Good junk shops in New York City?
January 5, 2014 11:38 AM   Subscribe

I'm headed for NYC and want to find cheap treasures before the hipsters get them.

I'm a book dealer headed to the NYC area for a couple of auctions. I have a day in between the auctions and want to find some skanky junk shops to root through. Being a dealer, I don't want to pay 4 million dollars for a hipster typewriter or porkpie hat. I want to go to the places where the hipsters buy these things for 5 bucks. My free day is Tuesday January 14, if you know of any time-specific events. I'm primarily interested in books, maps, and paper, but anything old and interesting will catch my eye. Thanks!
posted by crazylegs to Shopping (6 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
The place where the hipsters buy those things for $5 is Ohio. Sorry.

Western PA and Upstate NY are also frequent sources of all the overpriced vintage stuff you see in shops in NYC.

Because of the demand for this sort of thing, there really are no great junk shops for this stuff. You can find antique/vintage stores that price things somewhat fairly (A $30 typewriter instead of a $200 typewriter), and you can find thrift stores where you might occasionally happen upon a real gem. But there is nothing even remotely like what exists in smaller cities.

My pointers if you want to go dig just for the joy of digging:

For fairly priced vintage, I go to the Brooklyn Flea, but stick to the booths run by older "bridge and tunnel" type folks rather than younger hipper types with slick and well-curated booths. These are likely to be people who live cheaply outside the city and truck in the cheap junk directly. Because their overhead is so low, they tend to price things a lot more realistically and be a little more open to bargaining. Other lower profile flea markets are also a good bet.

For thrifting, my secret go-to for more than a decade has always been the Salvation Army on Steinway Street in Astoria. It's nowhere near as great as the equivalent in Akron or Rochester, but you can occasionally find interesting stuff. Keep in mind that NYC thrift stores are priced a bit higher than thrift stores in smaller cities, and a lot of the people who do the pricing know what things are worth.
posted by Sara C. at 11:49 AM on January 5, 2014 [11 favorites]

I think some out of state dealers swing by my town to hit the Market Street Mission Thrift Store. This is in Morristown, New Jersey. We ale have a used book store called the Old Book Shop that has old paper stuff, like magazines, postcards and other bits of this and that. I am not sure if their prices are something you can work with; I think they also sell some things online.
posted by katinka-katinka at 11:54 AM on January 5, 2014

I like the flea market on the Upper West Side better than Brooklyn Flea (much less crowded, and it has lots of booths staffed by old hippies who bought UWS apartments back when they were cheap, filled them with interesting junk, and are now clearing out the junk so they can move), but they're only open on Sundays -- maybe another trip.

For books and paper things, Westsider books and Mercer Street Books are both fairly priced. And I assume you know about the Strand? You can score some great old books from the outside racks for $1-$3 (plus they have a more exhaustive collection priced at normal NYC used book prices).
posted by oinopaponton at 12:33 PM on January 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am a thrifter extraordinaire, and I have long abandoned Manhattan proper, except for the occasional trawl through Housing Works for high-end furniture at less-than-stratospheric prices. Junk shops, that's from the good old days. Having said that, Ninth Avenue from the high thirties through the forties still has a few (literally, three) places left. Good luck! By the way, the boroughs are better bets and just a few more stops away on the train.
posted by thinkpiece at 2:18 PM on January 5, 2014

The place where the hipsters buy those things for $5 is Ohio.

Came here to say this. I live in New England and there's nary a flea market or junk shop up her that doesn't crawl with dealers from NY shops come summertime, taking stuff back to NYC to mark it up 8 or 10 times. I grew up in the NJ suburbs and still visit NY/NJ often, and am in awe of the dramatic price difference that's essentially created by the real estate premium there. You'll have to head outside Manhattan to find good places to root around - - in fact, pretty far outside.

As a book dealer, I'm not sure you'll find bargains at the Strand. The Strand has a big knowledgeable staff that knows the world of books, including rare books, and they price according to value. On the other hand, it's a great bookstore so worth a go.
posted by Miko at 6:54 PM on January 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

My answer from a similar question.

You don't have to go that far outside of NYC if you have a car and are hitting estate & garage sales. Even limiting yourself to Lower Westchester & Bergen County, NJ, you would find nice things at excellent prices.

January is slow for such sales, but they are held, check the classifieds of the Bergen Record and the Journal News.
posted by mlis at 10:46 PM on January 5, 2014

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