Summer flea markets must have more Hawaiian collectibles than a gift shop in Honolulu, so we took ourselves on a voyage to the local swap meet in search of island finds.
Jennifer accidentally started collecting Hawaiiana in college with the purchase of a tiki god at a church bazaar. Over the years, she’s added one piece at a time, but today she was ready to hang ten and buy some serious Hawaiian goodies. Number one on her list was an authentic hula nodder to replace her plastic cheapie, but she was open to anything that gave her that “aloha” feeling. It was Kitty’s job to make sure Jennifer didn’t bring home any more vintage postcards of surfers, coconut mugs from Trader Vic’s, or luau records. It was going to be a challenge!
Right off the bat, we scored a pineapple dish and a ceramic drummer, both made by Treasure Craft of Maui. Only $50 for the pair! We also found a genuine movie still from Blue Hawaii—Elvis at the ultimate destination wedding!
As we walked into a booth filled with dozens of ukuleles, Kitty started singing “Tiptoe Through The Tulips.” The seller picked one up and started plucking along. He told us ukulele means jumping flea, which describes that plinky sound perfectly. He had a red hibiscus uke for $30 just like one Jennifer bought at a garage sale for $15. Always nice to know you snagged a bargain!
We headed into a thatched-roof stall guarded by a five-foot Big Kahuna (yours for only $150). The vendor was even wearing a muumuu! Kitty pointed out that dealers who are into Hawaiiana are really into Hawaiiana. The booth was packed with surfboards, bamboo barstools, and racks of aloha shirts. While Kitty looked through a View Master at waterfalls and erupting volcanoes, Jennifer’s eyes locked on a lovely hula nodder. She had finely painted lips, a flower in her hair, and a fabric lei. We negotiated a price of $85—not bad for a near-mint hula girl. That pretty wahine was the find of the day!
Cruisin’ For Treasures
Hungry for the art of the islands, but don’t have a lot of clams? Comb the flea market for Matson Cruise Line menus. Matson commissioned artists to create menu covers featuring Hawaiian scenery, royal feasts, and traditional celebrations. The menus were so enchanting, passengers often kept them as mementos of their ocean adventure. Little did those travelers know, Matson menus would one day become collectible art. We’ve seen those paper keepsakes go for $150 each at antique stores, but we’ve also run across them at tag sales for under $10.
Hula girl figurines have been a popular souvenir of Hawaii since the 1940s. These bobble-hipped dolls were originally made of painted chalkware and had silky grass skirts and flower leis. Vintage hula nodders in good condition cost between $80 and $175. Some included a magnet in the base so you could attach the dancing girl to your metal dashboard. Any time you hit a bump in the road, you could smile and remember your vacation with a hula-hula!