Monday, September 15, 2014

The More The Merrier - Subcultures and the Antiques Business

There is a constant debate in this business as to how to get "younger blood" involved and interested in antiques and the history surrounding the objects. 

Now, there are tons of young, mold able minds out there. Directing this throng of disorder into the antiques business would be like trying to direct a nervous bull through a dealer's show full of Lalique and Tiffany art glass. 

 However, there are tons of young minds who are already interested in history, its related objects and accoutrements.

You may have already heard of some of these terms:




My personal opinion of such genres, subcultures, etc; like Steampunk, Dieselpunk (etc, etc) is that as antiques folks and history lovers, we should ALL embrace these groups. 


Well, these groups are full of people My personal opinion of such genres, subcultures, etc; like Steampunk, Diesel Punk (etc, etc) is that as antiques folks and history lovers, we should ALL embrace these groups. These groups are full of people who are like minded as we are. They just express their interest in history, the fashions, the "gear"/objects, etc in a different way than we do. 

They do throw less traditional things into the mix, and even in some ways "improve" what we know as factual history. The mixing of fiction and factual history is nothing new. The term "Historical Fiction" is a long standing tradition in writing circles.

 Steampunk is simply a a modern version of Historical Fiction. They have pulled science fiction of a "past" age into the fold, and hit "MIX" on the old eggbeater...and added a steam engine to it.

 The problem with the "antiques business" I saw when I was a young dealer/picker, were attitudes of those in the business that emitted attitudes that were staid, snobbish, boring, dry, elitist, etc. Not exactly appealing to a younger crowd...not by a long shot. The business has changed in many ways, loosing some of those negative traits from some circles, but it has a long way to go. 

Many of those individuals who participate in Cosplay, LARP, Steampunk conventions, (etc,etc,etc) and those such events are interested in history. However, they are not keen to be bored to death.

 SO many people make history what it is not.  Take, as an example, all those history teachers we encountered in our school years who, to our chagrin, managed to make our favourite subject a snoozefest.  

What we all know history is NOT is BORING 

We all need to expand our horizons, experience new things, look at the world in a different way. Perhaps picking and dealing in antiques has forced me to look at things differently. I would think that this business, more than any other, should be full of people who look at things differently than the mainstream public.

I suggest you check out these genres, even if no where else but the web, on sites like  Google Images, Google, eBay,  Etsy, Pinterest as well as the list of links I have listed at the end of this post.

Expand your horizons. You might just find you fit in to these groups, find new markets for your merchandise, make friends, find partners, meet kindred spirits and just generally open up your eyes to many possibilities of the antiques business you never even realized existed.

I have to go...I've got an airship to catch!

Part of a quickly made Steampunk outfit I created for a Halloween party I attended

(Feel free to send your comments with your favourite Steampunk website links! If they are not "spammy" or already represented here, I will be happy to add them to this list!) - Modern technology with a Victorian flair!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Big T.O.P. List - The Weekend Garage Sale Picker!

Yes, I know, this blog posting is late in coming....I also got distracted and did a "non picker types related blog post" in disorganization is showing (more on that "little" topic will be covered in later postings)

It is summer here in Manitoba, and things have been hectic. Summers are just way too short here in the prairies. 

I tend to try to pack a years worth of outdoor work into just a few scant months. Plus, I need to keep up with indoor projects  (and general "life") at the same time.

Also, with summer comes garage sales & yard sales, of course. 

Garage sales and yard sales are pretty much synonymous these days. I have seen "Yard Sales" in garages, and "Garage Sales" held in yards. 

The terms are essentially interchangeable. It is all semantics, really.

That brings with it the "weekend garage sale hobbiest pickers."

Let's just call 'em WGSHP's for short, okay?  That will save my achin' fingers some work....!

So, these "pickers" are probably the "lowest" on the totem pole of picker types.  

No, no, no,  I am not saying they are "scum" or anything of the sort, they are just the lowest level at which I would consider someone to actually be able to legitimately use the word "picker" as a part of their "title".

The individual who is a WGSHP will determine by their actions if they deserve respect or not. Heck, everyone on this earth should take that thought to heart, really...

But, this blog is about picking, so I will stay away from the oh-so-tempting philosophical rant running around my brain (for the time being, anyway.)

WGSHPs do just what the title describes. They run around to garage sales on the weekends and buy items for resale. Whether they resell them online, at auctions, to dealers, at flea markets, to fellow collectors (and on and on) is all irrelevant.

The source of their merchandise is garage sales, pure and simple.

The sources of any picker's merchandise can generally be determined by the types of stuff they don't find.  If you put a pile of a picker's picks in front of them, and lined them up in a long row, you would soon see how the merchandise runs the gamut, as to the picker's picks' quality, type, age, size, etc, etc, etc. The list of differences is an entire lifetime long, really.

For example, a WGSHP may come up with the odd advertising sign, maybe a mint boxed tin toy now and then, some new/old stock inventory once and awhile, a primitive piece occasionally (if that is even on their radar), a valuable painting, etc. 

But, what you will notice is that they do not have a regular influx of certain items that a "professional picker" tends to bring to the market. 

There will/could be a regular influx of Swanky Swigs, Starbucks Coffee mugs, china, 1970s mod items, 1980s funky retro items, 1990s collectible toys, and a long laundry list of other items that can be found at garage sales with regularity.

I am not knocking these items or categories, don't get me wrong! 

Have you seen what some of the modern Starbuck coffee mugs sell for on eBay? 

Heck, it is enough to give you coffee mug envy!

The WGSHP is a part timer...well, an "occasional timer", really. Their buying activity is pretty much limited to those weekend garage sales. They might drop in to the odd auction, the odd thrift shop, and even some antiques & vintage shops. 

They might actually spend a dollar or two in those places, too. Their collecting habits might be the very fuel for the garage sale picking they do. 

Many collectors finance the acquirement of parts (or even their entire) collections in this way, using the profits from their garage sale hunting to add to their collections. 

Oh so many collectors start out going to garage sales in the first place simply as part of their hunt for the objects of their personal obsessions. On one of those outings, they see something that they know is SO absurdly cheap that they can not resist buying it, even though it is not something that they want themselves.  

After that, and maybe even during the moment they spot the bargain.....

....they figure out that they should SELL it to a dealer, fellow collector, scrap gold buyer (etc!). 

They end up grinning ear to ear after they have resold the item(s) for a "handsome" profit. With that profit they treat themselves to a purchase of a  piece that previously caught their bottomless collecting heart, but the contents (or rather lack of contents) of their wallet blocked their acquiring it to fill that empty space. 

With that little space filled.....

A Weekend Garage Sale Hobbiest Picker is born!

Will he/she grow, expand their horizons, mature? 

Some do, some don't.

Those that do mature become one of the many other "Types Of Pickers" in this world....and now you k now where the "T.O.P" of this list comes from....

So, are you a WGSHP? 



If you answered no, keep reading this blog for more T.O.P postings! 

Heck, if you answered YES, you should keep reading, too!
You may end up deciding you want to change your picker title!
Or you just want to be is all good! 

Safe pickin', folks! 

Sunday, June 29, 2014


I encounter dangers while picking. 

This is mainly due to the places I tend to pick, but "newbie" pickers could well trip across the same hazards in many similar places, or even in what seem to be "safe" places they are picking, but are unaware that serious danger lies around the next corner. 

Abandoned buildings, basements of homes, barns, old warehouses, storage buildings, storage rooms of stores, (etc, etc, etc) all contain hazards most people have no idea even exist!

 I've discovered full bottles of toxic chemicals, brittle rusty cans of powdered poisons, and other nasty substances...and in places you would not expect. Containers prime to be reused by thrifty folks run the gamut. Beware of any container's contents!  NEVER assume it is the original contents, and it is "harmless."  I have found baking powder tins, flour canisters, and other "powdered" foodstuff  cans & containers containing what turned out to be things like strychnine, weed killers, veterinary concoctions,  and assorted other powdered chemicals! 
If you are parched while picking, also have a taste for booze, and you find a full Vodka bottle that appears untouched....well, don't just tip it back!  I regularly find liquor bottles full of acid, gasoline, kerosene, weed killers, and assorted other nasty liquids, some whose colouring look very much like the bottles' original contents, and in some cases, the colour of the bottles mask the contents' actual hue.  Even if it looks sealed with a label, or the cap looks "unbroken" still be very cautious! Caps can appear to be "intact" and "uncracked",  but some "security" features don't "break" as they are supposed to, and thus the cap can appear to  be unopened after the cap is screwed back in place. With time, a bottle's contents & environmental conditions can conspire to make a cap/lid stick, and even create a vacuum in the container,  once opened can give you the impression it has never before been opened. A  security label, tax seal, etc that is untorn and stuck to the glass is no real indicator of a bottle having its original contents, either. Labels can re-adhere when they come in contact with moisture and other conditions! 

Now, are you ready for some other info that will blow you away?

I regularly find old jars full of bolts, nails, and other heavy hardware....and it is not at all unusual for me too find out that there is LIVE ammunition mixed in!
Old, live rifle and gun cartridges  some "centre fire" and some "rim fire"...all potentially lethal if hit "just right" with some in dropping/spilling the contents! Live "rim fire" .22 calibre shells are shells I find on a regular basis mixed in with all sorts of junk!  SO far I am bullet hole free, though! While picking older farm properties it is not at all unusual for me to encounter live is almost a regular occurrence! Finding old, but LIVE military ammunition, including all sorts of mortar shells, grenades, etc is less common, though far more common than it should be! Even many "practice bombs" contain enough explosive to seriously maim or even kill a person. 

I have been fairly lucky, as I know I should be stumbling across dynamite more often than I do.  Luckily, I have not had any encounters with old, sweating sticks of dynamite....though I have had a couple minor "scares", consisting of what turned out to be ancient road flares. Years of grime obscured/removed markings, and sometimes they are buried in piles of debris, so extreme care is taken to expose the sticks to determine their true nature. Even then, they should be handled with care.

 Talking about flares, there are some explosives that are used on the railway that I have come across in various locations. Usually they are stuck seemingly randomly in places such as the rafters of basements, especially those homes belonging to former railway employees! 

 Old movie theatres, believe it or not, can contain some HIGHLY explosive materials that 99% of the population is completely oblivious to. Nitrocellulose film that was used up until 1951 breaks down and creates what is basically very close in composition to NITROGLYCERIN! And you think modern action movies have some serious explosive action! Yes, that is right, the film can EXPLODE when dropped, etc. 

Imagine, while rooting through some old musty theatre basement, you lift up a pile of "junk", see nothing obviously cool you just toss the pile aside, and...... 


You are now in itty-bitty picker pieces........

 I talk about "hazards of picking" in my blog quite a bit, seeing as it really isn't covered much on other pickers blogs, on TV shows, etc.

I wrote one post in this blog  some time ago  covering a few major hazards I have encountered, which, apparently has been read thousands of times!

In case anyone wishes to read it, it can be seen here.

 There is also have a photo album picturing some "Picker Hazards" on the "Hardcore Pickers" Facebook page that a few fellow pickers and I maintain. (IMPORTANT NOTE/DISCLAIMER: We have absolutely NO connection to Hardcore Pawn, btw!)


Monday, April 28, 2014

TEST - What Kind Of Picker Are You?

You are in test today!    

I have found that SO many people have entirely different opinions as to what makes someone a "picker" that I simply can not create a test of any kind that will not end up taking hours of your time. 

I will still continue to express some opinions throughout this blog as to what makes a picker.  Sometimes I may ask you some questions that you can answer for leave a comment, opinion, thought, etc,  make yourself heard! 

I have always considered myself a true picker. At first when people were calling me a "picker" rather than a "antiques dealer" I wasn't all that thrilled...somehow, at the time, "picker" seemed to me to be demeaning . It took a little while, but I started to realize that the dealers who were calling me a "picker" were complimenting me, rather than being negative. I was good at picking...that is what I wanted to do, anyway, not be a "dealer" sitting in a shop.

That came later. I became an "antiques dealer with a store" out of necessity, due to geographic location and the market I had access to.

I did come up with lots of fresh stuff.  I wanted to move it, but didn't want to get ripped-off on the stuff, either, though. A couple dealers made that mistake...assuming that I wouldn't figure out they were offering me far less than wholesale. In their arrogance/ignorance they perhaps figured their "knowledge" was worth far more than my sweat, fuel, time, energy, interpersonal skills, research skills, etc.

My knowledge base built quickly with experience. I learn fast....or so I like to believe!

So, what makes a picker, in my eyes?

Well....that is a loaded question. Whatever I answer I know there will be all sorts of differences in opinion.  Besides, you need to address some other issues...mainly the fact that there is several KINDS of pickers.

Myself I have adopted the moniker of a "Hardcore Picker". 
I define that as a person who makes his money in the "junk biz", mainly in the vintage end of things, but does what is necessary in the junk biz as a whole to make a living. If I need to haul scrap metal to help pay some bills, I do it. If I need to "re-purpose" items, re-market items, wholesale, hold some auctions, retail, do flea markets, etc, etc, etc to make some cash, I will. But, my main focus is vintage. I have an affinity for "junk", but vintage items have the firmest grip on my being.

So, what other kinds of pickers do I feel exist out there? 

You'll just have to wait for next post to find out!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

So You Want To Be A Picker?

Let's cut to the chase...with no sugared toppings, inconsequential blather, dressing it up, posturing, etc, etc, etc.

Sorry, no pretty pictures here.

This post is all about one thing...the FACTS.

Yep, imagine that you are channeling Joe Friday (the dude from Dragnet.)  And don't call me MA'AM....I'm a dude...ok, dude? ....or ma'am, miss, Mr, Ms, is kind of dark, so I can't really see who is out there...

Still confused?  DRAGNET.....You know, the TV show? 

"Joe Friday" ring any bells? 

Still have no idea what I am talking about?

Ok, forget it, stop reading are obviously unable to do any research on your own....and as a picker, you NEED to be able to do that.      Ok students, go do some research!!!

You're still reading?  

Ok, test time:

Do you NOW know what I was referring to with the "Just the Facts, Ma'am" comment?

Didn't even go hit Google?  

OK, if that is the case, all you have to do is read this last sentence: 

Don't waste your time reading any further, you already have your answer about picking for a living.....DON'T BOTHER.

I can go on and on about the various aspects of being a picker, and what you need to do, what you should look for, how to do various things, 

etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc....

and on and on and on and on and on....

I can tell you how dangerous it is, how difficult it is, what to wear, what do say, etc, etc, etc....

But.... is hard work....and you have to do things that can be hard...and there are some things you will have to do that are very hard.

....and these things are "key" to more than just picking, it applies to all sorts of businesses, whether  you are self-employed or employed by someone else.

I was going to make my own list of things you really need to do, but why work hard when you can work smart? 

I found this list/posting already online, which sums up most points just as well as I could have. 

So, the link is below, just click on it and it will open a separate page....and read the 19 points closely, then come back here...we are not done yet!

19 Hard Things You Need To Do To Be Successful

Also, as for the video that follows the list you just read.... well, ignore it.

 Take my advice,  weekends do not really exist as "time off" for pickers. We tend to use other days as our time off.

So, bottom line is this:
If you are thinking you are going to get rich quick...


Plus, if you are not willing to work HARD, and sometimes HARDER than usual...

AND work on weekends....

 then you are not cut out to be a picker...

...and by a "picker" I mean picking as a profession, rather than a hobby.

Want to know if  you are a professional picker or a hobbyist picker? 

Take the "What kind of Picker Are You?" quiz, in my next blog posting! (coming in the next few days! ok, maybe give me a week....well, it will happen.....give me some time to get it all together!)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

"Experts" In The Junk Biz - Are They Experts?

We have seen them on TV, quoted in books, and all the rest.


In my opinion, society really holds far too much respect for anyone with "expert" added to their name.

We seem to think these touted "experts" hold all the answers, they are infallible, far more wise than someone else, are "the" authority on the subject (whatever it may be), superior, educated, vastly experienced, etc.

We need to change the respect for the word, really.

Dictionaries haven't changed the definition to the infallible, "god-like-person-who-owns-the-last-word-on-the-subject"..the definition that so much of the public seems to blindly accept as the "truth."

Wikipedia defines expert as:

"...someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by their peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain. An expert, more generally, is a person with extensive knowledge or ability based on research, experience, or occupation and in a particular area of study. Experts are called in for advice on their respective subject, but they do not always agree on the particulars of a field of study. An expert can be, by virtue of credentialtrainingeducation,professionpublication or experience, believed to have special knowledge of a subject beyond that of the average person, sufficient that others may officially (and legally) rely upon the individual's opinion. (click on this definition for the entire Wikipedia article)

There are those who are knowledgeable and deserve recognition as such who do end up in the spotlight (or seek the spotlight) to help the antiques business/field as a whole, and not 100% for their own ego, financial gain, and to be "famous".

 Seeking the spotlight is not always a mark of a non-expert claiming to be an "expert"...I suppose the moniker of "expert" may sometimes be forcibly or unknowingly thrust upon them by others, slapped in place on the TV screen, magazine article, etc, by the creators of those information vehicles.

Those folks who we respect and have earned our respect for their experience and knowledge who end up in the spotlight and still remain humble are those who I feel deserve the spotlight, recognition, accolades, financial gain, fame, etc.

However, those who seek it solely for attention and to "be famous" and really are not in it to try to help the antiques/junk business as a whole are those who I get very annoyed with. The problem with Reality TV and many other medias is that the producers, writers, and others are in control most (all?) of the time, and  the best of intentions of the person (the "expert") can be twisted, messed up, warped, and thwarted by the meat grinder that is the entertainment machine.

 I am a writer, but I write from the point of view from INSIDE the junk biz looking OUT.  I also have been immersed in it, lived it, for over 20 years. Thus, I consult and consider my experiences in it, past and present. I do try to look from outside in, also, and I know it appears to be a totally different animal than it is. We're an eccentric bunch when we are all taking about our "junk", working with what others see as "trash", digging up items that the public has no education about, nor realization on how those items are linked forever to their pasts, and foundation of who they are now.

The Junk Biz looks very different through Joe Public's eyes...that is, those who have little or no experience in this business.  99% of the writers, producers, casting people, etc have little to no experience in this business. Sure their are plenty of collectors who come in to our stores, attend flea markets, hit the garage sales on the weekend, and even some who are even pretty good friends of ours. The "Set Dec" and "Props" people in the TV & movie biz are probably the closest "relatives" of Junk Biz vets, and some of those folks are former part time and full time peers of ours.  

Even if the casting people do their due diligence, research, etc, they are rarely able to delve beyond the fringes of the Junk Biz,...they are easily baffled by the spin of bullshit of simple fame seekers on the fringes of the junk community. These fame seekers jump in front of the casting people, blocking the view to those deeper in the community who should be the ones featured.

Personally, yes, I'd like to have my own show, though am not a spotlight seeker. Frankly, it terrifies me in some ways...but this business needs a far more realistic projection of it made to the public, and a promotion of history, the business' characters featured, and the promotion of collecting for the sake of history preservation, enjoyment, learning, and not JUST for the sake of making money.

NEWS FLASH: If there are no new collectors being created, it means that there is no true market to consume the merchandise.  It is just not a sustainable market. An item can only go through so many reseller's hands in  "X" amount of time before there is simply no $ left to be made.  And if there are 20 of those items floating around, and only 5 collectors to buy them?  It comes down to supply and demand, which is a pretty simple business principle that so many people seem to fail to grasp in the big picture of the junk biz.

This is not my expert opinion.  

Yes, It is my opinion(s)....

Yes, I have tons of experience in the junk biz.....

I simply do not wish to call myself an "expert".


You know what? 

Color me "Sage." 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pickin' For A Livin' - My Confession

I live in Manitoba. 

No, that is not my confession..that is just a important fact.

The market for antique & vintage items here is, quite frankly, soft.

I love searching out, obtaining, researching and all that is involved in this business. I would prefer my days be spent  dealing with antiques, old junk, vintage items, junque, or whatever you want to call the vast assortment of vintage merchandise I salvage/buy/sell/trade/refurbish/repurpose/etc, which I call "inventory."

Dust & rust is part of me, a requirement to keep my life happy and healthy.

Well, ok, maybe healthy is not exactly the word to use when it comes to breathing in rust & dust on a daily basis...but I do cover that in other postings.

Picking  and/or dealing in antiques and collectibles is not an easy way to make a living here.  It is close to impossible, actually.
In this province, I can count on ONE HAND the number of antiques dealers/pickers who actually make their sole living in the antiques/vintage business. It may not appear that way to the general populace, but remember, I have been in this biz for over 20  years, and I know the players in this business' my "peers; and thus am  more familiar with their backgrounds, true/other/main sources of income, etc than the general public.

However, in the 1990s the birth of a brand spanking new four letter word caused a bright light to shine upon us...


However, the "good times," as far as that venue is concerned, is past. We already call them "the good ol' days."

And that is a bad sign for internet sales.

Postage and shipping rates have really hurt us.

eBay itself has made it painfully obvious that they really care little about second hand sellers, and the antiques/collectibles community in general. It used to be a place we all congregated, a community.

(No, this is not going to be an anti-eBay rant, I have done lots of that, and most people in this business are very aware of the pitfalls that is what has created love/hate relationships of sellers with FeeBay, GreedBay, UlcerBay, StressBay, and whatever other incarnations of the name you prefer to use to describe the lumbering behemoth.)

Nothing has taken its place as "the" spot to sell vintage items online....and have the majority of the merchandise sold within 10 days or less. 

 Pickers have tried to adapt in various ways. They are scattered all over various venues on the Web. Some have gone back to the "old school" picking methods of selling to the local populace, wholesaling to other dealers and pickers, using occasional online sales are only supplemental income. Compared to their daily activities, many pickers are only selling the odd thing to a customer who lives elsewhere in the world.  I'd suggest to you that those customers are more than likely composed of assorted niche market buyers, and are ones who will still pay more for specific items than the locals in a picker's area.  

Plus, they are still happy to pay postage/shipping. 

What was becoming the norm for many pickers (getting the majority of their income from online sales) now it is the exception. 

Perhaps someday the pendulum will come  back the other way, perhaps not.

So what is this "confession" I referred to in the title?

I deal in more than just "vintage" items to pay my bills.


Ok, ok, many of you are very underwhelmed at this revelation, entirely and completely unsurprised, I know.

It is a fact of life in the "Junk Biz."

 You may not entirely understand where I am coming from if you happen to operate in an urban area with a concentrated population. I am speaking of areas such as Toronto, Vancouver, New York, Los Angeles and a long list of other cities. Same goes with those living in certain select areas of Ontario, and other dense population center in Canada, the United States, the UK and assorted other countries where population densities and disposable incomes of collectors (and other lovers of "old junk") is significant. 

In order to Pay More Bills and Get Out of Debt, I researched and started some other ventures, and have actively have sought other money making opportunities. I have learned quickly about some of the other cash I was leaving on the table while keeping blinders on, being focused on "antiques" and "vintage" items.  

No Amway, Avon, nor any other sort of products for me, thank-you-very-much.....It is all still connected to the "Junk Biz"....

So, that means more posts, but of a non-antiques/vintage slant.

However, I will be doing those posts in a separate blog, just to keep these topics separate for those of you who are following my babblings just for my vintage slant on life.  

I invite you to check out that blog, which I call: PROFESSIONAL SKROUNGER.

Why Professional Skrounger?  

Follow that blog and find out!
And, now back to your vintage themed programming…