Readers' choice: Christian's 50-cent hot dog stand

Best Lollapaloozers
Pandora Jewelry
210 E. 13th Ave.

After traveling for two years with the Lollapalooza caravan of merchants and craftsmen, Kyle and Heather Vermeer have settled in Denver and opened Pandora Jewelry to showcase their collection of eclectic adornments. With an inventory ranging from standard fare such as rings and necklaces to festive night-clubbing baubles, body-piercing implements and beaded curtains, the Vermeers' store can accommodate anyone with the need to embellish wide-open spaces.

Best Used Tuxedoes
American Aces
78 S. Broadway

Why add to Pierre Cardin's coffers when you can find something much cooler--and much cheaper--among the bowling shirts and other vintage clothing items at American Aces? For that matter, why look like a high school prom geek when you can go for the James Bond at Monte Carlo look instead? Or how about Clark Gable in the ballroom scene--or Buddy Holly, or even James Brown? Finally, why rent when you can own one of these dapper garments for the same price?

Best One-Stop Antiquing
The Antique Guild
1298 S. Broadway

The biggest and best store on Broadway's antique row, the Antique Guild has two huge floors filled with items ranging from the inexpensive (pop bottles from the past) to the exorbitant (vintage furniture you'd kill to own). The prices aren't bad by the strip's standards, and the variety can't be beat. And for those of you who need refreshment, the Guild also contains an old-fashioned soda fountain, stocked with time-tested treats to put you back in the shopping mood.

Best Antique Buys
West's Antiques
401 S. Public Rd., Lafayette

Good antiques are easy to find in Denver; decent prices are another matter. So when we stumbled upon West's Antiques, it struck us as Hepplewhite heaven. These two side-by-side stores carry everything from bedroom sets and baking tables to mantelpieces and a pipe organ from the old Omaha Opera House, and they sell it all at prices one-third to one-half of what you'd expect to pay on South Broadway. The store also has a variety of layaway and financing plans, making it that much easier for you to spend your money.

Best Place to Buy Old Baseball Cards
Bill's Sports Collectables
2335 S. Broadway

Big isn't always better--but sometimes it is. One of the best things about Bill's Sports Collectables is that it has acres of space. Every inch of that space is covered with new and old (and sometimes autographed) collector's items ranging from team caps and jerseys to sports books and videos. And, of course, more baseball cards than you can shake a Louisville Slugger at.

Best Used Sporting Goods Store
Play It Again Sports
Five metro locations

Looking for a top-of-the-line Wilson A2000 fielder's glove (retail price: $150) for 89 bucks? It's never been used. How about an $800 set of Jack Nicklaus Personal Model irons for just $240? They've been played only three times. These are typical bargains at Play It Again Sports. Stock and availabilities change constantly, but the rock-bottom policy doesn't. When we last called, you could get a broken-in A2000 for just $40, or a $329 Dana Designs backpack for $180--never worn.

Best Thrift Store
ARC Value Village
1515 S. Broadway

Let someone else break in those coffee cups, cutting boards and flannel shirts. All you have to do is head over to the ARC Value Village on Broadway and hunt them down. Well-run, clean and fabulously stocked with a regular turnover, this store also consistently offers the best selection of previously owned shirts--formal, Hawaiian, mountain-man or knockabout styles. Case clothed.

Readers' choice: ARC Value Village

Best Thrift Shopping Area
88th Ave. and Washington St., Thornton
Being thrifty can be a time-consuming task, but the bargains come a lot quicker when the shops are in close proximity. With that in mind, welcome to thrift shopper's paradise. Located in Fifties suburbia--now transforming itself into Nineties urban fringe--the two strip malls at this intersection are brimming with bargains. Regular visits to the stores--The Salvation Army Thrift Store, Bargain House Used Furniture, The Used Bookstore, ARC Value Village Clearance Store, DAV Thrift Store and Beauty's Treasures--will yield great finds from a past generation, as well as practical necessities for budget-minded families.

Best Flea Market
Mile High Flea Market
I-76 and 88th Ave.

Don't pass over the permanent booths up front at the Mile High Flea Market; among the T-shirts, shades and dreck, you'll find repackaged CDs at very low prices in one space and a mad hodgepodge of unrelated items in another, while still another stop unearths cheap bundles of socks. And absolutely go for the tent-city garage sale going on in back. For every chipped plate and paint-by-numbers gem, there's another item that's truly unique--a bit of railroad memorabilia, an antique Navajo rug or a Yoruba beadwork snake (the seller claimed it was handmade by his grandma in Uganda, but that's just part of the game).

Best Place to Buy Mardi Gras Beads
Fat Tuesday
9 E. Ellsworth Ave.

In between the racks of "vintage" Seventies clothing (Adidas athletic shorts and Munsingwear shirts of the "old school" are big sellers) and cutting-edge music (club DJs are known to drag themselves out of bed to go vinyl hunting at Fat Tuesday on weekday afternoons), owner and New Orleans native Merrick Delesdernier keeps a small supply of bona fide Mardi Gras trinkets on hand. The bead necklaces may be little more than hard plastic on a string, but they're from the big parade itself--and Merrick, who drives a UPS truck when he's not cooking up a pop-culture gumbo, sells 'em in Denver for a fraction of what you'd expect to pay in the Big Easy.

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