Killer Stuff and Tons of Money: An Insider’s Look at the World of Flea Markets, Antiques and Collecting, released in hardcover last year, is now available in paperback. Award-winning nonfiction writer, Maureen Stanton, shadowed a self-taught itinerant dealer from flea markets to auctions to high-end antiques shows as he plied his esoteric knowledge to find hidden gems. Stanton takes readers on the set of Antiques Roadshow, explores eBay’s effect on the trade, interviews a restoration expert who passes his doctored Windsor chairs and candle stands through top auction houses, and shares stories of historical objects like opium bottles, Ouija boards, forks, chairs and six-board blanket chests. “I’ve received a lot of letters from readers who are in the flea market business but also from people not in the business who had no idea that flea markets could be so interesting,” Stanton reveals. “They were surprised by the richness of the subculture.”
A native of New England, Stanton recently moved back to Massachusetts from Missouri and has been visiting her flea market haunting grounds including Brimfield and Montuori, and taking her book back to the source. “Peddling at flea markets is an interesting way to sell a book about flea markets,” she notes. And shoppers and vendors alike have been very receptive. “I think people in this business are grateful that someone told the story from their perspective: that it’s hard work, it takes knowledge and skill, and that it’s a great treasure hunt but that it’s also about the passion and the heritage of the objects for antiques dealers.”
The subculture is open to anybody so there is a real an entrepreneurial spirit, Stanton adds. It’s easy for anyone to open a flea market business with very little overhead. “But the more knowledge you have, the quicker you can rise up the ladder,” she points out. “People can start out in this business not knowing a lot about what they are doing and they can still make some money and, as they learn more, they can become more and more successful.” Killer Stuff and Tons of Money: An Insider’s Look at the World of Flea Markets, Antiques and Collecting is not meant to be a how-to book, Stanton points out, “but you can’t help but learn by reading it.”
Stanton earned an M.F.A. in Creative Nonfiction from Ohio State University. She teaches creative writing at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Stanton’s nonfiction has been published in top literary journals, such as Fourth Genre, Creative Nonfiction, River Teeth, American Literary Review, Florida Review, Crab Orchard Review, Passages North, The Sun, and other journals and anthologies. Her essays have been listed as “Notable” in the annual Best American Essays series published by Houghton Mifflin in 1998, 2004, 2005, 2008, and 2009. Stanton received a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, the Iowa Review prize, the American Literary Review prize, and the Thomas J. Hruska Award in Nonfiction, among others. She also received fellowships from the Maine Arts Commission, the Vogelstein Fund, Deming Money for Women Fund, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the MacDowell Colony.