Green’s Dictionary of Slang

small-time adj.

[theatre jargon small time, a vaudeville circuit for second-rate acts]

1. of people, second-rate, inferior.

[US]R. Lardner Big Town 25: A lot of small-time hicks that couldn’t buy a drink if they wanted it.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Caesar (1932) 242: Why, you lousy small time wop.
[US]A. Bessie Men in Battle 14: Earl had been a small-time pugilist; Hoover a Jack-of-all-trades and Garfield a hanger-on of the artistic world.
[US]B. Schulberg Harder They Fall (1971) 10: Grifters, chisellers, two-bit gamblers, big-time operators with small-time minds.
[Aus]D. Niland Big Smoke 28: He was in no mood to listen to a small-time fight manager.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 264: A smalltime pimp came to town from Rhode Island.
[UK]P. Fordham Inside the Und. 80: The small-time thief is also able to look after himself.
[US]L. Heinemann Paco’s Story (1987) 62: Small-time speculators who [...] see nothing but riches or lean times.
[UK]A. Frewin London Blues 31: Shot in the police basement in Dallas by a small-time Mafia hood, Jack Ruby.
[UK]Guardian Guide 29 May–4 June 77: Falling in with the superbly creepy small-time, small-town Willem Dafoe.
[UK]I. Rankin Fleshmarket Close (2005) 402: He’s essentially small-time.
[Aus] F. McCarthy ‘Some Protection’ in Crime Factory: Hard Labour [ebook] In his hoodie, jeans and runners, his movements that of any small time dealer.

2. as sense 1, used of objects.

H. Green ‘Troubles of two Working Girls’ in S.F. Chron. 8 June 31/2: ‘Is Iowa in this country or Mexico, dearie?’ ‘I dunno, bella, I don’t try to keep the small time in my dome’.
[US]H.C. Witwer Classics in Sl. 51: This, whilst small time, gets me a laugh and another delicate situation is passed over.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Blackmailers Don’t Shoot’ in Red Wind (1946) 115: More than this small time joint would net in a year.
[US]R. Chandler Farewell, My Lovely (1949) 203: Hell, I thought he sold reefers [...] With the right protection behind him. But hell, that’s a small-time racket. A peanut grift.
[US]M. Spillane One Lonely Night 71: A small-time setup like this was hardly worth the direct attention of a Moscow man.
[US]J. Ellroy Brown’s Requiem 110: He found out that the Utopia had a bookie wire going—small-time.
D. Shaw ‘Dead Beard’ at www.asstr.org [Internet] Just to mark your card here, Dionne comes from a family in Lambeth which has been making a living out of small time lemon and lime since Oliver Cromwell was around.

In compounds

small-time joint (n.) [joint n. (3b)]

(S.Afr.) the lowest class of shebeen.

[SA]P. Becker in The 1820 46:7 32: The lowest class shebeens, known in some townships as Small Time Joints, are patronized by rough-necks and ne’er-do-wells [DSAE].
[SA]P.C. Venter Soweto 124: Those Small Time Joints where they add water to the beer [...] where the so-called hash girls promise sex and plunder your wallet without delivering.
[SA]Pace Dec. 152: The ‘small time joints’, patronised by ... tsotsi gangs ... and ‘hesh girls’ ... seldom carry stocks of the better-known brands of liquor [DSAE].