Tools| The Vintage Flea Market for Trinkets and Keys

Last night, out of the blue, I felt this strong itch to swing by the old flea market, a place that’s practically been a part of my life’s backdrop. I’ll admit, this mall hasn’t exactly been a regular haunt for me. I could probably count my visits on one hand. But hey, I was on a mission: hunting down a vintage ashtray with a slick sliding lid, just like the one I saw in a creator’s post. If not that, I wouldn’t say no to a silver trinket shaped like clamshells. So off I went, traipsing through the entire mall, only to realize they were throwing a special shindig that weekend.

Now, Amcorp Mall’s been holding down the fort since ’98, and they’ve been doing something pretty cool—hosting an indoor flea market every darn weekend. They went all out for Malaysia’s 66th Independence Day, celebrating their own 25th birthday with a three-day blowout they dubbed “Collector’s Pick,” from September 15th to 17th, 2023. And just so you know, Malaysia Day, a public holiday, hits every September 16th.

They really maxed out the space that day, filling up the upper floors with vendors. The parking lot was jam-packed, partly thanks to the special event, and partly because there was a festival rocking right across from the mall. We coughed up a tenner for outdoor parking after a solid three hours of shopping. (Even though indoor parking was only three ringgit per entry, my partner insisted it was a total nightmare.)

Now, before we get into the nitty-gritty of what treasures await you at the flea market, let’s take a peek at my haul for today. The grand total damage? RM268, with a grand total of 9 items in tow. That’s roughly RM30 per item on average.

The initial treasure that caught my attention was this pair of Bellini Brazil 4″ Silver Clamshell Trays, priced at RM60. A quick eBay check showed a similar set going for $12, which translates to approximately RM72.30 for a pair when converted to MYR. My plan for these beauties? They’re destined to serve as vessels for symbolic items, not just your run-of-the-mill offerings and decorations. Think commonly worn jewelry, pendulums, and tumble stones, all imbued with special significance for my deities.

The two wood-carved ducks (at RM30 each) are earmarked for sprucing up my family’s decor, but the porcelain mallard? That’s all mine. The vendor priced it at RM60, and after a quick search online, I only stumbled upon one site auctioning the exact same item for 1000 yen, roughly RM31.70. Seems I may have shelled out a bit more, but considering shipping costs, it likely evens out. Typically, mallards come in pairs, so it’s a bit of a lone ranger in that regard.

The male mallard, with its vibrant emerald head and distinctive quack, carries a wealth of symbolism across various cultures. In many societies, it’s seen as a symbol of fidelity and commitment due to its lifelong mating habits. Its bright coloring also associates it with assertiveness, confidence, and vibrancy. In some spiritual traditions, the mallard represents protection, as they’re known to be fiercely protective of their nests. Additionally, the mallard’s presence in folklore often signifies transformation, adaptability, and the ability to navigate emotional waters with grace and resilience.

At that same stall, I was on a mission to inspect every single intriguing item they had on display. They had such a trove of small, one-of-a-kind treasures! And then, my eyes fell upon it—a silver and seashell tray, complete with a lid! According to the stall owner, it hails from England and is crafted from copper with a silver plating. There’s a glass component inside with a number etched on the side, likely indicating its catalog number.

A speedy Google search led me to a possible match: the Mayell & Co Wednesbury England – Queen Anne Silver Plated Shell Butter Dish. This gem, crafted in the ’70s, originally came with a butter knife, though that seems to have gone on its own adventure. The catalog numbers range from 0 to 141, and mine proudly claims the seventh spot—a lucky number indeed! While the brand boasts tarnish resistance, I did spot a few minor chips and scratches on the inside. Additionally, the owner had to replace a tiny metal bar that holds the dish together, as the original had succumbed to rust. I learned that a complete set with its original box can fetch anywhere from USD $30 to AUD 118.

The owner initially quoted me RM80 for this item, sans butter knife and box. However, given that I was already eyeing three other treasures (those adorable duckies), I mustered up the courage to negotiate, and we settled on RM70.

This trinket is a dual-purpose gem—it’s ideal for both spells and as a decorative piece. Given its metal composition, I’ll need to exercise caution around water to prevent any potential rusting. That glass plate is truly a saving grace in this regard. When I placed a tea candle inside, the effect was simply enchanting—the light danced and cast a beautiful glow within the shell.

As for those three iron keys, at 6 bucks each, they’re a steal even with their significant rusting. I’m in the midst of a mission to banish those rust spots as best I can, armed with vinegar, The Pink Stuff, and a dash of salt. It’s a bit of an experiment, but I’m hopeful it might just do the trick. Here’s to a little rust-busting magic!

Once I got home, I made sure to give everything a thorough smoke-cleansing, repeating the process a few times. Afterward, I carefully wiped down the trinkets and arranged them exactly where I had envisioned them. Everything fell into place just right. It’s amazing how a few carefully chosen pieces can completely transform a space.

For anyone considering a visit, it’s key to keep in mind that the flea market’s offerings can vary greatly. The lineup of vendors changes almost every time, and if you happen to drop by during a special event, your chances of stumbling upon truly unique items shoot up. Now, here’s the lowdown on what you might come across:

  1. Vintage Audio and Vinyls

    • Today, the majority of the shops (and vendors) in the mall seem to specialize in retro, classic, and hard-to-find vinyl records, CDs, and tapes. I’d put money on you discovering something from the ’80s or earlier, and there’s even a chance you might stumble upon gems dating all the way back to the ’30s. On top of that, there’s an array of vinyl players, CD players, and speakers. If you strike it lucky, you might even spot vinyl players seamlessly integrated into antique cabinets.
  2. Toys, Figurines, and Blind Boxes

    • Another standout category is vintage toys and plushies. Keep an eye out for Hot Wheels, action figures (from movies, anime, comics, you name it), and the latest blind box offerings in certain stores. If you really scour, you might unearth small animal wood carvings, delicate porcelains, and resin creations.
  3. Retro Decors and Paintings

    • Ever been curious about the bygone era of traditional Malaysian-style households? You’re in for a treat, because there’s an abundance of items that could transport you back in time, prompting you to imagine the lives of their previous owners. Think old jewelry trinkets, radios, TVs, chests, cabinets, silver and porcelain decor, oversized mirrors, silver combs, China vases, Chinese umbrellas, and more! I even spotted a chandelier adorned with deer antlers. And let’s not forget the wealth of Malay traditional tongkat, pisau, decor frames, rugs, lamps, glassware, carriers, tinware, and the like.
  4. Kitchenware, Tiffins, and Utensils

    • Ever laid eyes on those Peranakan/Nyona Metal Tingkat Tiffins? Well, this is the spot to find an abundance of them. There’s also a treasure trove of silver utensils, drinkware sets with trays, sets featuring silver jugs and cups, plates, bowls, kettles, and more.
  5. Books, Chess, and Retro Games

    • Alongside traditional books and eye-catching chess sets, keep your eyes peeled for secondhand books. You might just strike gold with games for PS1, PS2, PS3, Gameboy, NES, GBA, NDS, 3DS, and other classic consoles. And who knows, you might even stumble upon mint-condition consoles.
  6. Old Coins, Currency, and Faulty Prints

    • Malaysia boasts a healthy community of vintage coin collectors, and quite a few have set up shop here. You can find the demonetized 1 ringgit coin and a slew of copper 1 cent coins, among others. Depending on your collecting interests, this might just be your jackpot.

As for the truly unique finds:

a. Vintage Letters, Authentic Paperwork, and Historic Photos

  • These are the real deal, meticulously preserved. If you’re looking to recreate a certain era with these items, keep an eye out for a vendor offering these. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch any contact info on their table, so you might need a bit of luck.

b. Traditional Jewelry

  • I can’t vouch for the materials, but these pieces are so distinctive, you won’t likely come across them elsewhere. They’re real standouts.

If you ever find yourself wandering through the flea market, enjoy every moment! I’ll be continuing my own exploration, and I’ll be sure to share any intriguing finds that might add a touch of magic to your world. Happy hunting!

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