Free treasures abound at Columbia's Really Really Free Market

Sunday, June 26, 2011 | 5:35 p.m. CDT; updated 10:08 a.m. CDT, Monday, June 27, 2011

COLUMBIA — Clothes, books and old electronics piled up on the steps in front of Boone County Courthouse for Columbia's Really Really Free Market.

A bright orange sign taped on the wall stated the market’s only rules: “No Selling, No Bartering, No Soliciting and No Dumping.” Shoppers could leave their money, credit cards and checkbooks at home. Everything was free.

Alisa Hoyt has been the market’s organizer since last year's sale. From her laughing and talking with the market’s participants it is clear that this is something she enjoys being a part of.

“I want it to be zero commerce,” Hoyt said. “There’s no pressure for selling or buying, and when you eliminate that pressure there’s no poor or rich.”

Although the event took place in Columbia, shoppers from the Ashland area, Jefferson City and Centralia came for the event, Hoyt said. While no advertising was done for the event, the Really Really Free Market’s Facebook page spread word of the event through social media. On Sunday, the market had about 300 or 400 people from Columbia who “like” their Facebook page, Hoyt said. The page has almost 1,000 "likes," and Hoyt said many of those are from outside Missouri and even the United States.

Really Really Free Markets are held across the country in places such as New York, Milwaukee and Reno, Nev. While each promotes the idea of offering services and items for free, different attitudes are advertised at different markets.

According to an article from The New York Times, Really Really Free Markets originated from anti-globalization demonstrations during the Free Trade of the Americas Agreement summits in 2003 and 2004. The article also states that these markets were, "inspired by the desire to recycle while questioning capitalist economic models."

According to, a Really Really Free Market is an "alternative to the capitalist mode of resource distribution."

For Columbia, that doesn't seem to be a driver. According to their Facebook page, the goal of Columbia's market is to "promote an alternative exchange economy" and "foster the spread of unconditional giving and receiving."

Some participants, such as Charles Dudley Jr., are regulars at the market. Dudley has been a participant at the market for about the past year.

“I always find good treasures here,” Dudley said. “Last time I was here I found a new Crock-Pot in the case and everything.”

This Really Really Free Market was Allison Starn’s first time participating in the event. Starn brought books, hula hoops and toys to the event.

“I think it’s an amazing thing,” Starn said referring to the market. “It’s important to share what you do have. Plus you get to meet a lot of people that you wouldn’t normally see.”

Although Hoyt doesn’t have any specific goals for the market’s future, she does hope to see businesses invest their services for the market one day. Free services such as manicures and haircuts can be found at Really Really Free Markets across the country.

Columbia’s Really Really Free Market is not on a set schedule. The market’s Facebook page remains up-to-date to provide participants with dates of events and any cancelations that may be caused by weather.

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