The flea market day start long before the crowds stream in, says author Maureen Stanton. And that's when the real deals go down.
"The dealers are here, sometimes right at the crack of dawn," Stanton tells NPR's Laura Sullivan. "The antique dealers, generally, are 'picking' the other tables ... looking for the thing that they can resell for double or triple or 10-fold."
Stanton has written a new book about this growing subculture, Killer Stuff and Tons of Money: Seeking History and Hidden Gems in Flea-Market America.
Her main character is a man she calls Curt Avery. That's not his real name; she agreed to the pseudonym because he wanted to stay under the radar.
"He can look at a batch of things and he can find the thing that's valuable," she says. Stanton spent months on the road with Avery, observing the flea market subculture and absorbing his extensive knowledge.
Stanton writes that Avery has developed his "laser vision" over the course of two decades and has a house full of bad purchases to prove it.