Trader Jack's Flea Market
999 Steen Road, Bridgeville. 412-257-8980
It's 11:30 a.m. on Sunday at Trader Jack's Flea Market, in Bridgeville, and I'm haggling over the price of a large wooden cross with the classic depiction of Jesus nailed to it.
The item is sitting among other miscellaneous pieces of merchandise — like a cordless phone and old shower head — and below a plastic Heineken wall decoration. The price tag reads $20, but that's not in the budget. I've brought exactly $37 to Trader Jack's — voted best flea market by City Paper readers — and if I spend the full amount on this, I won't have much left for any other treasure.
I start low at $5, and he says $18. I say $7, he stands firm. I go to $10, and he drops to $15 when it hits me: "What the hell am I going to do with a giant wooden Jesus?"
But that's the magic of a flea market: You find a bunch of stuff you didn't know you wanted and then convince yourself that for $5, you absolutely have to have it. And there are so many vendors at Trader Jack's that you'll be making that decision many times during your visit.
Vendors are selling everything from used and vintage clothes to sports memorabilia, electronics and used furniture, and every sort of tool and random doodad that you could possibly want. Did you lose the knob off your grandmother's antique dresser? It's probably sitting somewhere on a table. There are also more knives, swords and military memorabilia than you can shake a stainless-steel samurai sword at.
The vendors at Trader Jack's are just as varied as the merchandise. There are friendly, chatty dealers who are willing to deal, and there are those who stand firm no matter how odd the item is. For example, I got one vendor to sell me Bob Prince and Brian Giles bobbleheads (don't judge) for $15, when he was asking $30. But no matter how much I tried to convince a woman that Bubby Brister sucked as a quarterback, she refused to move from her $15 price tag on a small action figure of the former Steelers QB.
And although I didn't buy any, prices on fresh produce at Trader Jack's were unbelievably cheap. It's certainly worth a drive every week or two to stock up, and a must-make journey if you need/want veggies to can this fall.
All told, I left the flea market with some good buys. Besides my bobbleheads, I got a device to fish golf balls out of water hazards, and a Steelers jersey for my niece. I also got a couple of old 45s: Pittsburgh's own Lou Christie and some Chuck Berry on the old Chess record label.
The problem? I don't own a record player. Maybe I should have gone with Jesus.