September 11th, 2007

Friends of the Merril Flea Market

Last Saturday was the Friends of the Merril SF/Anime Flea Market, which I organized and ran for the second time, and which went off quite well I'm relieved to say.

We first tried this the Halloween weekend in 2005, in the basement of the Lillian H. Smith library branch (where the Merril Collection is located). While we got a good turnout of people to sell their junk valuable keepsakes, traffic thru the room was disappointing. Afterwards we concluded that the weekend was bad (too many people who might have come were busy elsewhere), and the branch just isn't busy enough to get people dropping in to take a look around.

So this time we got the auditorium at the Toronto Reference Library at Yonge and Bloor, which is much busier, at a major intersection, and on the main floor of the building. I've been putting flyers everywhere I could think of, got a listing in NOW, and I even tried some postering around the University and the intersection this year, learning in the process that you're lucky if posters stay up a single day in this town before being covered over.

The day of I was pretty nervous, as we needed to make the event work this time if we wanted to hold it in the future. Two vendors had dropped out in the past day (sent me email saying their rides had fallen through), and one didn't show up, but the other sixteen confirmed people did, which is pretty good for this type of event.

The staff at the TRL were really good to work with. When I got there at 8:30 AM the room had been laid out just as I wanted, and the security people had all been briefed on the event and were ready to get the loading doors open for people to setup. Only snag was that some blockhead had his car obstructing the door we wanted to use, but the security guy got the recycling door open and people used that instead.

When we opened at 10 AM we had 20 people waiting in line to get in (thanks comic and SF geeks!), and we had pretty steady traffic thru the room all day, only really tapering off at about 3 PM (we closed at 4 PM). There were easily four (maybe five) times as many people as we got at the Lillian H. Smith, so moving venues was a good idea. At the end of the day most of the vendors were pretty happy with how things had went, and most of them said they'd come back next year (yay!).

I got several comments from vendors about how they liked the assortment in the room, and it's true we had a little of everything (paperbacks, hardcovers, manga, anime DVDs, misc. VHS, costumes, pictures, toys, video games, comics), and I saw more than one person leave with a shopping bag full of stuff. We sold some items from the Merril table that I know now I could have charged more for, but you never know if the guy who'll pay anything for that one item will show up or not.

I was glad that the book vendors did pretty good, a sign that people are still reading. This one vendor was an 80 year old women, apparently permanently bent in an L-shape, selling nothing but a huge assortment of paperbacks. I have no idea how she managed to get them all in and out (too distracted) but she said she sold a good number of books, and she certainly wanted to return.

The going rate for VHS is $2, even if it's Doctor Who (my brother picked up a stack of them). I paid that for the complete Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (which played this summer at Yonge-Dundas Square every week before their outdoor SF film screenings). I also got all of His and Her Circumstances on DVD, and a small pile of books. And the Friends of the Merril did pretty well out of it financially as well.

Amazon needs to get a clue is sending me emails saying more or less "You purchased the Fruits Basket Box Set! We thought people who did that might be interested in buying the individual DVDs that came in the Box Set!"

I've got to get into the customer settings and turn these emails off.