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Top Suburban Flea Markets

Earning money on your castoffs while spending it on someone else's is as American as meandering the mall. Browsing, buying and selling at rural and suburban flea markets are weekly traditions that can yield treasures and empty attics. For instance, how about getting rid of that leaky, un-seaworthy rowboat that becomes someone else's decorative planter or display case?

So, where do we find these American kasbahs and enjoy a fall drive in the country? Follow me there. – Jay Lloyd

See the top flea markets in Philadelphia here.

Monday may seem like an odd day to operate an expansive flea market (that's anchored by a noisy well attended auction), but it brings out the serious buyers and sellers and sees fewer tourists. The market itself is a sprawling encampment of display tables, notable for their peeling paint and collections of well used tools, horse collars, furniture, antiques, weapons and harvests from backyard gardens. The centerpiece here is the auction, where entire boxes of discarded kitchenware, books, tools and bric-a-brac are peddled for as little as half a buck. My guitar came from here (haven't played it yet). The market operates every Monday, including on all holidays except Christmas.

If flea markets, farmers' markets and country auctions can have a grandpa around here, Zern's is "Pops." Of course, it's changed a lot in nearly a century of hawking local livestock, produce and meats. First, the flea market opened and brought in anyone with a few tchotchkes or attic stuffers to sell. Then came the barbershop and permanent stalls, which vend everything from a piece of velvet art to auto parts. But the essential environment of a country market with a heavy Pennsylvania Dutch influence is set in stone. In a nod to popular interests, live music has been added to keep folks entertained while roaming the nearly 200 stalls and display tables. Zern's is open every Friday from 2 to 10 p.m. and Saturdays between 11 in the morning and 10 at night.

For all intents and purposes, the Power House is a flea market, but it's a very focused one. Most of the sellers are permanent fixtures inside the massive barn of a building that has been repurposed from power house to treasure trove of old, useful and decorative stuff. With Halloween around the corner, the building will be a magnet for creative party-goers trolling for period clothing for a perfectly authentic costume. Gatsby-era fans can be fitted out from head to toe – straw hat to high button shoes. Old toy trains, grandma's kitchen cookware and knick-knacks from days gone by are all on display. Dig into the piles – you never know what you'll find. I recently liberated a pair of hand-painted Scottish ash trays, perfect for backyard cigars. The Power House is open on Sundays.

Abraham Lincoln was campaigning for the presidency when Rice's was established in rural Bucks County. But the one-time farmers' market and auction has morphed into a cross between selective flea market and mall merchant emporium. The attraction here is the location, which is close to the boutique and restaurant-filled streets of New Hope and the colorful shops at Peddlers Village. Rice's, a sprawling indoor/outdoor market, blends the old with the new. Popular brand household goods share space with tables full of attic treasures. Anyone who wants to have a personal yard sale for a day can book a table or two for as little as $20. The grounds are well kept and the meandering is easy. Rice's operates every Tuesday and Saturday from 7 a.m. till 1 in the afternoon.

The last bulls and broncos have been ridden for the rodeo season, but the air at Cowtown in rural South Jersey is still heavy with the aroma of livestock. From now until next spring, when the wranglers are back in the saddle, the Cowtown Farmers Market will continue to draw crowds to the rodeo grounds. This outdoor and indoor rustic mart brings together a range of goods, from antique car parts to farmer's overalls. There are food stalls hawking Amish specialties within sight of electronics vendors. Anyone with something to sell -- as long as it isn't illegal or counterfeit -- can find some space for 20 bucks. The market stays open all year round every Tuesday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Don't forget to come back for the rodeo!

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