Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Antiques Lessons Learned on "American Pickers"

I've been enjoying the new History Channel show "American Pickers," where two guys who have an antiques selling business tool around the country in their company van, looking for interesting houses (often with "outbuildings") which may contain the rusty, the old, the antique..and hopefully the valuable.

As a "yard sale" addict and eBay seller, the show can be instructive in lessons of what to buy to resell. 

Mike and Frank, the "pickers," have a special affinity for old bicycles, cars, motorcycles, vintage advertising/signs, and, in Frank's case, oil cans. And heck, any antique cans.


What lessons can we glean from the episodes I've watched so far? Here are some:

- vintage, quality kitchen stuff sells well ("I sell the h@#$ out of that," Mike says). For example, nice-looking old metal flour cans.

- "advertising is hot." People love old signs with vintage advertising. More collectible companies' logos of course do better. Coca Cola stuff is hot. 

One of the weirder items I saw Mike and Frank purchase and haul off in their van was an old cigarette sign - a huge gas station 3-d figure of Johnny Roventini, the old Philip Morris cigarette company mascot. He's a little bellhop who was less than 4 feet tall as a fully developed adult.

One of their better scores in all the shows I've watched was an apparently next-to-impossible-to-find (htf, or hard to find, as we say in eBay parlance) antique Vespa scooter, the Ape (pronounced "ah-pay," not "ape," like the gorilla).

Italian for "bee," the Ape was "the three-wheeled variant used for commercial purposes, including the popular auto rickshaw," according to wikipedia. Mike and Frank paid $5000 and sold it for $6000, a $1000 profit.

However, whereas Mike and Frank are usually on target with the prices they pay for stuff, without insulting the owners, in general, Frank made one goof on the last show I saw where he paid too much for an antique car. He forked over $5500 for an old black auto, and their expert later told them it was only worth $3000-$5000 and would cost a lot to repair.

Nice to know even seasoned pros can make mistakes. Or as Mike says in the last episode, "We can't know everything about everything." Isn't that true of anyone?


Are you a yard sale, estate sale, or antique shop addict? Check out my web site, http://www.yardsalers.net.


  1. Hey Julia,
    I LOVE "American Pickers" What a great show. I see lots of stuff I would like to pick...lol. Nice to know they make mistakes too.
    Only thing I am afraid of that it will raise the price of junk and people will think they have good junk...lol. O well....still fun to go look.

  2. any ideal what their ebay name is::::::::: like to see what they got for sale, thanks, j.b.maxwell