We love the Treasure Island Flea Market in the middle of San Francisco Bay because it combines our two favorite activities––birdwatching and shopping. When you’re into birding like we are, you can’t help but I.D. every bird you see, even when they’re collectibles!
With birds on the brain and our handy red cart in tow, we set out. Right away Jennifer spotted a sweet ceramic songbird perched by a wooden crate. Kitty whispered, “Shh! It’s the Common Swapmeet Sparrow!” In the rustic booth next door, Kitty cooed over a dove doorstop marked $8. She got it to greet guests on her porch. As we headed down the main aisle, Kitty stopped dead in her tracks and lifted her binoculars to get a better look. An entire flock of colorful cockatiels! What a great sighting! Jennifer asked for a deal on the whole lot, but $250 was the lowest the seller could go. Kitty suggested buying just one, and Jennifer’s tropical bird collection was born!
A Bird By Any Other Name
We hit a birding hotspot when we discovered a tent loaded with botanical prints and scientific illustrations. There were bins labeled butterflies, insects, and herbs. Then we saw the birds. Jennifer started in on a stack of 8x10s, while Kitty thumbed through the bigger $100 prints. We kept showing each other crazy birds and looked for the ones with the funniest names. Long-wattled Umbrellabird won first place, with the Splendid Fairy-wren a close second.
Jennifer asked the dealer why some prints were $10 while others were over $500. He said it depended on the artist, the condition, and how many copies were printed. And that some of Audubon’s originals have sold for more than $40,000! Kitty decided to devote her stairway to these gorgeous illustrations. Maybe not real Audubons, but she could find vintage field guides and frame the plates. She launched her new art gallery with a $25 Yellow-Billed Cuckoo protecting its nest.
A Rare Bird
We found a few more charmers before the day was through. Kitty caught a glimpse of a tiny chickadee painting hiding behind a porcelain birdhouse. She bought them both on a lark for only fifteen bucks. Jennifer declared the find of the day to be an antique tin bucket featuring a folk-art bird. It was one of those flea market finds you dream of: hand painted, old, with a nice weathered patina––but not grungy. Unfortunately the dealer knew what a find she had, and the asking price was way too high. Guess that purty birdy bucket will be someone else’s find of the day!