What can you get for $10 at the Swap Shop? In past years, we've haggled over knickknacks from animals to construction equipment to a handgun. We bought a fat-tailed gecko from a toothless woman who had, amongst other animals, prairie dogs and baby alligators. On another occasion, we held our price over a video cassette player until the man we were bargaining with finally turned to his friend and said, "Hell, it ain't mine anyway."
With enough time and money, we've always maintained that one could go there and find anything from a nuclear warhead to a human kidney. Seeing as we hadn't been to the Swap Shop in almost a decade, we wanted to see what the coolest thing we could now buy for a mere $10.
Ten years ago, there was no more-fascinating place to spend a Sunday
morning. The combination of outdoor flea market, indoor circus and
nighttime drive-in movie theater was bizarre enough. Then in 2005, the
then 74 year-old founder became a local scandal / sensation after being
tasered by Broward police. And instead of sweeping the incident under
the rug, he incorporated it into his next commercial. The Swap Shop's
days of hosting acts like Lorretta Lynn and Willie Nelson had already
withered into a faded picture of some Formica golden age, but what was
left was seedy, illicit, and intriguing. The crowds kept coming.
When we arrived Sunday morning, the first thing to catch my eye was a
short, mustached winter bird from New York selling his miracle Hawaiian,
100% noni juice, all but guaranteed to help alleviate symptoms caused
by asthma, depression, HIV, obesity, menstruation, sexual disorders,
multiple sclerosis, smoking, fuzzy thinking, and many others ailments.
The stuff looked like strained laundry water and tasted like foot
sweat. We asked him if he had a bottle for $10. The $25 bottles were
being marked down due to some sort of rupturing of the caps during
shipping, but the lowest he could go was $20.
We came across a poultry stand where we were almost trampled by a
herd of eight year-olds stampeding for the chicks. A man there said they
were $2 a piece. Would we settle for going home with five chicks with
It was about that time that the noni juice started going to work. It
didn't do much for our hangover, but it definitely got our colon's
attention. We stopped off at the food court. On our way out, we bought a
drink and asked what time the circus performed. The woman said it had
been gone for years.
Stepping back outside, we found the belts / sunglasses / ski masks /
bras / katana swords booth. A Philippino in a sunhat stopped me from
taking a photo before telling me that the katanas were $20. Around the
corner from the next adult video stand, another man tried to sell me
what he assured was a Navajo Tomahawk for $12. Something was wrong.
Perhaps I'd set the bar a little too high with ten bucks because
anything that impressed was just a couple dollars out of reach.
Right next to yet another adult video stand, we asked about a crossbow. "Crossbow's $20. Arrows are $6 for six. I'll give you everything for $15." Even when we showed him that all we had was a ten-dollar bill, he
said he couldn't help me. What had happened to the pock-faced vendors
displaying items that made you look twice, at prices that let you know
not to ask where they came from? Maybe it was just an off day, or maybe
we were getting older.
It was hot and we were tired. A drop fell on my head, and standing
in front of a random assortment of watches and CDs, we decided to rescue
an old magazine from the rain: a 1980 Newsweek, December 22, the John
Lennon Commemorative issue. Four dollars later, we'd found exactly what
we were looking for. The old Newsweek issue reminded us of the Swap Shop
with its under-appreciated historical value, discarded junk appeal, and
tragic end to something extraordinary. It was all so cheesily perfect.
We'll be back soon, though. That crackhead with the iced -down pancreas
has got to be here somewhere.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Miami New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Miami's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism