The South is full of antique stores.  Judging from the weekend crowds, it would appear that antiquing in Florida  is a tourist activity unto itself, apart from the state’s other main draws. It’s also the only mainstream tourist activity that is largely free of teenagers.

Entering one of the giant antique malls, one is immediately taken by the aesthetic variances of the stalls.  These differences provide endlessly fascinating speculation into people’s personal histories (there is a large sense of voyeurism involved) and personal tastes.  A stall floating a Confederate flag houses a collection of rundown cowboy boots; another is full of Depression-era milk glass and plastic roses and old postcards received by a well-traveled spinster.

There is a lot of accumulated junk.  People purchase a stall and can cram anything into it, and they do.  Aunt Minnie’s old house slippers and threadbare rug, an empty cardboard box from a Jetsons board game, battered flatware, the door of an outhouse.  It’s a relief from the overly studied merchandising in the mall and the whole of it is covered in a layer of dust so fine that you don’t recognize it until you leave the building and realize your contacts have turned into shrinkwrap.

Most of what you find is not a “find.”  Savvy dealers mark things up well beyond what you might pay on eBay, and they mark things up that have no business being marked up at all, like an empty atomizer of Love’s Baby Soft cologne that dates from the modern era and yet will set you back fifteen dollars.

At certain stalls, it’s impossible to separate “antique” from “thrift” unless by price.  Antiquing takes fortitude, knowledge, and dedication. Even if one gets the sense that the professional hunter has long since stalked and trapped his prey, the antique stores still have plenty of charming merchandise.   The doll below is a good example.  It was one of two black cloth dolls in the store; the second also wore earrings and was marked as having an origin in Jamaica.

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