There aren’t too many flea markets around here. I do most of my treasure hunting at antique malls, thrift stores and garage sales. A couple of weeks ago I was headed to one of my favorite antique malls and saw a sign along the highway near a barn “Flea Market April 23-24”. I quickly grabbed my phone and marked it on my calendar. I wasn’t going to miss it. You just never know what you might find, and boy, am I about to prove it to you!
Last Saturday morning was chilly and it had been raining the night before. My husband was going to be gone for the morning, so I had to take our kiddos with me to the flea market. None of these factors were going to stop me from going to the only flea market I had found in 4 years of living here. I made the drive and arrived bright and early at 7:45 a.m. The parking lot was muddy from all of the rain and watching me maneuver a tandem stroller through the mud was quite a sight to see, I’m sure. I paid the $1.00 admission fee and quickly scanned the rows ahead of me. It didn’t look like much. It certainly wasn’t the kind of flea market I was accustomed to, but I made the journey so I had to give it a go.
I passed on table and after table of “stuff”. I finally stumbled upon a vendor selling lots of things I love, except that there was a pair of ladies with their little rolling basket full of all of the finds I would’ve purchased. Darnit! I quickly learned I needed to stay ahead of them if I was going to find anything worth purchasing. I passed them and made my way to another gentleman who had all sorts of goodies that caught my eye. I wish I had had my camera with me to take pictures, but I had left it at home. Lesson learned! The first items that caught my eye were two small white pitchers. One was perfectly white (no thanks) and the other had a crackling finish and was mostly off white due to its age. I turned it over and what do you know? Ironstone China. Score! Purchase #1 for $8.00. He said I could clean it with some hydrogen peroxide to get rid of the yellowing, but no way am I going to do that. I love her cracks and age spots.
I scanned his next table and saw 3 old wooden levels sitting side by side. I started touching them and he quickly came over (smart guy), grabbed the one in the middle and said “this one is from 1886”. I took it from him, looked it over and fell in love with it. The wood is absolutely gorgeous. The nicks and scratches on it are priceless and the brass rings are a beautiful color. Sold. Purchase #2 for $20.00 (he originally wanted $25.00). “$20.00?” you ask. For an old level? You have to see it in person to appreciate it. I’m sure you’ve spent $20.00 on all sorts of things, but nothing with half the character of this old piece. I can picture it on our soon-to-be-built mantel. It’s a gorgeous antique and I’m telling you, the wood is absolutely exquisite. The level looks more nautical to me, than like a tool. Given the fact that my taste is turning to more of a “beach cottage” look, this level is going to look great anywhere in our home.
Unfortunately the pictures I’ve taken are not that great. It’s been very gray and gloomy here so I haven’t had very good natural light.
I came home and did a little research on my new chunk of wood. My $20.00 find was apparently a rare find. According to some forums out there, this level can sell for anywhere between $20 and $100 depending on its quality. I kept digging. I found one that sold on eBay back in 2006 for $150. Here is its description:
Vintage DAVIS & COOK 16 inch Level 1886 Patent A Davis & Cook 16 inch Wood and Brass Level. Marked on the top plate: 01, Cooks Patent Level, Pat’d Dec. 7th 1886, Manufactured by Davis & Cook, Watertown, N.Y. USA. This marking is repeated with slight variation on one of the vial cover frames. The wood appears to be mahogany or heart cherry and has a beautiful, dense grain pattern. In Excellent condition overall – some brassing but still retaining about half of the nickel plating. No owner marks.
The level I now proudly own is 28″ and in excellent condition for its age, but I’m not selling it. It’s staying with us. This beauty from 1886 now lives in our nest in 2011.
I guess my trip to the flea market on that cold and rainy Saturday morning was definitely worth the trip!