Copyright 2010 – Kimberly Clay
In the world of antiquing, “pickers” are those who dive into dusty attics, cluttered garages, and long-neglected basements in the hopes of finding the perfect antique prize. With a well-honed ability to turn one man’s trash into another man’s treasure, pickers might search for weeks without finding that diamond in the rough–but when they do snag a promising piece of history, the financial reward is often just as great as the emotional high.
The History Channel offers a look into intense picking on American Pickers, a new show dedicated to those who aren’t afraid of a little dust. Pickers Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz set out in search of history tucked away in attics and old barns, and often the stories they hear are better than any antiques they might find.
Meet the Pickers
Mike Wolfe has been an antique picker for over two decades. He has a good reputation as a picker with an eye for hidden treasure. Frank Fritz is the “bearded charmer” of the duo, a former fire and safety inspector with a passion for anything with an engine. Both men love picking but also love to make a bit of cash for their trouble, which often leads to heated but friendly competition.
Pickers serve as the crucial link between those who have the antiques and those collectors and dealers who want them. The pickers find the prize, negotiate the sale, and pocket a profit, while the dealers get the glory of selling the antique treasures to discerning clientele.
Picking Up Controversy
For all the interesting antiques picked up along the way — and yes, there are several “jackpot” finds — American Pickers has garnered its share of controversy. Message boards across the web are lit up with concern about the picking tactics displayed on the show, with many sounding a chorus of “Rip-off!” Many viewers feel that Wolfe and Fritz are taking advantage of the elderly, many of whom don’t realize what treasures they actually have.
In one case, a dusty old saddle was purchased by the pickers for $75. The elderly war veteran who sold it appears to have no idea that it was actually worth around $5,000; but in all fairness, neither did the Pickers until they consulted with an expert. In another instance, a frail man with a Phillip Morris sign was talked down from $900 to $750, only to find that the pickers made a tidy profit from the deal — that sign was actually worth $2,500.
While some supporters claim that finding treasures on the cheap is what a good antiquing trip is all about, and point out that the “profit” quoted on the show doesn’t take into account the costs involved in traveling to find pieces, or other associated costs like cleanup and restoration, detractors point out that many of the people approached by American Pickers in the episodes aired so far are elderly. They assume that in many cases, the people approached have no idea what their treasures might be worth. However some responders to the debate ,that have been involved with the American Pickers show, have come forward to dispute that they were in any way taken advantage of.
Picks for the Future
American Pickers debuted on Monday, January 18, and is scheduled for 10 initial episodes. The level of interest in the picking antics will determine whether additional episodes are ordered. Though some have called for boycotts of the show, the intense debate surrounding American Pickers is sure to have more viewers tuning in, if only to judge the picking for themselves.
American Pickers can currently be seen every Monday on The History Channel.
Looking to do a little “picking” of your own? Shop for antiques in Central Kentucky!