MERIDEN — Stacy Yuschalk wasn’t looking for anything in particular at the Daffodil Festival’s annual tag sale, just browsing on a rainy day, indulging in her hobby.
Walking through the tent on Saturday morning, she did find amongst the leavings from people’s attics, garages, and closets something she didn’t necessarily expect. She found old memories.
“It reminds me of the stuff you had when you were a kid, that you saw in your grandparents’ house,” said Yuschalk, a Niantic resident.
The past might have been the primary thing on sale Saturday. Dozens of tables were filled with every kind of item one could wish for. Military medals, political buttons, toys, old sports memorabilia and equipment, books, stamp collections, tools, rifles, fishing gear, stuffed bears, old typewriters, and so on.
Hamden resident Jeff Arnold had an old eight-track cassette player for sale. It still worked and it could be yours for $20, or $25 with Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, and Elvis Presley cassettes.
“I have a lot of analog stuff,” Arnold said. “I have a lot of eight tracks, cassettes, record players, reel to reel. I have an affection for that stuff.”
Nothing winds up on his sales table if he’s personally in love with it.
“You just aren’t going to bring it for sale. It’s the stuff in your top drawer. It’s the tabernacle. You aren’t going to part with it,” he said.
Tastes change, however, and what was once valuable or interesting to people is no longer. Arnold recalled a family member who was obsessed with The Lone Ranger and collected the lobby cards displayed in cinemas. They were once worth thousands. Now, they are worthless.
“The market ebbs and flows,” he said.
Today, the bulk of the items he sees at tag sales like Saturday’s are from the 1960s through the 1990s — a touch retro, but certainly not antique, he said.
Meriden resident Mark Surowiecki agrees with Arnold’s assessment. The 1990s are big these days, especially some of the older video game systems, like Playstation and Nintendo.
“That stuff is still surprisingly welcome in the reselling community,” he said.
He embraced a different kind of nostalgia at his table. In addition to a small collection of great vintage cameras and other items, Surowiecki sold memorabilia from the former Soviet Union, including currency, tin toys, and fire helmets.
Surowiecki returned a couple of weeks ago from a stint in the Peace Corps in the Republic of Georgia, a former Soviet republic. Flea markets like the festival are a regular occurrence in Georgia, although the impetus to negotiate and sell quickly is not the same, he said. Surowiecki took the time to befriend the Georgian street traders, allowing him to pick up his unique wares.
“It was fun to get to know them. (Over time) they gave me more deals and invited me over to have some wine,” he said.
Surowiecki cultivated his love of old things from a young age. He grew up in an old apartment on Hicks Street, since torn down. His parents had inherited several generations worth of items, which inspired his love of antiques.
“As a little kid, I just started rifling through the garage,” he said.
His hobby has really taken over the past six or seven years. His best find was at a recent tag sale.
“I picked up a professional cornet from 1932. I paid $37. I took it home and shined it up and sold it on eBay for $200. It turns out I sold it to a guy who played second chair for the Chicago Symphony,” Surowiecki said.
Surowiecki found the cornet’s journey from rusted flea market cast aside to the home of a professional musician an immensely satisfying one.
“You are still finding a lot of stuff that is retro,” he said.
The Daffodil Festival begins in earnest Saturday, April 27, at 10 a.m. and runs through 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 28. For more information, visit daffodilfest.com.