January 24, 2011

,   |  

White Elephants Number 1-4

Written by Katie Haegele
Self-Published

I honestly don't know the first time I went to a rummage sale, but I do know the first thing I remember getting at one--a record of Beethoven's 3rd Symphony. And this was not an ironic purchase--at the time, vinyl was still the main way you listened to things and there were a fair number of people picking up 8-tracks.

So yeah, it was awhile ago.

I mention this at the start of this review because White Elephants is Katie Haegele's excellent series chronicling her adventures in the summer yard sale-rummage sale season, usually with her mother. Ms. Haegele's been doing this zine for several years now, and each one is a loving tribute to the idea of finding treasure amongst that which others want to give away.

If there's such a thing as a target audience for a zine, I *am* the target audience here.

Over the course of the four volumes, Haegele talks a lot about the different things you encounter at yard or rummage sales, from things that are an absolute steal to people who don't know yard sale etiquette to the times where it's mildly uncomfortable because you don't want to upset the person who owned these things in the first place. (I know I always feel a bit bad when I walk away from a yard sale and don't buy anything at all. It's not a value judgment on you, seller, I swear!)

Though the zine itself is themed around the sales, like all zines there is definitely an element of the personal, which only increases as the size of the zines themselves do. From a few veiled references to her personal life in the first edition, Haegele slowly ramps up how much she's willing to talk about herself. By the fourth installment, things have changed so much that it's almost more personal zine than a chronicle of the yard sales. This may turn off some folks who are only interested in the bargain hunting, but I like that Haegele opens up as time goes on. Reading these, you can't help but get to know the writer, and it's nice to see she's more than just a person who can spy a good deal in a bin of old clothes.

One of the best parts of bargain hunting is finding new things to do with older items. Sure, it's cool when you find a wormy chestnut picture frame, but what are you going to do with it? This is where many bargain hunters go astray, but not Haegele! She's got a plan for her things, which she often shares with the reader. It's neat to hear how she's going to use things for zine supplies or household items. I wish I had been better at that during my heyday at such sales.

If you aren't a person who frequents yard or rummage sales or flea markets, it's hard to explain the fun in the finding. They're like a scavenger hunt without a specific objective, or a treasure map with the destination listed but not the prize. Haegele understands this very well, and I think she does a great job of putting the feeling into words. I had a great time reading these zines, and I hope to see Haegele at the next Philly Zinefest so I can pick up her latest adventures in collecting.

Ironically, my copies of this zine are something of a white elephant now, because they are almost surely out of print. That's the nature of the media--they're designed to be temporary and shared in the now. However, you can go to Haegele's website to learn more about her and see what she's doing for her current zine projects. If they're anything like White Elephants, you're in for some good writing.