Vancouver Flea Market’s Small but Mighty Antique & Collectible Show

Located along an industrial stretch just on the outskirts of downtown Vancouver, the Vancouver Flea Market’s iconic red building stands out. A landmark in the city since the early 1900s, the building was once rumoured to be a hanger for building aircraft during WWII. In 1983, it was converted into the Vancouver Flea Market and they have since been open most weekends.

The market, with close to 40,000 square feet and over 360 tables of just about everything you can imagine for sale, has been home to a very diverse group of dealers over the years. There was even a time in the mid-90s when it was known as a place for thieves to sell their wares. So much so, that in 2001 Vancouver police launched “Operation Flea Collar,” confiscating stolen items from 24 different booths.

By 2002, the Vancouver Flea Market came under new management and a conscious effort was made to change the market’s tarnished reputation. Fabian Rumeo, who has been the building’s manager for the past 20 years, also started hosting special events such as the antique and collectible shows, held four times a year in a small section at the back end of the building.

At first glance, the show seems quite rustic and small with only 50 tables. Some vendors have taken the time to cover their tables with a tablecloth, but many have not. Conversations are lively and most people are busy shopping, including the dealers. The regular flea market is also open and can be seen and heard in the background, separated from the antique show by portable wall partitions.

With so many antique shows cancelled over the last few years, this show has met a need for seasoned dealers as well as those new to the process. “30% of the dealers here today are new to selling,” says Rumeo, while the rest are well-known dealers and collectors.

Jocelyne Hallé is one of the new dealers and this is her first time ever selling at a show. “I have been collecting dolls for many years but it is time for me to pass on some of my collection to a new generation,” says Hallé. “I tried to donate some of my dolls, but no one wanted to take them.” This was discouraging, as she has meticulously maintained her collection over the years. As a result, she decided to see if she could sell some of them at the show. This turned out to be a terrific experience for her. “There was a young girl with her sister and they were both looking at different dolls,” says Hallé. When the older sister bought one, Hallé offered the other sister a doll free of charge. Later on, the younger sister was seen lovingly playing with her doll, completely oblivious to anyone around her. This made Hallé’s day.

Another first time dealer is Celia Yang. “The show is amazing,” says Yang who enjoyed being surrounded by people with similar interests to her. “Everyone loves art and antiques and the beauty of the world as well as natural gems.” Through her business called “By the Sun,” she was there selling jewellery – everything from natural Burmese jade to First Nation’s silver cuffs to turquoise pendants, rings and necklaces. “I love fine gem stones,” says Yang who is studying to be a GIA Graduate Gemologist® and was eager to talk about her jewellery and answer any questions people might have about gems in general.

For Tony Martin, a long-time dealer who travels across BC buying and selling at various shows and even did a cross Canada trip this past summer, this show “was fantastic.” According to Martin, “There were many early birds and a good turnout in general. There was also a lot of things here that we haven’t seen before.” It was no surprise to see him popping in an out of his booth to shop.

Rumeo, who as well as being the manager is also a collector and had his own booth at the show selling a wide variety of items, including ephemera and First Nations art. He was especially pleased with turnout, estimating that about 500 people attending throughout the day. “It might be a small show,” he says “but the quality is high end and the prices are negotiable.” The next show is set for June 18, 2023.

Reprinted with permission from Canadian Antiques & Vintage magazine. For subscription information to Canada’s only national antiques and vintage publication, please call toll-free 1.866.333.3397


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s