In an act of bravery that will pass from story into myth, and myth into legend, James Matson treads beyond the boundaries of this world and enters the twilight horror that is the Sunday Trash & Treasure market.
It’s just past 6am and the Sun is still nowhere to be seen.
Rather than spending Sunday morning drifting peacefully in and out of dreams about owning a Street Fighter 2 arcade cabinet or Stargate SG1 season 12, you’re wrestling with an arcane puzzle from the shadowy corridors of history known as a trestle table at the local market. You’re sacrificing your Sunday to sell bits and pieces of retro stuff in order to – you guessed it – fund the purchase of other bits and pieces of retro stuff.
And where better to sell than that most ancient and traditional places for the buying and selling of retro gaming stuff – the Sunday trash & treasure market. Like an alternate reality, a dimension slightly out of phase with our own time & space, the Sunday market stands alone as a unique phenomenon. Most of us have hit up a market at least once or twice in our lives, and each of us has come away wholly changed by the experience in a fundamental and spiritual way.
The Sunday market, is a world unto itself, and as a seller it’s a particularly revealing experience. Firstly, there’s setting up before the unwashed masses arrive. The trestle table is misnamed, it’s no mere table. It’s an ancient test of logic and cunning probably created by the Hittites of the Bronze Age to befuddle the likes of us. And befuddle it does, eloquently, as we attempt to get the legs out and the damn thing upright.
After minutes of haphazard fiddling, we gain a stable platform. That’s when they come. They are the other stall holders, who – in the darkness – take it upon themselves to rummage through your stuff before you’ve even unpacked it from boxes. Like tripod aliens from War of the Worlds they flick from box to box with their invasive little torches and phone lights, mumbling and murmuring from beneath their stained Movieworld caps and greasy hair, generally being annoying twats.
One can’t help but feel violated, touched obscenely.
The worst part is that these cretins, these tainted carnie folk, will buy what they deem worthwhile off you then take it to their stall, hike the price by $10 and then re-sell it! The dirty little Nazis. Yes, that’s right, you con artist stall holder. You with your high visibility vest, bald patch and one sad tooth searching for its companion teeth in a blackened cake hole that hasn’t seen Colgate since Desert Storm.
We’re talking about you. You who so brazenly purchased our NES console with two controllers for $50 only to take it a few stalls down and flog it for $100. You surly disgrace.
Then the customers begin to arrive. The stream of folk begin snaking between the stalls, some ignoring you completely while others stop to rifle through the Megadrive carts and Game & Watches you have for sale. They’ll pick up an Oil Panic Game & Watch and – with carefully practiced faux ignorance – offer you a fiver in the hopes you have no earthly idea what it’s actually worth.
You’ll return fire with a counter offer of $45 and they’ll recoil in horror, offended that you’ve tried to sell them something for only $20 or $30 less than eBay. In their eyes, the message is clear; you should have sold it to them for $5. After all, this is a trash & treasure market. They’re doing you a favour simply gracing you with their moccasin wearing presence. Occasionally mixed with the nasties and the crazies, you’ll get a genuine customer. A retro gamer of impeccable breeding and standards. He or she will hold Zelda for the NES or Mortal Kombat for the Master System in their hands and instantly be sent back in time to childhood. They’ll agree fairly on a price, and you’ll end up with some coin while they end up with a treasured memory brought back to life.
It is those moments, that make selling at a market worth doing. But for the most part, trash & treasure markets are a den of crooked buyers and crooked sellers. Hawkers dealing in knowingly broken consoles and buyers out to sell Mario Bros NES carts at $90 (on account of their rarity, of course)
All this – combined with the crazy scenes of yelling as stall holder and customer alike accuse each other of everything from petty theft to pedophilia – contributes to an underlying seedy feeling. These aren’t markets at all, these are the fringes of civilisation itself. Order recedes the moment you cross the great threshold.
Step right up folks, buy your pirate DVDs, knock-off Prada belt buckles and leave your soul at the door! This is no-mans land. Dante didn’t dare to put pen to paper about this circle of Hell.
It’s not all bad though, sometimes you’ll score a bargain. Sometimes you’ll strike up a great conversation with someone selling a box of Commodore 64 games. Sometimes you’ll strike it lucky, and sometimes you’ll get a simple thrill just from rifling through a dusty, cobwebby box of someone else’s long forgotten crap.
Trash & treasure markets are a crazy proposition for the retro game buyer or seller. Enter at your own peril. You have been warned.