When flea marketing was hot, I was off on Saturday and Sunday. And because my wife and local friends were casino people, I was left alone to venture all over South Jersey and rekindle the flame of joy that I mentioned above.
A "PICKER" REFERS TO SOMEBODY WHO WORKS IN FIELD AND HUNTS DOWN ANTIQUES AND OTHER ITEMS. PEOPLE LIKE MIKE WOLFE (left) AND FRANK FRITTS (right), REPRESENT THE ORIGIN OF THE COLLECTIBLES PIPE-LINE, BY CHERRY-PICKING WHATEVER CAN BE RESOLD FOR A PROFIT.
AMERICAN PICKERS features the two Laurel and Hardy-like pickers (see above), from Le Claire Iowa. It debuted on January 18, 2010 and is concurrently being aired on "THE HISTORY CHANNEL" and "LIFETIME." MIKE IS THE PASSIONATE NUMBER-ONE MAN. HE SPECIALIZES IN BICYCLES AND MOTORCYCLES, LIKE THE 1937 KNUCKLEHEAD ABOVE. FRANK, THE SECOND BANANA, GRAVITATES TO TOYS AND VINTAGE OIL CANS.
Their enterprise is called, "ANTIQUE ARCHAEOLOGY." While they crisscross the country in their van searching for tarnished gold, an employee, (Danielle) minds the command center back in Iowa. Through the use of business sense and her feminine charm, she uses the Internet and telephone to do advance scouting and research leads. Equally important, she connects Mike and Frank with appraisers in the furthest corners of the middle of nowhere, to answer questions and establish prices.
Danielle also uses her wiles to advertise merchandise. Sometimes new purchases are sold before they reach the shop. Along the way, the home viewer experiences their adventures inter-laced with team's three-sided, good-natured taunting. That adventure is sure to include; history lessons, a visit to unusual places, seeing other cultures in action and meeting tons of cool people.
The History Channel has another, somewhat similar program. "PAWN STARS," features the Harrison family and their Las Vegas pawn broker shop. I liked this show because you never knew what was coming in the store next plus every customer had a story. I would have been satisfied with it if "Pickers" never came around.COMPARED TO AMERICAN PICKERS, PAWN STARS COMES OFF LIKE THREE GENERATIONS OF WEALTHY WISE-ASS, FAT-CATS.
The Pawn Stars show is sanitary. They are in a dirty business but they never get dirty. Overwhelmingly, everyone has to come to them. And if the "pawner" doesn't like the deal, they are given a dour, take it or leave it ultimatum. I'm also put off by the fact that they are located in Las Vegas and frequently prey on desperate/down and out gamblers who might feel compelled to accept less.
Even the way they use humor to humanize themselves doesn't work for me. Pawn Stars use the "THREE STOOGES" method. Grandpa only stops counting his money when he's angry. That's when he verbally slaps his son Rick. Rick (the number-one man) has genuine enthusiasm and knowledge for his profession but when he gets slapped, he turns around slaps his son, Big Hoss. Then dimensionless Hoss, who comes off like a monetary mercenary who's only other desire is to prove to his dad and granddad that he is already worthy of running the show, turns around and insults a worker, (Chumlee). And when your at the end of the stooge totem pole like Curley...when Chumlee turns around there is nobody to slap.
I'm sure that the Harrison's worked hard to get where they are but the American Pickers possess and maintain the work ethic that our country stands for. Mike has been picking since he as eight. Together with Frank, a friend from his early teens, they started buying and selling. With the advent of EBAY, they widened their customer base.
Mike says he was making around fifty thousand a year when he produced a "how to" video on picking. This video found its way into the hands of TV producers on the History Channel and the show was soon born. While they didn't divulge Mike's current earnings, he did say that because of the show's success, their web-site activity has spiked to about three-hundred hits a day. Plus, they are now planning to expand their home-base to accommodate walk-ins.
The Iowa boys use a combination of Danielle's leads and cold calls. A cold call occurs when they drop in on a house or business with certain exterior indicators suggesting that there might be items they could buy and re-sell. Armed with a friendly face and a handbill that describes what they do and what they are interested in, they knock on doors. Many times, people invite them onto their property. Some folks are active collectors and some are looking to downsize and still others are people who inherited tons of accumulated junk.
At no time do I ever lose sight of the fact that everyone knows they are on camera. That means that the viewer is only seeing what the director wants them see. On occasion, I'm sure they might be considered invaders and have doors slammed in their face. Nevertheless, the sellers we see are interesting, thought provoking and entertaining.
I have seen the boys deal with hippies, hobos and housewives as well as curmudgeons, clowns and castaways. I've seen them sift through old stores, theaters, churches, amusement park and even a prison. But mostly, they work with collectors who invite them into the inner sanctum of their old barns, basements or in the great outdoors.
You have to give them credit for risking life and limb by climbing tenuous piles of junk or dragging out heavy or delicate treasures. Sometimes these tasks are performed in dusty, filthy and wet conditions. Other times they are exposed to poison ivy, bat guano or a hundred kinds of pestilence, in search of the almighty buck.
I can relate to Mike and Frank's trials and tribulations because my BFF ZIMBO, is an antique dealer, (TIME AND AGAIN ANTIQUES). On a smaller scale, I know what he goes through. Zimbo might not be wading through swamps with precious cargo balancing on his head but because he is generally on his own, Mr. Z. has developed a laundry list of picking injuries that include his back, knee, heel and hip. And something tells me, you can add a thousand hours of psychotherapy too.TIME AND AGAIN ANTIQUES IS LOCATED AT 1416 E. LINDEN AVENUE, IN LINDEN NEW JERSEY 07036 AND CAN BE REACHED AT: (800) 290-5401. OR AT: www.timeandagainantiques.com. ASK FOR ZIMBO, (a.k.a. JEFF), AND TELL HIM YOU ARE A FAN OF, "MORE GLIB ThAN PROFOUND."
It's hard to believe but Iowa has beaten Las Vegas as my favorite buy and sell reality TV show. The ultimate capitalists, American Pickers come and unearth stuff that might disintegrate or get hauled to the dump. Then through a restoration process, Mike, Frank and Danielle, in a self effacing manner, recycle grand and not so grand pieces into new life. Voila, what you are left with is a slice of Americana that might have become forgotten. Plus the luxury of going cross country with them, from your La-Z-Boy, every week. And if that wasn't enough, you also get an insight to a viable, alternative method to earning a living in these difficult economic times.
Maybe Buck Owens and Roy Clark from the comedy/variety show, "HEE HAW," were talking about Mike and Frank when they used to say; he's a pickin' and 'um a grinnin'.
MUSICIANS, OWENS (left) AND CLARK (right) RESEMBLE LAUREL AND HARDY TOO. MAYBE BETWEEN THEIR GUITAR AND BANJO JAM SESSIONS, THEY PICKED ANTIQUES TOO.
Then to top it all off, I'd love to hear one of the American Pickers to say, "You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose.