Readers’ Letters: ‘American Pickers’ reflects the real business; PLUS: Is progressive pricing right for everyone?

Objects left to rot ?deserve to be ?salvaged by ‘Pickers’

In regards to “American Pickers: Is the public ready to see how the antiques business really works.” A unused, castaway saddle in a barn that is destined to rot away and has no value to the owner, rescued by “American Pickers” is a boon to the owner and the antique is back into circulation.

No downsides!!

—Johnny Crawley, via e-mail


‘Pickers’ truly shows a dealer’s hard work

I am just now reading the article on “American Pickers” from last year. I just discovered the show a few weeks ago, and I love it!

I have been in the antiques and collectibles business for five years, both online and in brick-and-mortar stores. I have found my things in auctions, thrift stores, garage and yard sales and odd places. I know a lot already, and I learn a lot from watching Mike and Frank work.

Because it indeed is work. Those watching the show who think they are exploiting the people they buy from really have no idea of the effort, time and up-front money it takes to acquire antiques and collectibles. Those watching the show see only the edited parts, which make for entertainment.  They do not see the times when the pickers strike out or when they drive for miles without finding anything.

Beyond all of that, there is the care, transport and storage of the items, and often cleanup and repair, before they can be sold. And then there is the monthly rent for stores and websites, costs for merchandising, including setup for VISA, Mastercard and American Express.  And then there is the need for shipping online items. The list goes on and on.

All of this is great fun, but it is not for the faint of heart. There is always risk involved. Buying these items is pure speculation, and we assume the risks and carry the costs until the items are sold (or not). Those unfamiliar with what it takes in time, energy and money to do this work need to be educated. Yes, Mike and Frank can make profits, but they have to. What is the chance otherwise that the people they buy from will ever sell these items — especially when they are heaped up in old barns that only pickers have the motivation to climb over?

Some of these collectors are advanced in years, or have inherited the items, or the items have been abandoned — they are so overwhelmed that they will never process or use these items, and, in some cases, may never even know or remember what they have got!  The pickers bring welcome relief and dollars the collectors never thought they would see.

There are the shows where collectors cannot even get their families interested in inheriting the items — so they would be sold at auction eventually, anyway.

And there are, of course, those collectors who charge exactly what Mike and Frank could get for the items, so they are not being exploited.
So, why not now, and why not to pickers like Mike and Frank who have accumulated, like I have, the knowledge to recognize the value of these items and have use for them?  Why not give the owners a fair wholesale price and make a profit?  Believe me, we all earn it!  It is the same as anyone who sees value in an idea or item as a potential for business.

And picking is a great way to rescue antiques that would rust away, be broken or be discarded when they are part of our cultural history.  I love pre-owned items because they have the workmanship and construction you no longer see manufactured these days. Picking is a kind of gleaning, like the farmers going out into the fields and getting all the broken-off carrots and reselling them as “baby” carrots.  It is right to do so, and those who profit from having a perception of what can be used are doing right.

Mike and Frank have a legitimate business, as do the rest of us who acquire and sell antiques and collectibles. Picking and reselling and conserving and reusing is the best kind of stewardship of our resources.
Thanks for letting me have my say!

Carol Hottle,
McMinnville, Ore.

P.S.  I also love “Storage Wars” on A&E for the same reasons. ?


Progressive pricing may not work for jewelry sellers

The concept of progressive pricing works well when there is a constant, steady stream of  new inventory.  It is a necessity of the animal. Without the constant turning of inventory, the retailer will quickly run out of space.

The consignee needs to price the goods appropriately and sell them in a timely manner in order to maintain happy consignors. In addition, the consignment and thrift stores do not have much invested in their inventory. Donations and revenue sharing with consignors are not a cost of goods. Their only expenses are rent, staff, etc.

Areas within the antique industry where this concept may work is with large items that take up significant floor space, such a furniture. Furniture dealers who do shows realize that they need to constantly change their inventory from show to show or within a shop. Items that do not travel well and run the risk of being damaged may also benefit from price reductions.

Another area that may benefit from quick price reductions? Items that quickly become “hot” and have no staying power. Sports or celebrity memorabilia can quickly become hot and fade just as fast (ex. Beanie babies, Michael Jackson, Sarah Palin).

Showing the customer what the price may eventually be will encourage them to wait until the price drops or ask up front for the reduction. Personally, I don’t believe that many items within the industry become “stale” and need to be reduced. Like any merchandise, mistakes can be bought. If this is the problem, move out the dogs as needed. Some antiques take time to find the right buyer. This buyer maybe willing to pay your original asking price.

 Those dealers who need quick cash flow already know how to move merchandise in order to continue purchasing. Those dealers who strive to quickly sell their merch are already in place within the industry and are called wholesalers or dealer-friendly.

 Some of us have inventory that are made of precious metals. The increase in the metal prices has allowed to me to move merchandise through scrapping. It has also had me raise prices within my inventory, as the replacement inventory costs close to what I am selling the merchandise for.  With general costs going up, each dealer needs to become a better buyer with the most selective eye, decrease their buying and move out the dogs.

Most dealers realize that the best part of our job is buying. Selling is just part of the process to continue the buying.
Michelle Chez
Hopkins, Minn.

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