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By Ashley Cooper | March 28, 2006

At first, I really didn’t know whether to take this video seriously or not. Betraying its beautiful cover replete with numerous fine country antiques, the DVD starts up and it looks like it was shot sometime in the ’80’s. Then an announcer comes on who sounds like something from one of those educational films from the ‘50’s. He tells me that if I pay attention to this video how I too will be able to master the secrets of the flea market world. Some day I may even find my own “sleeper”, which to the uninitiated is a severely undervalued item and is thought of as the flea market Holy Grail. Perhaps then, as the announcer tells me, I too can proudly say, “What a deal!” “What the hell?” would have been more appropriate.

What follows from here is a series of staged examples on how best to buy and sell items at flea markets. If you’re into these events, you’ll probably find this very detailed and valuable information. The producers of this video really do their best to pack this 63 minutes as full of useful insider advice as possible. But, somewhere amid all this “How to . . .” talk it occurs to me that this is definitely not a joke. It’s a serious instructional DVD, only it was shot in 1993. It’s now being distributed by Sub Rosa Studios and presumably they had the new DVD cover made. The irony of misleading advertising on an instructional video that covers how to run fair and ethical business transactions is apparently lost on Sub Rosa.

If flea markets aren’t your thing, then you’ll probably be captivated by the unavoidable and probably unintentional campiness of “What A Deal!” If this kind of thing amuses you, then you’ll probably be highly entertained by the announcer’s insistent use of the word “antiques” to describe the items for sale at these events. Let’s be honest about this, we’re not looking at 17th century imported furniture here. You’re much more likely to see varieties of commemorative cups, old baseball gear, and bobble head dolls. Basically, it’s junk, but more on that later.

This is one of those DVDs that’s impossible to score. There are really two camps that would get something out of it-flea market regulars and stoners. You wouldn’t think that there’d be much cross over between these groups, but you’d be wrong. The Turner South network has a show called, “Junkin’ with Val and Dave” that draws upon these disparate demographics, and apparently the show is a hit. The goofy hosts of the program, Val Myers and Dave Bird, visit various yard sales and flea markets and basically make smart a*s comments about the various items as they buy them. Whatever they purchase ends up on Ebay, where misguided fans spend way too much money for this junk. It’s actually a very entertaining show to watch if it’s available in your area, but I can’t promise it will make you more inclined to frequent flea markets.

The real shocker in this DVD, at least to me, was that some people actually make a full time living selling things at flea markets. Are there really enough people out there who can’t live with out a collection of ceramic Santa Clauses? Apparently so. And, if you are one of these people then you probably will gain some useful insight from this video. But even if this is not your bag, you may just find your own reasons for settling down and watching this surrealist romp.

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