2017 Toowoomba Swap Meet

I managed to drag my partner out of bed, and we were on the road by 5:30. Traffic on the way was busy, but only became congested once we were in sight of the showgrounds, an improvement on last year. We parked in the field near the south gate, and bypassed the big line thanks to our pre-purchased online tickets. Still, we had to join a smaller line (about 1/3 the length of the main line).

The gates opened at 6, and we listened people around us grumble about the main line going faster, plus the added bonus of watching a few people blatantly bypass the lines altogether and cut in at the gate. Turns out the workers were having trouble scanning the QR code off people’s phones, so eventually someone walked out and let everyone with paper copies enter. Of course, that led to people around us grumbling that they should have just copied a ticket and photoshopped their name onto it, rather than buying one properly, since they weren’t checking if the tickets were real. I was feeling a bit annoyed by all the whinging and dodgy behaviour of my fellow shoppers, on a day I’d been looking forward to all year and that was just supposed to be happy, relaxing, and fun.

Finally, we were past the gate and away from the annoying dramas. Rather than going straight for the nearest stalls, I decided to switch it up this year and start in the area I’ve found most of my buys in the past. As we walked up, I saw two nice glass fishing floats hanging in their nets. One was a better (in my view) blue color than the usual green, so I boldly (for me) asked the price. $110! Each! I probably could have gotten one for $100, but that was still too rich for me.

I kept walking and searching. 80% of the stalls only had boring car stuff, and 15% of the rest I could quickly scan and skip. That left about 5% of the stalls for me to peruse more closely. About 10 to 15 stalls had glass or plastic fishing floats, but they were all priced too high for my comfort. I remember when I first started going to the swap meets, glass fishing floats were about $120+. Now, they’re usually $230+. I even overheard stallholders talking about how in-demand they are now.

My first buy was from a stall with one of the nicer, cheaper ($120ish) blue glass floats. I didn’t splurge on that float, but on a couple of foam lobster bouys.

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They were priced $25 for the pair. I examined them, then walked away because they were ‘just’ foam. A few stalls down, I turned around and went back. They might be ‘just’ foam, but they were large, the right colors, and less likely to break when dropped than glass floats. Being so light, they’d also be easier to hang. I haven’t seen any others in the swap or antique stores, so they’re rarer around here than the glass floats, too. And really, $12.50 each was cheap. Still, I thought I’d ask if the stallholder would bring them down to $20 for the pair.

The trailer they were hanging on was between two stalls, so I asked the man in one stall if the trailer was his. He must have thought I’d asked him about the price, because he came over, checked his $25 tag, and offered them to me for $20 without me even having to ask. I accepted, and he told me a story about getting them from Portland, Oregon, where some guys there had house-sized piles of them. Then he told me about some glass floats he’d gotten from a woman who flew her plane along the coast of Alaska, landing on beaches to collect them. I remember reading that same anecdote online about 10 years ago, back when I first became interested in floats. It might be true, or he might have just wanted to talk, but either way he seemed really nice, and I was chuffed about the floats.

I kept searching the swap stalls as the temperature rose. A couple huge shells ($140 each) some medium-sized broken bits of coral ($15+), lots of nice wooden oars ($110 for the pair with chippy turquoise paint that I liked best), and one HUGE green glass demijohn bottle that made my heart pound (marked sold), came and went. Four hours in, my partner conceded defeat to the heat and went home, as I kept going (it only took 2 hours for us to scour the grounds last year). Finally, my feet were getting too sore for me to go on, so I stopped by one stall I’d seen earlier, with two medium-sized glass floats not covered in net. They were the cheapest I’d seen, at $20 each; one green, one clear. When I returned, only the clear one remained, which was the one I liked, anyway. The stallholders held firm on the price, but I bought it anyway. I’ve wanted a glass float for years, so it would have been silly to walk away over a few dollars.

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I saw a few big model yachts (cheapest $80), a few small crude model yachts (cheapest $28), and a few big hollow toy motorboat hulls (one meter-long blue one priced $150), so I could have bought another boat this year. I was sad to see an older couple walking out of the antique pavilion with a wicker lobster trap and big yacht club lifering, but realisitically, I probably wouldn’t have bought them if I had seen them first. The lobster trap was smooshed and lopsided, the lifering was orange (the best color for being seen in the water, but the worst color for my decor), and they were both probably priced more than I’d pay.

I considered returning on Sunday, especially for one stall that had a small carved wooden whale similar to the one I already have (mine pictured below), as well as shells and fishing poles, but I decided I didn’t really need (or even want) anything that I’d left behind. My house is feeling full enough, especially since I’m cleaning it more. The bouys and glass float will all be hanging off the floor, so won’t contribute much cleaning time.

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Overall, I’m very happy with my day at the swap meet. I spent more on food and entry than my actual items, but it was a great day out with my partner, hunting for treasures. Now he can have a rest from me talking about how excited I am about it…until next year.

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