Scuba diving for treasures at Ballarat Swap Meet

ARE you in the market for a 1940s Japanese scuba diving helmet? Even a rocking horse imported from the USA?

Maybe not, but that they are just some of the weird and wonderful items you can snare at the Ballarat Swap Meet this weekend.

It was far from just hubcaps and spark plugs on sale when the Swap Meet opened its gates this morning, with thousands of people converging on the Ballarat Airport.

The keenest of punters were up long before dawn, keen to either snare their own bargain or get prepared for some of their finest haggling.

Among the countless colourful characters was Barry Ramsey, who had traveled almost 1000 kilometres from Rylstone, central east New South Wales.

Hoping to sell thousands of dollars in antique petrol paraphernalia, Mr Ramsey has been attending the Swap Meet for about five years.

"They say the older you get, the madder you get so that's why we make the trip," he said.

"I go to swapmeets all over the place but this is the biggest and the best. It's worth it every year."

Just down from the road from Mr Ramsey is Tetsuro Izumitani, who specialises in Japanese hand tools and all sorts of items from the orient.

Without doubt, however, his two antique scuba diving helmets sit unchallenged as his signature items.

Priced at more than $2500, the 15-kilogram helmets were originally used for under water construction in Japan in the 1940s.

"Almost everyone stops and has a look at them, everyone is fascinated by them," he said.

There are more than 2500 stallholders on site, with the Swapmeet to run until Sunday..