Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

September 3, 2013

Hillsville Gun Show, Flea Market still going strong

By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

HILLSVILLE, Va. — Necessity 46 years ago was the mother of an invention that has continued to draw hundreds of thousands of people to Hillsville, the Carroll County, Va., capital, year after year after year.

The 46th annual Hillsville Gun Show and Flea Market wrapped up on Monday after attracting tens of thousands of visitors to the community for the Labor Day weekend tradition that started as a fundraiser hosted by the Grover King Post 1115, VFW to replace the roof at the post home that collapsed under the weight of an ice storm in early 1967.

In ways, the show’s dynamic changes from year to year, but in other ways, it remains constant. The majority of the gun show sales take place in the VFW hall itself, although a good percentage of the individual vendors have a rifle, shotgun or a few of each available. About 15 years ago, early 20th Century Morgan and/or Peace silver dollars would fetch about $8, but now ordinary silver dollars can bring $25 or more. In recent years, the price has fluctuated with the going rate for silver.

But coin enthusiasts look for more than silver when buying and selling coins. They look for quality, rarity, grade and condition in coins.

“Silver was trading for $23.76 per ounce yesterday,” Clayton Ryder, manager of B&J Coins LLC of Verona, Va., said from his booth inside the Hillsville VFW booth. “The price was as high as $49 an ounce in April 2011, but that’s not the only thing that determines the value of a silver coin.

“Some coins sell for $6,000 or more,” he said. B&J Coins has been in business for 32 years, but this is only the second year that they came to the Hillsville show. He looked around one of his coin display cases, picked up an old silver dollar and took it from the case.

“This is a Morgan silver dollar from the Carson City Mint,” he said. “It’s listed at $7,200, but I could probably come down a little if you’re interested.”

For the past several years, the same vendor has had a Virginia Rose butter dish and cover marked $165, with the indication that the price is firm. Like every year, some prices vary and some do not. Still, it’s some of the stories behind the pieces that make a particular flea market find special.

Larry Fox had an antique business — Fox’s antiques — north of Pittsburgh in Butler, Pa., for 30 years, but sold his home and now travels through southwestern Pennsylvania in search of antiques to sell at festivals like the Hillsville show. “I like the blue crocks,” he said.

“We sold our farm a few years ago to the King family that have a show on the Great American Country network (GAC) called ‘The Farm Kings.’ It’s their show, but it’s our old farm,” Fox said.

Chief Gregory S. Bolen, of the Hillsville Police Department, maneuvered his way through the flea market crowds on his bicycle, adding a new variation to the time worn police expression: To swerve and protect.

“We had a bicycle patrol when I was here 11 years ago,” Bolen said. “When I became chief in December, I decided to reinstitute the bicycle patrol.

“When you serve a town the size of Hillsville with a population of 2,900 people and know that every year, you will have this gun show and flea market that has attracted as many as 500,000 people in a single day, you have to be creative with the way you get around,” Bolen said.

“Seeing us out patrolling on a bicycle makes us more accessible to the people we are serving, and also serves as a deterrent to crime,” he said. Bolen, who taught school during his break from law enforcement, said he enjoys visiting with students at schools in the area to show them that law enforcement officers work to help people.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com