107 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501 | 360.357.7462 | email

Facebook Pinterest Instagram

The Golden Flea: A Story of Obsession and Collecting (Hardcover)

Staff Pick Badge
The Golden Flea: A Story of Obsession and Collecting Cover Image
Not in Stock... Available to ship in 3-5 days

Staff Reviews

A fascinating romp of a read!

Michael Rips, longtime art lover and devotee of the legendary Chelsea Flea, tells his personal history of days spent roaming the flea and visiting the people who populate it. Every dealer is a story teller at the flea, and most know how to create an allure around the objects they sell. Michael finds himself incapable of resisting the urge to collect contemporary African ritual objects, old robes and garments too precious to wear, and antique frames whose glass inserts have taken on the imprint ("ghost image") of what they once held. He finds that the flea and its dealers influence his tastes and desires, and his relation to material objects becomes more and more important as time passes.

This is truly a memoir of obsession and a reckoning with the surprising objects that draw us in, forever leaving their marks upon us.

"One does not grow up desiring to be a vedor or picker or hoarder, one does not go to school for it; the flea market is a clearing, found accidentally, on a path to, or away from, some other place. So there is an empathy in that space for those who are unsettled -- those for whom life's chaos is more tangible than its certainties."


— From Elise


An enchanting tale of the search for forgotten treasures at one of the greatest flea markets on earth.

Across America and around the world, people wander through flea markets to search for lost treasures. For decades, no such market was more renowned than the legendary Chelsea flea market, which sprawled over several blocks and within an old garage on the west side of Manhattan. Visitors would trawl through booths crammed with vintage dresses, rare books, ancient swords, glass eyeballs, Afghan rugs, West African fetish dolls, Old Master paintings, and much more.

In The Golden Flea, the acclaimed writer Michael Rips takes readers on a trip through this charmed world. With a beguiling style that has won praise from Joan Didion and Susan Orlean, Rips recounts his obsession with the flea and its treasures and provides a fascinating account of the business of buying and selling antiques. Along the way, he introduces us to the flea’s lovable oddball cast of vendors, pickers, and collectors, including a haberdasher who only sells to those he deems worthy; an art dealer whose obscure paintings often go for enormous sums; a troubadour who sings to attract customers; and the Prophet, who finds wisdom among all the treasures and trash.

As Rips’s passion for collecting grows and the flea’s last days loom, he undertakes a quest to prove the provenance of a mysterious painting that just might be the one.

About the Author

Michael Rips is the author of The Golden Flea, Pasquale’s Nose, and The Face of a Naked Lady. He is the executive director of the Art Students League of New York and lives in the Chelsea Hotel in New York City.

Praise For…

[Rips] has humanity, humor and the gift of a limpid, agile, unpretentious prose style…A captivating portrait.
— Ben Downing

[Rips] captured the singular vocational pull of the collector, and in doing so…show[s] us the whimsical and strange roots that run deep beneath stuff.
— Lauren Kane

Discovering the flea through Rips's experience is magnificent, but the human influence on the transactions…give it true beauty.

A tender, passionate, melancholy elegy.
— Luc Sante

A wry and engaging ode to a bygone aspect of N.Y.C. culture.

Michael Rips’s surreal style is perfectly suited to the wondrous world of flea markets. The Golden Flea delights with portraits of people on the margins of city life, the eccentric and easy-to-ignore pickers, collectors, vendors, and others obsessed with laying claim to a piece of the past. In describing his own fortunes and follies in that world, Rips captures the best and worst of what it means to collect.

— Kirk Wallace Johnson, author of The Feather Thief

I love this book so much I decided to mark my favorite bits with asterisks and ended up with something that looked like the Milky Way galaxy.
— Patricia Marx, author of Why Don’t You Write My Eulogy Now So I Can Correct It?

An extraordinary portrait of a New York filled with unlikely treasures, human and material. Michael Rips is a magician of seeing, and only he could have come up with this enchanted construction.
— Joseph O’Neill, author of Netherland

Michael Rips writes with a unique combination of sly humor, close observation, and sympathy. He takes the philosopher’s long view, is impressively open, and treasures all manner of people and experiences. He finds gold in stories that might otherwise go unremarked. This book is exemplary in its inclusiveness, humanity, and wit.
— David Salle, author of How to See

Product Details
ISBN: 9781324004073
ISBN-10: 132400407X
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: April 21st, 2020
Pages: 224
Language: English
image created by sara mcnally | constellation & co | seattle, wa
Browsers Bookshop

107 Capitol Way N.
Olympia, WA 98501
[between 4th Ave + State]

Covid-19 Hours of Operation

Tuesday - Saturday: 11am - 5pm  |  Sunday: 12pm - 4pm
OPEN for in person shopping.
Place an order online for contactless pickup.

Find us on Social Media
Facebook Pinterest Instagram Tumbler