stuff at country auctions, yard sales and flea markets. Not only is it fun, good for the environment and more interesting than a living room that looks like an Ikea catalog, but it’s also a better investment.
But aren’t antiques a really bad investment, one of my friends, a financial journalist, asked me? Here’s my answer: The best financial decision would be to live without furniture or art. But since most of don’t want to live with no furniture or bare walls, buying used is the next best thing. Still better, is to pay a good price for something vintage, something that could possibly even go up in value. And while no one can predict with certainty what the future holds for Chippendale chairs or the vintage TV lamps my mother spends approximately four hours per day researching on eBay, we do know this: They’ll hold their value better than a particle board coffee table from Target.
Vigeland: Zac Bissonnette is the author of “Debt-Free U: How I Paid For an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching Off My Parents.” And now you know exactly how he did it,