Check out the flea market in the summertime and you’ll see so much Americana your heart will burst with pride. From an authentic 48-star American Flag to a red, white, and blue vintage barber pole, flea markets feature an abundance of “star-spangled” accents.
United Crates of America
Fruit crate labels are widely available and are inexpensive enough to build a large collection. These bold graphics were used from the 1880s to the 1960s as mini mobile billboards on fruit and vegetable crates. Many from the 30s and 40s were patriotic in theme, featuring stars and stripes and names like “Union Asparagus,” “Uncle Sam Apples,” and “All American Northwest Pears.” Frame them in a style that complements your decor. Then arrange the pieces on your mantel, overlapping the edges to add depth. Since many fruit crate labels cost less than $10, you can get a high-art look for a low price.
Lunchboxes make delectable collectibles and several from the late 60s and early 70s featured patriotic designs. Look for the domed classic by Aladdin Industries called Stars and Stripes. Both the box and the Thermos inside are festooned with Betsy Ross’ famous flag design. The kitschy U.S. Mail lunchbox from 1969 introduces Mr. Zip and includes a spot to write your “new” zip code. Complete the lunchbox line up with the super stars and stripes of Captain America and Wonder Woman. Then display them all atop the cabinets in the kitchen for a funky way to show your pride.
LIFE, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness
Nothing better illustrates life in America and Americana in general than the original LIFE magazine. Vintage copies of LIFE magazine range in price from $3 to $100 and can be found at flea markets everywhere. Collect a few for your coffee table and, in addition to seeing what America looked like the year you were born, you can browse the beginning of the automotive age and revisit a time when people dressed up for air travel. Display them on your coffee table for a fresh conversation piece. Retro accents like a mini Texaco gas pump and die-cast model airplanes almost bring the images to life.
Red, White & Blue Plate Special
Major League Americana
There’s nothing more American than baseball, and you only need one piece of nostalgic sports memorabilia to add a touch of America’s favorite pastime to a room. While a felt Yankees pennant from the 1920s will set you back more than $200, a 1970s version at the flea market costs less than $20. A vintage popcorn megaphone featuring the Washington Senators’ red, white, and blue logo adds a splash of color to an ordinary bookcase. You can pick up a well-worn catcher’s mitt for around $5 and let it hold your keys and the remote, or more obviously, an autographed baseball!