AT Inbox: Readers discuss American Pickers controversy

America is indeed ready for American Pickers

The first show came off crass. But the next two have been fun to watch. I loved the woman with the huge warehouse stuffed with cool stuff.

I felt at first the buyers were taking advantage of the WWII vet [by] taking memorabilia from the war he fought. But now that I have seen more, they get good deals and they get snookered too, like the rusty old bike.

I love the show and yes I think America is ready for it. I am a buyer.

Happy Ford
Boise, Idaho

Pickers must take care with elderly

“Do you think the show American Pickers helps or hurts the antiques business?”


It hurts the antiques business that people see this as “taking advantage” of the elderly. I don’t think that is what is going on here at all. There are cameras, the sellers know these guys are in business trying to make a profit. They deserve to make money for all their efforts. It is no different than a farmer being paid a penny for an ear of corn and it costing the consumer fifty cents in the supermarket. Somebody has to get it from the field to the grocery store. Likewise, with antiques, someone has to get it from the barn to Sotheby’s.

The end buyer who wants to put the item in their home has no interest in spending days crawling thru filthy outbuildings, transporting it, cleaning and fixing it, etc. They are paying for the work of the middlemen, namely the pickers.

It helps the antique business that younger people are showing an interest in antiques because of this “Indiana Jones” adventure of “picking.” They might never take an interest otherwise. Survival of any business is dependent on the next generation taking interest. This is the ultimate reality show when it comes to antiques and that appeals to an audience that was untapped. The History Channel has a hit on its hands.

I haven’t seen the show yet but plan on checking it out next Monday. I’ve been an antique furniture dealer and refinisher for the past 30 years and just like everyone else in the business, I’ve noticed that the younger generation for the most part isn’t too interested in buying and collecting antiques and collectibles.  Maybe the show will help stimulate interest among the younger folks where they can see the value in older things and start experiencing the thrill of a “good score.”

Dee Couvelha, via e-mail

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Any attention is good attention

Anything that can bring attention and interest to the antique business these days has got to be a plus.

Doug Schmitt
Lake Ariel, Pa.

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Take the good with the bad

This is a two-fold answer from a long time antique dealer:

The good part of this show is that it shows people how hard it is to really find all the things that we bring to the antique market for sale, and that we don’t always make a big profit on what we buy. Sometimes we even lose money.

The bad part is that it gives non-professional, dishonest people ideas about how you could go out and take advantage of someone who may be in a financial hardship situation. I hear stories all the time from people about how they were taken advantage of (yes, by established dealers too sometimes) but most of the time it’s just someone that is looking for a fast buck.

People need to make sure they are selling to a reputable dealer. If someone badgers you into selling something, say no!

Julie Whitney, via e-mail

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Cold calls on elderly not responsible

I found American Pickers enjoyable to watch until they started cold calling the elderly. I couldn’t help but think that Mike and Frank were taking advantage of them. I would have been more comfortable seeing the elderly person with a family member or friend there to guide and protect thorough the bargaining process. Imagine a family member coming for a visit and asking, “Hey dad where’s the family silver?” and dad saying, “Oh, I sold it for $50 to two nice young men who stopped by on Saturday.”

Another concern is that rural robberies are on the rise. It must be very motivational to all the thieves out there, who never thought of it before, to now include rural homes and farm sites on their lists. Thieves might think these locations easy pickings for themselves, too.

Just my two cents worth!

Amy W.
South West Minnesota

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Pickers are real-life people

I’m a small business person that sells antiques and collectables out of a booth at an antique mall here in Greensboro, North Carolina, and I really enjoyed the subject article. I can relate with everything those Pickers do, except for knocking on the doors of homes, because I also have to “buy low and sell high” to make my living.

I go to an occasional yard sale and attend estate auctions to buy most of my goods.

And I also have business cards available at my mall for customers to pick up, in case they want to contact me about any of my things, of if they have anything they might want to sell to me.

Terry Wert,
Terry’s Treasures, Greensboro N.C.

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One more interesting show about antiques

American Pickers is as fun to watch as the Antiques Roadshow and Pawn Stars.

Each show has its own focus and someone, either the buyer or the seller, is trying to score big time. That is thrill of the hunt, whether in your own attic, something you inherited or driving along the road from town to town.

Those who gripe about this show would see things differently if they were the ones making the find. Also the pickers on the show pay way more than I would for some of the oddball stuff they buy. They’re making the effort to save a long forgotten item from oblivion and their knowledge and hard work should be rewarded. They seem to have honest bonds with the owners of the barns and homes with “treasures” and some of the owners seem quite savvy themselves.

The producers of the show could soften criticism by showing scenes with realistic buying at fair prices rather then paying a dollar to an unknowing seller for an item worth $10,000 and fueling the crooked antique dealer image.

Jim Frugoli, via e-mail

P.S. I am also in the antique business and anyone who is makes a living by buying items as low as possible and selling as high as possible. This is true for the Pawn Stars shop owners and for the antique owners who visit the Antiques Roadshow hoping to make a killing on Aunt Lily’s old vase or some $3 garage sale find.

The thrill is in the hunt or the find for everyone whether they like to admit it or not.

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A healthy dose of realism

I think the show is great … Monday night I watch Antiques Roadshow (on PBS), Pawn Stars and American Pickers. The Buy/Sell prices I’ve seen on Pickers are reasonable for the work they do.

The folks who think making $30 or $40 profit on a collectable if or when they can sell it need to wake up and smell the coffee. I have however cringed at some of the low ball offers at the pawn shop … but as the owner states … It’s a business and he needs to make a profit.

You have the option of walking out, which several customers have done. The one I wouldn’t like to bargain with is the “old man” at the pawn shop. … Not a happy camper!  I will continue to watch all these shows and hope they remain on.

Marty Connelley
San Antonio, Texas

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Show may hurt other buyers

In my circle of garage salers, it will hurt us only if the show becomes a lot more popular than it is now … it has to reach and maintain the audience like Pawn Stars. It has to crossover to other “non-antique” watchers. If that comes to be, then I think as garage salers it will hurt us because many sellers will see their rusty junk as “rusty gold” and mark it up unrealistically to the point that garage salers won’t buy it.

However, if considering the “antique business” as you stated, I think it helps in that more and more people are not only aware of hidden treasures, but are actually interested in them.

Steven Dennis, via e-mail

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Don’t dismiss the sellers

I like the show. I think the sellers know what they’re doing. They are not totally stupid. I mean really; the cameras, the cameramen, the camera truck, etc. The stuff will either be restored by the Pickers or rot or rust away to nothing. The sellers are getting some cash and are on TV to boot.

Carol Johnson, via e-mail

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Is it really worth storing antiques?

It seems to me that only in the rarest of circumstances should anyone store antiques/ or collectibles in public storage.

I speak from experience having just “celebrated” my 10th year of storage fees holding my sports card and memorabilia collection from a closed hobby shop. How ridiculous this was! In hindsight I could have paid off a nice storage unit on my property for what I paid to store my (now) depreciated collection.

Unless someone plans on storing a commodity that has some clear upside (and for the life of me I can’t envision what that could be in this economic environment), value wise, IMO you’re better off always to sell (hopefully at a profit) and move on to your next acquisition.

Sign me … Been there, done that.

Tom Curtis, via e-mail

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What’s a collector to do with her movie mags

I started taking Antique Trader only a year ago and I love it. I’m a 65 year old retired telephone operator and I have a little story to tell.

When I was eight years old, some little boys from my neighborhood were going on and on about someone called Susan Hayward. They had just seen “With a Song in My Heart” and were talking about how beautiful she was. I had to find out more.

To make a long story short, I started collecting movie magazines. By the time I was 10, my girlfriends and I used to go door to door in Spokane, Wash., asking if anyone had movie magazines they didn’t want anymore. Throughout the years I have accumulated a collection of more than 500 old movie magazines and I love every one of them.

They go all the way back to 1917 and I have several from the 1920s. The beautiful magazines from the 1930s have covers by James Flagg and Earl Christy – wonderful painted covers. So many!

I’ve got almost the whole collection of The New Movie from the early 1930s. Now that I’m getting older I would like some advice. Could you point me in the right direction on how to sell them or advertise these?

Thank you so much.
Joeleen M. Young
Erie, Pa.

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