Unless you have been hiding under a rock the last couple of years, you are familiar with “American Pickers”, the wildly successful show on the History Channel. People love to go along with the t stars of the show, Mike Wolfe and his sidekick, Frank Fritz as they travel the backroads looking for the hidden treasures in the barns and fields of America. I also have to include the quirky Danielle Cushman, because everyone seems to love her, and Mike says she is the glue that holds them all together. Be sure and check out the new book, American Pickers Guide to Picking. Also, if you would like to catch up to any of the early seasons shows, you can find them all here on DVD.
American Pickers, the Beginning
Mike Wolfe came up with the idea for “American Pickers” and originally thought he could just pitch the idea to someone and the show would be off and running. He found out it wasn’t quite that easy. So he bought a video camera and started filming the picking trips that he and Frank did around the country. When he showed the results to friends and dealers, nearly everyone seemed to love it. Mike’s easy going manner and the way he could so easily interact with complete strangers was what people loved. Most of us love that part of the show. How both Mike and Frank can have so much fun talking to the people they meet on the road. If you think about it, without all of the interaction, it could be pretty boring just watching two guys digging through old barns and warehouses looking for stuff. Throw in the fun personality of Danielle and you have the recipe of a very successful show.
American Pickers, What is a Picker
In the antique trade a picker means different things to different people. I always thought of a picker, who “picked” things for other dealers. They would scour the flea markets, auctions, and the picking you see on “American Pickers” and then sell these things to other dealers. Most antique dealers love the buying part of the business more than anything. We jokingly say it is a sickness or an addiction to buying. But then there is the other necessary part of having to sell those things so we can buy more. So my idea of “picking” for others is appealing. You have a list of dealers who like the kinds of things you buy, so after you have accumulated so much stuff you either contact them and they come to you or you go to them and sell your things. Then you do it all over again.
The guys on “American Pickers” chose to have a store, the now famous Antique Archaeology in LeClaire, Iowa. Mike just recently opened a new Antique Archaeology in Nashville, Tennessee. They were originally going to just expand the original store, but found it was too expensive and found it made more sense to open the second store.
I am not as crazy about motorcycles and bikes as they are, but they make even those things interesting. It also shows how valuable knowledge is in the antiques business. How many times have you said while watching the show, “ I would hve never known that was valuable?” That is the reason, that you have to continually learn if you want to succeed in the antique business. That knowledge allows you to make those great finds when you recognize something of value when most others don’t. Thank goodness I have been blessed with the ability to remember things that I have seen before in a book or price guide years ago and recognize something of value sitting in a junk box at an auction or under priced in a store.
Mike and Frank are both well educated in the things they like to pick. They can recognize that part off an old motorcycle that is worth $200 when you or I would never give it a second thought. It is that search for that “pot of gold” that keeps us going. We find it just often enough to recharge our batteries and keep us going. We all have our favorite places to pick and it is fun to tag along with Mike and Frank and see where they take us and what they find. My wife and I used to take people on buying trips to England which was our favorite place to do our picking.
Beside enjoying the show as a fun night of entertainment, see what you can learn. Maybe not about a motorcycle part, but about something you might find while you are picking. Invest in a few books about your field of collecting. See why a certain item is rare and others are not. You never know when you might run across that rare item at an unbelievable price. Here is an example where someone found a fabulous bargain in our store. It was a Fostoria cream pitcher made just for the English market. We had it priced for $9 and we had it for quite a while. We bought it in a box of misc. glass and probably paid fifty pence for it. The customer happened to be the author of a book on Fostoria and was an expert in the field. That little cram pitcher was worth around a thousand dollars at the time. We all remember those stories and try to forget when we over paid for a reproduction thinking it was the real thing, or had a crack we didn’t notice. I can’t remember them showing any of those mistake on “American Pickers”, maybe you can recall an example. If you enjoyed the article, please click on the “Like” button and share it with your friends.
Please leave comments about your favorite episode or the thing they bought that you liked best. Maybe with the new season started, we will have a discussion on each new episode. But remember to catch the latest episode of “American Pickers” each Monday night on the History Channel and reruns other places.