Sunday, June 27, 2010

Collectors, Accumulators & Hoarders, Oh My.

***WARNING*** Those readers with sensitive dispositions/stomachs may wish to skip this particular entry.

As a picker scouting for "stuff," you tend to get into places that other people just do not regularly see.

In some of these cases, the owners of the stuff could be hoarders, or collectors or a combination of both.

There is a very fine line between collecting & hoarding. The human need to "acquire" things can go haywire, and show itself as a psychiatric illness. If a collector acquires those sorts of illnesses, their collecting can become very obsessive, beyond a normal level...and "normal" for nearly any collector could already be seen as "abnormal" for the "Joe on the street" as it is.

Who else but a collector would dedicate a whole room in their house to one particular object or theme, be it lunchboxes, signs, tins, dolls, china plates, salt/pepper shakers, pickle castors, carnival glass, Smurfs, etc...and sometimes their whole house is consumed by collections of one kind of another.

Louie Anderson was (maybe still is, I am not sure) a big collector of Mission/Arts & Crafts era furniture, preferably Stickley. In one of his books, entitled "Goodbye Jumbo - Hello Cruel World" he analyzes his "need" for the items as trying to replace something missing in his life, similar to his habits of overeating/binging. He had amassed an impressive collection, but one that was grossly taking over his living space.

Collecting gone haywire, perhaps.


I don't know, really, maybe more like trying to fill an empty hole, or pit, where something is "missing", or using it as a salve on the psyche, or to create a feeling of self-worth.

To me, and I am sure some (all?) psychiatrists out there will disagree, hoarding is something that relates more to an obsession with hoarding things that make little sense, except to that one person. Also, it conjures up visions of unhealthy situations, where insects, mice, rats, and assorted "germs" are the direct result of the hoarding.

Did I mention I am a picker, not a psychiatrist?

What does good old Wikipedia say about hoarding?

Ok, so according to Wikipedia, I am on the money..."Compulsive Hoarding" "is a mental disorder marked by an obsessive need to acquire and keep things, even if the items are worthless, hazardous, or unsanitary." and goes on to say similar things about "animal hoarding". I will leave animal hoarding for an animal activist blogger to discuss, seeing as it does not really relate to my field at all....I am not going around looking through piles of assorted animals for intrinsically valuable animals.

I have been in the homes of a few hoarders...and MANY homes of people who could well be on their way to becoming hoarders, as per the Wikipedia definition of adult hoarders, if they are not aware of their situations.

I got a call at my store one day, asking if I bought old wooden crates. Actually, they said they were told that I bought old wooden crates, by several dealers. Yes, between that find in the attic of that old general store, and my penchant for advertising items, the stacks of wooden soda crates I tended to pick up out of old drug store basements, the apple & other fruit crates I bought for the labels, and a few other cool wooden boxes, I guess I did buy lots of crates...and still do.

Anyway, she proceeded to tell me she had about 20 apple crates.

I wasn't overly keen on that, but I said I would come and take a look. You never know what the crates are, as people's descriptions can be way off from what they are describing....PLUS (TIP HERE!!!) it is a legitimate invitation, and invite to see inside the garage, attic, etc....and you never know what else is there that they may sell!

So, I made arrangements to go take a look.

What I walked into was a 1920s bungalow, with a narrow staircase to a small second floor set of 2 narrow rooms. The main floor had been cleaned out, and was pretty much bare. The second room of the second floor was lined with crates sitting stacked on their sides, on planks.

And they were all filled with books & magazines, every wall to a point where the ceiling slanted up, about 5' from the floor.

Turned out she wanted rid of the books, also, and we hammered out a price for everything.

We talked quite a bit, which seems to always happen with me...I guess I have a gift of gab. In our conversation, she revealed the whole back story of the owner of the house.

The owner of the house was a family friend, who her (the person I was talking with) family sort of kept an eye on. A former teacher, and a spinster, she (the owner of the house) had also inherited much of her brother's possessions, who had been an actor in Hollywood.

No, sorry, no one you would know.

She...I mean the person I was talking know, for ease of understanding, let's call her "Joyce", ok?

SO, Joyce would call her once and awhile, and chat, see how she was doing. Never really visited her in person often, but kept tabs on her...(let's call the lady "Edna", ok?)

SO, over a few weeks, Joyce was away, and had told her son to keep tabs on Edna.

(ahhh...using names is SO much smoother, isn't it?)

So, the son (ok, he is "FRED!")....

Fred calls the house, and can not get a hold of Edna.

He calls again the next day, and the phone still goes unanswered.

Concerned, he goes over, and knocks, but gets no answer.

Knowing that Edna is a little "off", he contacts the police to be there when he goes in, to assure there are no mis-understandings.

The police arrive there, Fred unlocks the door, and they all try to enter the home....

And the stench makes them wretch.

Once they were in, they found Edna on the bed, no covers, unconscious, where she had likely been for possibly a couple days.

In the bedroom, Edna had been saving her cats' (note: more than ONE cat...but not a hoard) feces...yes, their crap, shit, whatever you want to call it, it was piled in a box by the bed.

But, that was not the worst part of the place, as the toilet had been stopped up long enough that the overflow of sewage had rotted out a significant section of the flooring.

Ah, that explained the new plywood floor in the hallway and part of the living room I had seen.

But, that still was not the worst part of the situation.

Perhaps it was that the basement had flooded, and had never been cleaned out, just more stuff added on top once the water receded?


The oddities, such as two huge, orange garbage bags full of empty toilet paper rolls that were in the basement, or the fact she had no running hot water in the kitchen. Or that the old one car garage was full, to the rafters, front to back with just years and years of newspapers?


Maybe the fact that there was only very narrow paths through the house, due to the piles of stuff everywhere?


So, what was the worst part of the situation in the home?

AND, I do need to note, I do mean aside from the human issues, such as the obvious, severe mental illness Edna was suffering with. I want to make clear that I am not down-playing that, nor making light of it, as it is a serious, and very upsetting situation for families & friends of those suffering from such illnesses, and more importantly, absolutely horrible for those experiencing such emotional turmoil.

Specifically, for the intents and purposes as related to this blog, I mean the physical situation of the home...the "stuff".

Ok, now brace yourself....

Edna had "decorated" the walls with her own feces.

Yeah...I know....that's pretty bad.

Now, when this sort of severe mental illness comes to play, I tend to avoid getting involved in a business/buying situation with the individuals, for obvious reasons.

In this case, I arrived on the scene many months later, with the house cleared out, things already sanitized, etc. There was still an ever-so-faint odor about the place, despite fresh paint, refinished floors, etc.

In many ways I was happy I had arrived on the scene after the big clean-out had occurred...but, hearing that the person who cleaned it out had hauled ALL the stuff to the dump was a little heart wrenching.

To understand why I felt a pang of anguish, you should know that this story dates from the late 1990s, and Edna had pretty much blocked herself out of the walk-up 2nd floor in the very early 1980s, possibly even late 1970s, and she had been in the house since the 1950s, possibly earlier. Plus, the door to the attic had been closed tight since the early 80s. It seems to me it had also been her parent's home, but I can't recall for certain.

The rooms had been full (remember the garage?) not just with books and some magazines, but with vintage paper stuff galore.

From the few paper things I obtained that had somehow missed being tossed, it was obvious her brother had frequented the Hollywood thrift stores/used book stores, and collected that sort of memorabilia.

I found a few gems in the books I purchased, though between the purchase price and the work involved, I really only made a meagre profit, considering the work involved hauling apple crates of books out of the place in the dead of summer in stifling heat, down a stair case narrower than the length of each crate....which meant you had to hold the crates out in front of you the long way......and you know how heavy a box of books or magazines can be. Let's just say it was a real chore.

So, there had been an entire hoard of old Hollywood & Broadway paper items, all quite likely in near mint to mint condition, tossed out.

The attic crawl spaces in the eves on either side of the rooms had contained even older stuff, and it also had been tossed. Those crawl spaces were also bone dry...excellent for preserving paper stuff.

So, she had been on the trail to hoarding for some time, and got progressively worse.

Her brother, on the other hand, probably was a collector.

Was she collecting? Could you call her a "collector"?

No, not in the least.

Same goes with another situation I happened across.

Again, I came across it thankfully/sadly after the worst had been dealt with.

But, I will leave telling you about it for a little later...

I have seen many collections. One fellow liked to collect things he felt were weird and wonderful, and almost always vintage or antique, and also collected things he felt would have value in the future.

He didn't sell much of anything for many years, just collected.

He was one of his community's "characters". A bachelor, who frequented auctions regularly, picked up stuff at the dump, got things given to him, bought weird things, and eventually built 3 buildings totally about 3000 sqr feet to house his collection.

Well, I guess you could call it more of an "accumulation."

He also proudly called himself "The Accumulator", and had business cards printed up as such.

In the last 20 years of his life, he decided it was time to start selling some of his stuff.

He did ok, sold pretty much at a wholesale level, though achieved retail prices for some things. He did well selling items to the movies being filmed in Manitoba locations, to the props and set dec departments of various productions.

He had saved things like old advertising calendars...and had started back in the 50s, continued up into the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s. He sold most of the older ones into the early 70s fairly easily. He also had old hand made items, folk art/outsider art, catalogs galore, antique Bibles, Victorian photo albums, tobacco tins, taxidermy, antique deer antler furniture, mustache cups, and almost anything you can imagine...and lots you can not imagine. There were cabinets of files draers, all full of various items, sorted by subject...pens, keychains, bottle openers, bottle caps....hundreds and hundreds of items in the "small" category. From tiny things like tokens & bottle caps, to a 1880s pump organ, he had it all.

Actually, as I write this, my keyboard and screen are sitting on a folk art desk that I purchased from him several years ago.

His saving was orderly, with things well sorted, stashed away in boxes & crates for safe keeping.

His walk-up attic was full of a couple thousand trucker caps, hundreds of collector spoon racks, shelves of catalogs & well as several hundred (empty) Texas Mickeys, as he had a penchant for big bottles, which I was well aware of, as I had sold and traded him many vintage oversize liquor & perfume display bottles. I am sure he acquired the Texas Mickeys empty, and I never saw him take a drink....though, one has to wonder how much whiskey a staunch, pretty "dry", Mennonite community actually consumed, considering how many of these huge bottles he had...I am sure it numbered around 40 or more....

He was a character, for certain. He had what some might consider a slight speech impediment, which gave him a bit of a drawl. However, it was no worse than trying to understand someone with an accent from a different part of the country.

He was an old bachelor who, frankly, didn't bathe much, or keep a very clean kitchen or washroom....a washroom which I think I used once in the about 15 years I knew him...that first sight of a black toilet, that was originally white, kept me out of there.

That said, he was actually pretty intelligent, had a wry sense of humor, and was a pretty kind soul.

He likely had some issues, no doubt. Considering that they say that 7 out of 10 people will suffer from some sort of mental illness sometime in their lives, that is no surprise...the odds are there....(And, in my opinion, the remaining 3 in of that 10 are compulsive liars.....)

So, he may have had some issues.

But, can we consider him a hoarder?

Not by the definition Wikipedia has.

True, his kitchen sported some mouse droppings and his washroom was pretty disgusting, and he had stuff stored everywhere....

BUT, the stuff was not stored in his kitchen, though there was various things there, a box or two dropped next to the kitchen table, as he was in the middle of sorting through the stuff from the auction he had just been to, a few fresh buys from the local thrift store, a stack of auction flyers, papers open to auction ads, etc.

But, nothing stored there, stacked up in a way so that you couldn't move.

His dated living room was consumed by an orderly amassing of Elvis memorabilia, the one collection from which he didn't sell much of anything from. But, if he wanted to use the couch, he could, as it was clear, and would not trip over anything to get to it.

When he wasn't at his 9 to 5 job, he was sorting his stuff, organizing, selling, wheeling & dealing, going to auctions, antique shows, antique shops, thrift shops, going to pickers' places to buy, picking stuff up at the local dumps, etc....

Sound familiar?

Ok, so maybe you don't do ALL of those things....but if you collect anything, you do at least a few of them....and more likely several.

That was pretty much his life. Pretty much his entire social life. He may have been an outcast in his community, but he did have friends that thought he was funny & intelligent, not some weirdo.

OH YEAH, he WAS a real character...but who in this business isn't, at least in some way?

A weirdo? No.

Had some issues? Yes, for certain...possibly related to the way he was treated by his family in the past.

A hoarder by definition? Nope.

A collector? Most certainly.



So, he had foresight to save things. Some that later became of value..and possibly some that had value, and lost it...and others that didn't gain value.

Is that hoarding?


That is collecting.

Now, if he had a cat and was saving the litter box scoopings, that would be another story.

And on to another story....

A hoarder, for certain, this fellow was.

I was introduced to a guy and his associate who were filling a large trash bin with items from an old, damp garage and a garden shed.

My first view of the place was driving up, a pile of stuff stretching into the back yard, a a couple crocks and crock lids on top of the pile, headed for the trash. I bought them, of course.

The fellow was a "scrapper"...

Not the fighting type, though by his stature I would want him on my side in a fight.

He picked up scrap metal for a living. This meant he picked up things like old water tanks, cast iron bathtubs etc, and often by himself. That is the kind of guy you want backing you in a fight...not some muscle bound weightlifter.

Over the weeks I got to know him, as I was salvaging some free stuff, and buying stuff from the piles of stuff he felt may have some value. He was a really nice guy....a character, but a nice guy.

The story of the place was thus:

He was contacted by the trustee involved with the property, as the old fellow who had owned it had also been a "scrapper" there was an accumulation of metals on the property.

In the end, he was "hired" by the daughter, who was in her late 30s to mid 40s at that time, to clean out the house, garage, sheds, and yards. The deal was that he could keep whatever he found, other than personal photos and such items.

There had been 16 large trash bins full hauled away by the time I arrived, and the large two story house was empty.

Again, I was both glad and sad that I didn't come across the place sooner.

"Bob" related the back story to me.

The old man had been found in bed, alive, but emaciated. He also had 3 dogs in the house, obviously to the point of starving, as one or all had been starting to chew on the old man.

There was also a 3" thick layer of dog feces over the floors.

Again, there were very narrow pathways throughout, with walls of accumulation piled on either side.

The stench was so bad, they had to punch out a huge hole in the back wall. Oddly enough, when they did, they punched through what turned out to be a false wall in the process, and found a 1930s china cabinet behind it.

While I was going through some of the stuff that was pulled from the garage (many items with 1960s/70s Salvation Army price tags), I came across a photo, which ended up back in the hands of the daughter, of course.

What the photo showed was the daughter, sitting on the family's couch, at about age 14 or so.

On both sides of her & behind her on the back of the couch, were hills of cascading & precariously balanced newspapers & magazines, obscuring the couch completely.

In front of her was a TV table (one of those tin folding things) with about a 7" high hill of what looked like rotting food.

Remember, at the point I came on the scene, I figured she was in her late 30s to mid 40s.

This sad state of affairs had been going on for many years.

A hoarder, for certain, and his wife may well have been the same. I hope the daughter is trying to get/is now mentally healthy.

In those two hoarding situations, I was at arms length from those involved, with a buffer, the person in charge of the situation, the clean-up.

In one, I was not entirely at arms length.

I got a call from a trustee one day, who was going "above and beyond" by trying to help a hoarding client with some of his accumulation.

The fellow picked the back lanes, going through people's trash, and kept anything he felt was usable...which meant more than what you or I would feel was usable, as he most certainly had a hoarding disorder, and judging by the amount of cat feces & stench of urine in his basement, he was possibly, and sadly, an animal hoarder as well.

The trustee was hoping there was something of value to an antiques dealer, that could be sold, thus removing the items, and getting the ill fellow some needed funds.

Sadly, anything that was "something" was in such poor condition that all of it held no value. Add to this that my presence, and my handling items made the fellow visibly upset, which made it all the harder for me to be there. He was having a hard time, and was obviously fighting impulses to want to "protect" his "treasures". My heart went out to the poor guy.

I did my best to try to find a diamond, but barely found usable coal.

Most definitely a classic hoarder by definition.

A collector he was not.

These are but a few of many "experiences" with "hoarder", "accumulators" and "collectors" I have had...and with which I will leave you to contemplate for now. I will blog about a few more of these always unique situations in the future....possibly the very near future!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tips from an old pro....

Ok, so I am not "old"...just turned 40 this year....but, I guess after 20 years of doing this for a living, I am a professional picker, really. Been well over 20 years of searching out old "junk", looking for that next treasure. I guess if you count being into "old stuff" since I was of single digit age, it is closer to 35 years of "junking."

One (respected) peer in the business calls me "The best picker in Manitoba." Maybe, who knows. Not really any competitions or a system of measurement out there to determine such things. I'm not well off in the money department from my pickings. Yes, I know, you'd think that after 20 years of this I would be doing ok financially, making wise investments, good profits, and all that. The fact is, life tends to throw you curves, which accounts my lack of financial security.

"The well laid plans of mice & men", as the saying generally goes.

Despite set-backs I won't bother describing here, I'm still picking, and still love the hunt & finding that lost treasure.

It is my drug of choice, you could say.

I have accumulated lots of wisdom when it comes to this business; some things hard learned, others learned by experience, some things learned by accident.

I'm going to share some more of it than usual in this post...some tips, tricks, etc.


So, you are driving through a little town and you drive past this building. Pretty obvious from this picture that it is an old place. However, from your vehicle you may well miss the obviously old second floor. Remember to always take a look up, past what would be in your normal field of vision as you are turning your head from side to side.
This one is on a corner lot, so lets drive down the street beside it and check it out.

This is a view from the back, on the street. Quite an old structure, dating from about 1900, give or take a few years. Pretty obvious that it holds some potential for stuff inside, IMHO.

This one was a second hand store for several years, but one that had the weirdest hours...20 years of trying to catch the owner open I never did get inside the building. The owner also did not live in the country most of the time, just stayed in the area during a brief window of time in the summer, which makes this a tough place to get into. If the owner was local, there are a number of ways to get their contact one in this particular town seems to know how to contact them, however. I'll keep trying....I have a couple other ways to get their info, all legal, of course.

They had an early photograph of the building stuck in the window, and it clearly shows that the place hasn't changed all that much.

Has couple nice lighting rods with hexagon balls and directional arrows on them. Maybe they can be purchased; I guess we'll see.

Ok, that was easy. What would you think about the theatre below?

Crisp, new, clean building, right?


Got to love back are two views...

If you aren't looking for it, you might miss a big clue that this place is quite old, likely as old as the one we passed earlier.

Look past the garage, it is behind the building next door, not the theatre.

You can just see a small patch of old heavily weathered ship-lap siding on one side, then the large chunk of the old wall is visible if you happen to be driving slow enough or happen to stop to look.
Ok, so you can see bits of the old sides...but, did you notice the clue on the FRONT of the building, in the first photo?

Here, look again:

Do you see it yet?

Doesn't that window seem to be oddly placed? With no window on the other side to balance the look?
Not surprising if you are thinking: They REFACED an old building....didn't need the other window, or it had long since been sealed up. This place likely had 3 windows across the front, similar to its neighbor.
I have been in buildings that looked crisp and brand new from the outside. I was able to identify clues to their much older structure, which prompted me to go in and inquire as to what junk was hanging around their basements, storage rooms, etc. Some of those basements turned out to be virtual time capsules. They hadn't been really used in recent time, and some had not been cleaned out for 80 years, as the current & past owners didn't need the basement space, or it was not clean enough for them to use, too much work to clean it out, or a variety of other reasons, including the owner's allergies to dust, fear of spiders & other creepy crawlies, ability/health was not good enough to use the steep stairs, was too damp, etc, etc. Some times it was being used, but still contained relics of a past business. Others were repositories for the cast offs of every business the place had held, and the deeper I went as I mined through the piles, the older the stuff got.

Even those that have been heavily renovated inside may still have a basement full of treasure, or backrooms that are untouched.

Looks can be very deceiving.

And, just because the building is from the 1920s, doesn't mean the contents are even older...ever see a basement inside a basement?

I was in one basement that contained within it an old stone wall, much older than the walls of the rest of the basement. At first I thought it was an old cistern (water reservoir). I noticed a hole in the wall big enough for me to half crawl/half step through.

Turns out it was a basement of the tiny jewellery store/lawyers office that had been built on the spot in the 1870s.

I got some interesting paper items out of it, as well as a little bonus.

Seeing as I had figured out it had been a basement of a jewellery store by the paper and the other contents, I knew what to keep an eye out for. If you know the history of a building, former owners, businesses, etc, you may actually see things you would normally miss.

What I saw was an old, very rusty 1 gallon tin can sitting along side a wall.

I looked in the top, and saw about 1/4 of the back of what I recognized as a pocket watch.

I tried to lift the can, which fell into a million tiny rusty bits.

So, I had in front of me a pile of rusty tin pieces, mud, green verdigris, and the odd bit of brassy & white colors.

I grabbed a box, as I had a pretty good idea what I had in front of me, and I knew I had to gather up all the dirt and debris that had been in the tin.

So, I scooped up the muck and bits of metal, and dumped it into the box.

It would take an hour or so to go through the stuff at home, so I figured I'd just buy the box of muck on spec, though did see a couple things that revealed themselves from the pile, which allowed me to pay $25 for the box of what I can assure you looked like absolute valueless trash. Pretty much looked like compost with trash mixed in, to even the most seasoned antiquer.

What was in the pile?

Well, it was a tin of old pocket watches that the jeweller had likely kept for parts.

Yeah, I know, with the damp, the movements would be seized solid, and pretty much trash. I had realized that.

But, after sifting through the contents at home, washing away the lighter mud, like panning a stream, there were a a few couple enamelled dials that appeared, some of which were salvageable. Though, I did only get 2 dials that were worth anything significant, about $30, total.

$5 profit is not a great amount, I know.

That didn't matter, because it was the two 18K gold pocket watch cases which I sold for scrap gold that were the profit.

Why did I suspect there could literally be gold in that junk?

Brass turns green with exposure to moisture (verdigris), gold does not.

Now, that said, I still was taking a risk. If the cases were just "rolled gold" (essentially an old style of gold plating), or gold electroplate, they would be a gold color, also, except where there was brass showing through due to wear, which would have shown as chunks of green corrosion, due to the dampness.

Remember, you have got to think outside the box....sometimes way outside the box.

I call these educated, but risk purchases "Lottery Tickets".Unlike the lottery, if you have knowledge behind you, the odds of winning are far better, unlike the ten million to one odds of winning the jackpot in a government run lottery.

Say, how many places have you passed by because the owner has said he/she has sold "everything" to some other picker(s), or passed on places because they had been supposedly "picked"?

They would have all been a waste of your time, you say?

Tsk, tsk.

Get some further info....keep talking to the owner.
Well, read on...
I was headed to visit a cousin of mine, who lived in a town about 3 hours from the city. I was driving a 4 door Chevette, which had an amazingly roomy interior...that is, with the back seats down...and in which I could fit lots of cool, dusty old junk. I had hauled a gas pump, a 12 foot long Texaco sign, among other assorted rather large items, all with success. I'm sure the various loads I'd had sticking out of the back of that car turned a few heads on the highways.
The plan was to pick on the way a little, but mainly do some picking around the area & town she lived in. Essentially I'd work while she was at work, and we'd hang out & visit when she was off work.
I made a stop in a little town, not more than a half hour away from the city. I had heard of a junk shop there, and wanted to check it out.
I pulled up in front of an old wooden building.
There was stuff piled up everywhere, tables stacked with boxes, assorted debris everywhere.
Well, maybe not quite heaven. The owner was the guy who, at country auctions, would buy all the boxes, piles, (etc) of stuff the auctioneer could not get a bid on, or that went for a buck or two. He also tended to inherit the stuff other buyers left behind from their purchases.
Still, it held possibilities.
I rambled through the place, dug into a few boxes of assorted junk, and came up with a few nick knacks, a glass 3-chain light shade and fixture and a few other minor things. Nothing wonderful.
The Harley Davidson t-shirt clad, white bearded biker/Santa Claus figure who owned the place sold me my little pile for a couple bucks. I inquired if he knew there was any junk in the basement or the attic.
No basement, and there had been some guys through who had already bought the good stuff out of the attic.
Damn, it had already been PICKED!
I put my purchases in my car, then strolled next door, to an old gas station. There was still old signs on the building, on the pumps, and lots of cool stuff visible in the building once I wandered inside.
An inquiry about selling anything was met with a solid, not-a-chance-in-hell-style "NO."
I wandered back to the junk shop. In talking with the friendly owner, I learned that the guy next door was the sort who refused to sell anything. He'd been offered lots of money for various things over the years. "Stupidly", in the junk shop owner's opinion, the guy had never sold a thing.

So the NO I had gotten was pretty standard.
In our conversation I learned that the main part of the building was built in the 1880s, and had been the tiny town's general store.

I had some time, and I had not had an attic fix in awhile. So, I asked if it was possible to check out the attic anyway, which he indicated was just fine with him.

He showed me where the door was, and as it turned out, was accessible from an adjoining room with an extra tall ceiling, which had been built on to that side of the store somewhat later. There was a man size door, but hinged at the top, its bottom edge level with the ceiling of the room on the other side of the wall. The attic had been a walk-up type! BONUS! Walk-up type attics were much easier to store stuff in...thus tend to accumulate far more items more than attics accessed by trap doors in ceilings. The easier the access, the more stuff gets stashed there.

I climbed up on a chair, then a stack of boxes beside it, then on the top edge of the door for the entrance to another room. It was jammed against the wall by boxes of Reader's Digests, and assorted debris. Still a little shaky, but solid enough.

I lifted the old tongue and groove attic door, bending over sideways to make sure I did not sweep myself off the narrow door edge I was balanced on.

With nothing to prop the door open (not a broom anywhere!) I leaned in to what I saw were 3 steps up into the space, and allowed the door to lean on my back. I pulled myself up. To my chagrin, and slight pain, exposed screw tips scraped a racing stripe pattern down my back, through my shirt.

I was now sitting on the stairs. I had my flashlight clicked on, and shone the beam around a bit. There was definitely stuff there...not empty, which was not a bad sign. Maybe the last guys missed something.

In panning my flashlight around, I noticed a light socket on the wall near the stairs, and it still had a bulb in it...and a short pull cord dangling underneath.

I gave it a pull, and it came on...dim, with dust of many years on it. I brushed the dust off, which improved the lighting, but it was still dim enough around the surprising large space that I kept my flashlight on.

Everything was covered in a thick layer of fine dust, which surrounded me like a cloud every time I stepped or moved anything. The dust also obscured the identity of most things.

I walked around, poking, turning over larger objects.

Several wood crates, most with DOMINION RUBBER around a beaver logo on the side. Not valuable, maybe cheap decorator items,but most were too big to be practical.

A curved glass counter showcase...with no glass in it.

A butchered chunk of a counter display that had been built in downstairs at one time, but with no real value.

Pile of rags, solidified with chunks of paint or old tar.

Boxes of receipts. "DAVEY BROS." across the tops on the inner pages, dates from the 1920s & 1930s, and no newer. Well, helps date the time the attic fell into disuse, but of little value. Maybe I could sell them for a couple bucks each as a novelty.

At the floor level, I could see some daylight, where the eves were open on one side of the building. Amazingly, no birds or other vermin were present.


Dust was heavy in the air. Decided I should consider wearing a dust mask in these sorts of places.

Walked up to a dusty metal cabinet sitting on its side, glass broken out of the three doors and saw partial painted graphics of lilies, with what I made out to be BENSON & HEDGES CIGARS...but the graphics were scraped up pretty good, and somewhat rusty. Wiping the dust off the other side, it appeared to be in decent condition. Good, found something at least. Those major condition issues would be why it got left behind. Some guys start to get fussy when they are picking up lots of really primo stuff, and leave behind things they normally would grab.

Picked up a foot tall plaster statue, missing a substantial chunk, easily a 1/5th of the head and a shoulder of the seated figure.

A quick brushing away of the dust across the bottom edge revealed the words "JAP CIGARS". A wicked piece, valuable, IF it had been intact. Oh well, might as well snag it. Might be worth $10 or $15 to someone, who knows. Worth restoring, but expensive to get done properly. I put it by the door, under the light.

Wandered around for a bit, flashing the light around, walking on & kicking what seemed to be scraps of cardboard on the floor.

Wait a minute...

I flashed the flashlight on one of the "scraps" of cardboard.

It had a well defined, die-cut was not a flap torn off some box, or the insert from some shirt.

I flipped it over, and saw the crisp bright graphics of 1930s Wrigley Gum sign grinning up at me. It almost seemed to greet me...."HELLO THERE!"

I started flipping over the scrap bits of cardboard strewn about...

Most of the cardboard bits on the floor were intact 1930s signs!

In all there were a half dozen cardboard signs, with the two best being late 1920s/early 1930s Wrigley Chewing Gum easel back signs.

Now energized, looking differently at the piles of dusty debris, I started to do some more dusting....

I made a pretty healthy pile by the attic door after the two hours I spent digging with renewed vigor.

Once I had gathered together a batch of what was some really cool stuff, two of the more interesting, smaller wooden crates, and a couple boxes of receipts and such, several pair of rubber slip on shoes with Boy Scout logos on them, and other bits and pieces the dust gave up to me, I shimmied out the attic, adding to my collection of racing stripe abrasions.

After telling the owner I had found some stuff I wanted, he came and helped me take the stuff out of the attic. I handed him down item after item from the time capsule, dust floating down on to the boxes of Reader's Digests and other junk below.

He carried it all out front, into the sunny summer day, the first time this stuff had seen daylight in easily 75 years.

I got down out of the attic, hacking from inhaling a field's worth of dust. I went up front, and quickly realized that the $350 I had brought with me to spend could well be only a third of what I may be in need of. No cash machines around for many miles,either. Wouldn't have mattered anyway, the $350 was all I had; money I was doubling to make rent and buy groceries. Had room on my Visa for gas & food for the trip.

I asked him about what he wanted for the stuff, and he said he would think about it and started loading my car...

All the while we were loading, I was contemplating having to unload all or some of the stuff because I could very likely not afford to pay for it all.

We got it all loaded, right to the roof, including the front passenger seat to just above the window. I could barely see my side mirror from the driver's seat.

I prepared myself for disappointment, and the task of going through it to reduce the price, piece by piece. I again asked him how much he wanted for it all.

He looked at the stuff in the car, and said:

"Is $27 too much?"

I handed him $40 and told him to keep the change. He started to protest.

I told him that as far as I was concerned that was still one heck of a deal. He said, "good", and wished me luck with the stuff. To him it was just old junk, and he made that clear. He also made it clear that if I had not bought the stuff, anyone else could have bought it from him for the same amount. He was definitely well aware of the score.

Turns out the last pickers had bought all the metal signs, and a few other things.

I have been to his place many times since Sadly, someone torched the building some years later. Was likely someone in the area who did not approve of his enterprise, and the junk stacked around it. He rebuilt the business, in a dirt floored steel building that the insurance paid for. I have bought all kinds of junk from him since. His prices were good enough that if you needed a part of something you could buy a whole item for one part. Am going to drop by and see if he is still in business later this summer. Will likely blog about it!

Now, I bet you are wondering why the other pickers left so much good stuff behind? They came through back in the early 1980's ...easily 15 years previous to my showing up there. Interests, trends and values change quite a bit in that kind of time. Cardboard signs, slightly rough stuff, things in need of work, just didn't have much value then.

If I had been told up front the other pickers had been through only the week before, would I still have asked to get into the attic?

Maybe, maybe not. But, now I would, and I do.

You see, everyone knows something different. You may spot something they missed. You may have a buyer for something they don't. Some picker may have bought all the old signs...but they left the new/old stock vintage clothing untouched on the shelves.

That big stack of old window frames over there they left behind? Well, maybe you have a decorator who pays you $20 each for them.

I did go back into that store's attic...twice more. I bought all the crates and a few other boxes of paper the second time....overpaid, but happily! Gave him about $125 for that load.

I used the crates as display in my store for a few years, and eventually a movie company bought most of them for props for some western program being filmed in Alberta at the time.

I finally went through the paper stuff about a year later, and realized that there was much more than just receipts & junk paper in some of the boxes...lots of 1920s pamphlets from John Deere equipment & tractors, many other assorted products, cool letter heads from the 20s and 30s, and all sorts of really interesting, and some fairly valuable paper items. I went back and bought every box of paper in the attic, roughly 20 boxes. Some wonderful stuff came out of those boxes.

The letter heads & some other papers actually ended up revealing a few local leads, as well. I love paper stuff. You can find a real gem, and it might be sitting amongst the worst pile of crappy books.

I once purchased a box of pre 1850s books, my first foray into the world of "antique" books. The box contained some encyclopedia volumes, religious texts, and a couple dictionaries.

Lesson I learned was that the $100 I paid for the box was all they were worth on a wholesale level, and pretty much top dollar at that level, also. I decided I had better wholesale them to a book dealer I knew & trusted, who gave me a quick crash course in antique books. General mixed subject encyclopedias...most worth little.....most regular dictionaries, same thing.....majority of religious books, ditto.

I quickly realized I'd have a tough time selling them out of my store, and gladly turned most of them over to him for my cost.

I licked my wounds. I did keep one, a dictionary from the Victorian era, which looked cool, but had little value.

One day, in flipping through the dictionary, I came across a bookmark.

A silk, woven bookmark picturing Queen Victoria, dating from the 1880s, in pristine condition.


At the time, about $125.

I have flipped through many an old book since then.

Nothing as neat as the bookmark has surfaced since, but there has been small sums of paper money, photographs, coupons, oodles of newspaper clippings, some nice old bookmarks, recipes, letters, notes, grocery lists, etc, etc. Some things worth money, some worthless.

An auctioneer once related a story about an estate his little company cleaned out.

There was tons of pure junk, including a a tremendous number of old paint cans in the garage. Only the rare one shook with any sloshing, but most were heavy, so there was little usable paint, so on to the truck they went, destined for the dump.

They hauled one load of the cans to the dump, as paint was not considered "hazardous waste" at the time, so old paint was dropped off to be buried with everything else.

While loading for another trash run, with only part of a half-ton load of paint cans to go, his helper dropped one of the paint cans, and the lid popped off as it hit the ground.

Then he noticed it wasn't full of dried of paint....inside was rolls paper money, jammed in to the can, filling it to the outer edges.

They opened the rest of the cans and found several of them also jammed full with bills.

Yes, I know, how much cash went to the landfill?

Ever since he related that story to me, I now no longer just discard or push aside old cans that have some heavier contents...or, without at least thinking "I wonder...".

You never know.

If you are a fan of old advertising, you might already be aware of this, or, actually, if you have been reading my blog, you may already know this, but I will review it anyway, in a little more detail.

Some metal signs are done with enamel. Now, I don't mean enamel paint. I mean porcelain. Fired on enamel. The stuff that chips off of things like washing machines and bathtubs when you drop some heavy object on/in them.

The beauty of enamel is that is impervious to things like paint stripper. So, if there is a sign with paint spattered on it, and it is an enamel sign, you can pour paint stripper on it to remove the paint, and the sign will be just fine.

So, if you are able to recognize things like even hole patterns, rounded corners, assorted shapes, etc, on buildings, doors, in scrap piles, fences, ceilings, etc, etc, you might be able to buy a good piece for very little.

Signs got painted over for various reasons. Sometimes it was laziness, other times it was because the store quite carrying the product advertised on it, and yet other times it was starting to look too scruffy for the liking of the store owner, and the spot on the door or wall it was covering was actually even in worse shape. Easier to paint the sign over. Also, in later years, some companies opted for using big stickers, and would stick their decal over the old sign. Sometimes those signs were those of their competitors, as well.

Again, these sorts of things are "Lottery Tickets". Sometimes you win, sometimes you loose. Sometimes the sign will be in wonderful condition under the paint. Other times you will find it scratched and heavily chipped, faded, with screws buzzed through it across the middle, etc.

There are two porcelain signs I did recently, with the pictures showing "before" and "after" stripping. One is a Star Weekly sign with a more modern era Star Weekly advertising sticker on over it. I bought it at an auction for $17, where pretty much all the other advertising signs sold for well over retail prices. The other is one of 4 Olgivie signs I found nailed around the foundation of an old store building. This one was the roughest, and I have had it kicking around awhile, so I figured it was time to strip the paint off & get it ready for sale. You will notice it has sun faded red letters on the end that was not painted. Still have some work to do on it, still has some paint I missed hitting with the paint stripper. It is just an example, anyway.

Painted over signs are not the limit to this tip...think pottery, crockery, glass, bronze statues, and anything else with a surface that will resist paint stripper, or other paint removing processes.

That painted over crock is actually a salt glaze crock, displaying a parrot in cobalt blue fingerpaint design, signed by the folk artist.

Maybe that old statue in that garden over there is not concrete....but a signed bronze!

The vase done in a horrible fleck-tone spray paint is actually a shape Weller or Roycroft used, and hides a beautiful arts & craft era piece of quality pottery.

That white vase in the shabby chic store is actually a painted over piece of Tiffany that the store keepers bought at an estate sale where everyone passed on it due to its stark white, oil painted finish...and it is still sitting unrecognized...until you came along.

It does happen, you just need to keep your eyes and mind wide open to the possibilities, and use your knowledge to your best advantage. Plus, keep learning! Use your curiosity to discover treasure!

As I write this, it is getting late, and I have lots to do tomorrow, so I am packing it in for tonight. Hopefully you find these tips of value. With some effort on your part, you should be able to use some of these tips to score something that everyone else around you has missed, get a deal at an auction where things are selling for retail prices, or just open your eyes to the possibilities that out there, which before you may have missed.

Happy pickin'!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Well, did a "sort of" road trip Monday/Tuesday. Cash is mighty tight these days, and you need a pocket full of cash to go picking the way I do. Can't go out with just a $100 and expect to get very far. You can do ok at garage sales, maybe an auction, thrift stores, that sort of thing, but I am going out looking for a quantity of stuff...a van load to make the day worth the effort. What happens when you come across a motherload of cool stuff, and you have only $100? Besides that, gas for my van comes close to $100 a tank.

So, when cash is tight, and I am doing a road trip for some other reason, I scout places to pick in the future, for when cash loosens up. In this case, my wife & I were taking my stepdaughter back to Winnipeg. So, I did a little business there, sold some scrap metal at a scrap yard, which helps cover gas costs. My loads consist of higher value metals (brass, copper, aluminum, non-ferrous stainless steel, copper wiring, etc). It tends to accumulate, and, with metals prices rising, it is worthwhile saving those chunks of copper pipe & worn out tub taps you got in an auction box, silver plated junk that is copper or brass beneath that worn silver or chrome plate, pieces of old light fixtures that are beyond saving, all that wire you removed from the lamps you have been rewiring, that aluminum screen door that came with all those old paneled doors you bought, etc, etc. There is cash, or at least potential cash in that "trash". You might have to do a little work to "clean" the metal (that is, you have to make sure there is less than about 5% - 10% foreign materials contamination, or the scrap yards won't give you the premium price for that metal). You should be used to doing some work for your money, anyway, if you are in this business! Think of all the pieces that you have spent far too much time on, and realized pennies an hour for your labors. At least the metal is an instant sale. If you watch prices on metals, you can do good when prices rise. Also good to have a reserve when times are tough, you get an unexpected bill, have a slow month for sales, need a vacation and can't quite afford it, etc. This little "bank account" in the corner of your basement, shed, corner of your property, barn, etc can come in handy when you least expect it to. Plus, it costs you nothing cash wise to accumulate if you are just sorting out junk from your auction purchases, that estate you bought, that garage of cool junk, etc.

So you don't want to deal with that stuff?

Hmmm, ok, let me put it this way: If you saw two $20 bills sitting on the ground, and one was crisp and the other was dirty & crumpled, would you really leave the crumpled one behind?

If you do, I hope I am right behind you.

I have bought things out of garages, basements, etc, and then offered to haul away the old copper pipe, an old propane bar-b-q, or whatever other higher value metal objects that are there that the owner needed to get rid of or planned to haul to the dump. In some of those cases I ended up getting more for $ the scrap metal than the $ profit on the item I bought. If they are happy to get rid of that "junk", you are doing them a favor and they may well be happy to sell you more...maybe even give you something you were willing to pay for, just for helping them out. You bought some old junk, and you got some more junk for free. Free is usually a good price. Could be accumulating some good karma there, too.

Anyways, I figure you need to keep your eyes open for other opportunities when you are picking sometimes. You need to recognize that other things can make you money, and you won't have to put out a dime. You are there anyway, why not maximize the opportunity?

Make contact with people who buy things you do not. Find out if they pay a finder's fee. You may not buy vintage tractors, but maybe a guy you know who does will pay for a solid lead that gets him a good tractor. Or, you are after the pottery, but don't want the depression glass, so refer another dealer to them. Sometimes it is just good to make the seller happy by sending them a buyer, and that may well get you into their friend's place, a referral to a relative, etc, who could have even better stuff. Plus, the tractor/depression glass buyer might refer you to one of his/her picks, and it ends up being a place where you score some great stuff. I had dealer friends who bought china, glass, and traditional antiques, and I would get referred to the people they bought from, and ended up buying some great tins, toys, signs, primitives, art pottery, crockery, etc.

You've got to network a bit, cover different angles in order to make your days worthwhile.

If you are doing it as a hobby, have a 9 to 5 job, then I guess you really don't need to do income does not depend on picking. No need to worry about expenses when you have a 9 to 5 job and paycheck. No worries about having to sleep in your vehicle to save on hotel if it has been a bust, or you blew out your last bit of cash, as well as got a cash advance on your credit card in order to buy that cool stuff, but are still many hours from home, and just can not drive any more.

Not very "romantic", is it?

That said, I still love it. Not everyone can pick that way people like myself do. Mike & Frank from American Pickers likely were similar, pre-fame. They are now fairly "set", so they obviously won't have to worry about sleeping in their van for awhile. Good for them. Happy a picker finally got TV's interest, even it it wasn't me!

*Ah well, there is still Canadian TV...*

Wow, got off topic a bit! Well, maybe you learned a little? Picked up a few tips? Might make a little more cash on the side the next time you buy some junk?

Anyway, back to my "road trip"...

So, we took off about 10:30 AM, with it being a 3 hour drive to Winnipeg, we wanted to make sure we got there before 5:00 PM.

Yeah, I know, doesn't quite compute, does it?

Well, you see, there are roughly 10 thrift shops, junk shops, antique shops, etc, between here and there. SO, if we wanted to hit as many of those as we could, we had to get a somewhat early start. Not too early, as the first ones on our list didn't open until 11:00.

Good way to pick up a few bargains to offset your expenses....once you sell the items, that is.

I did ok. Bought 4 pieces of Sherman rhinestone jewellery for 50 cents each, a 10K gold ring in a bag of junk rings for $1, a couple nice 1960s vintage embroidered western shirts for $2 each...which sold wholesale for $15 in the city to a vintage clothing dealer I deal I made a whole $11 on those two shirts. I know it doesn't sound great. However, when you realize that the amount of work that went into getting that "profit" was maybe 5 minutes....well, would you work for $132 an hour?

That said, there were many other minutes where I made nada....nothing, zero, zip. Picking certainly is a different type of work than a 9 to 5 job. Not the security, for sure. But, if I encountered a place with 20 of those shirts, my profits would have been better, ($220.00) for that same 5 minutes work. So, with that in mind, you tend to keep looking. That big treasure might be just around the corner.

We made a few more stops, bought a few more treasures, and blew through our $100 budget for thrift shop picking by about half way through the trip.

Could have spent it on stuff that we could not junk food, seeing a movie, supper, whatever. All that unnecessary stuff!

The one thing about buying inventory, you can pretty much justify that you will eventually get your money back...if you are careful when you buy, and KNOW what you are buying.

The 10K gold ring, as an example, is a 1930s baseball related ring that I am still researching, but, even if it turns out to be worthless as a baseball item, it is still likely worth $25 or $30 as scrap gold. (Say, anyone know what BSB would stand for in baseball?)

We made a stop at "Junk For Joy", just east of Portage La Prairie. Junk For Joy is a well known antiquer's stop on the #1 highway. I have known Vivian, the proprietress for pretty much 20, time flies. Anyway, she's a character, like many of us. I figure pretty much ALL of us are "characters". We're not exactly boring, run of the mill folks. You kind of have to be a little off-the-wall to do what we do. Who else would get hyped up when the musty smell of cellar hits them after a trap door in a floor is opened? Isn't the general population pretty much programmed to be pretty wary & cautious? Heck, things that go bump in the night, star in horror movies that eat slow moving coed's brains live in such places!

For me, that cellar could be the treasure trove of the century! Gets my blood going. What is down there? A cache of crocks? Some old Coca-Cola signs? Or???

Viv may be a character, but she is a pretty decent lady when it comes down to it. Lots of decent & nice folks in this business...makes up for the shysters you do come across once and awhile.

Much of our "social lives" in this business tend to happen while "working". When you are working amongst people who love old stuff like you do, you have lots to discuss, compare, debate, etc. When collectors or dealers marry people who have no interest in old stuff, it tends to be a recipe for disaster. One dealer I know married a newspaper reporter, with absolutely zero interest in old stuff at all. He would bring home vintage toys for their kids to experience, and she'd have it all piled up at the door and scream at him to "take that junk back to the shop!"

They are long since divorced.

Both parties have to love this stuff, or at least an appreciation or understanding...otherwise it can destroy a relationship...or at least make for unwanted tension.

Hmmm..where was I?

Oh yeah, ROAD TRIP....

So, we finally hit "The Peg" (Winnipeg). I did my errands, etc....wait, I told you that stuff..the scrap and the like? Yeah, ok, here we go...back on track.

Had planned to sell some items to a vintage bike collector I know, but turned out he was away for 2 weeks. Was really hoping to get some extra cash to pick on the way back.

Left the city with a little bit of extra cash after filling up the van with gas, but not enough to do much other than to buy some junk food...which would essentially be supper.

I took a different route back, down another highway. Three 3 hours of gravel and not being able to stop and knock on doors where you see a potential picking spot is not a fun drive. I'll cope with some gravel dust if there is potentially treasure somewhere, but if I have to suck it in and can't "shop", then it gets pretty irritating.

This route is one I took often when picking, back when I was living in Winnipeg. I just enjoy the drive more. It is a single lane highway (one lane going each way), so for some it might be stressful, but I am pretty used to that sort of driving. Did some decent picking along the route at times. Plus, in these rural areas there is some great scenery.

Though, for some, it all may be scenery, but for me, it is potential picking spots to check out! The one above, is a farm off in the distance. Far enough off the highway that it would make a good spot to hit. Appears to have some age, which can mean an accumulation of stuff.

Even these hills in the distance make me think.....

"There's gold in them thar hills!"

Rusty gold, that is, not Texas T, good old good junk.

Actually, there is likely little in those particular hills, but, then again, you never know. If I stopped at that farm, maybe, just maybe, I would have been given a lead to follow, that could have led me to a farmer who owned an abandoned farm site, with a barn full of cool old stuff in them thar....I mean, THOSE hills.

There are days where every road holds potential. This one intrigued me enough to snap a picture. Just a gut thing, I guess. If I had some decent amount of cash on me, I'd have zipped across the highway and trekked down the road.

Forgive my photography skills, they leave a little to be desired sometimes. Remember, I'm a picker, not a photographer. Luckily, I do know how to use a photo editing program, so now you don't have to look to the far left of the photo to see what I am talking about!

A great thing about being on the road picking, is you can take some time to smell the roses, so to speak, if you are so inclined. Lots of things to see that you would not normally look for. You can do a bit of the "tourist thing."

It will also occur to you that some peoples' sense of humor sometimes is way out there, kinda corny, or just plain strange.

The ski-doo on the pole still puzzles me a is cool, but still strange...

These round bales being "held up" tend to be scattered around the have a sense of humor, too....don't know if you could be a farmer without one. I have seen "feet" sticking out of round bales, giant "pumpkins", happy faces, and a host of other hay bale sculptures...heck, even the town of Virden made a giant inukshuk from hay bales for the Olympic Torch being carried through town. Versatile things those bales, like Lego for farmers.

Here is a shot I took as I was driving by...which accounts for the "high quality" of the shot...

No, I did not accidentally slip in a photo from someone's trip to the Netherlands. That IS a windmill you see.

Not sure what it is about little towns and their fondness for BIG THINGS to "represent" their town. The one above is self-explanatory. This one in "St Claude" not so much...

Yeah, you are seeing correctly, it is a giant PIPE.

Oh, and, in case you wanted to use it, it is functional. Don't advise trying to put it in your vest pocket, however. Note, for those of you who are reading this at 4:00 AM and missed it, for size, that is a PICNIC TABLE to the right.

As it turns out, there is a legitimate reason there is a pipe is meant as recognition of early settlers who came from Saint-Claude, France, where the main industry was the manufacture of pipes.

Though I suspect they didn't make them quite that big.

Prairie small town pride tends to be HUGE!

There are lots of such "landmarks" in Manitoba

They tend to invoke a smile, so I suppose that is not a bad thing.

One thing about small towns, is the "community bulletin boards" that tend to be somewhere in the town. Yeah, they are in cities, too, but the small town ones can hold some good leads. Sometimes they are like this one:

Other times they are just a chunk of plywood on a couple posts with 20,000 staples, tacks and fluttering bits of tape. Sometimes they are some in the local grocery store, in/on the curling rink, and a variety of other places.

This one happened to hold a couple leads.

One was a vintage Boler trailer for sale.

Still some money to be made on it, I would think, in the right market. $3000 was the asking price, which I could see just below the frame of the protective covering. Who knows, maybe they would have taken somewhat less. PLUS, notice the old building in the corner of one of the photos.

If you are a tractor guy (or gal, as the case may be), then this might have caught your interest:

$4500 for, $2250 each. Could be the steal of the century, who knows. I am not a tractor guy, so I will end up passing this one on to a tractor guy I know. Writing does appear to be that of an older person, so they might have some other stuff for sale, who knows. They appreciate older things, obviously, so they may not have thrown out all the old stuff around. Might still be worth going to look at the tractors, get some pics for the tractor guy I know, and maybe buy some more stuff.

Yep, that was a good potential lead, and a legitimate way "in" to potentially do some shopping! There are leads all over the place, you just need to look...think way outside the box, it will help you find great stuff.

These are disappearing fast.

Old grain elevators, also known as Prairie Skyscrapers or Prairie Sentinels.

As a picker, they are a beacon to a tiny town in the middle of "no where." So many towns have fallen off the maps, many close to deserted or completely deserted, and even the odd one entirely in one person's hands.

Now they are being taken down, demolished; history hauled to the dump. So, my beacons are vanishing from the prairie landscape. I have to rely on other clues to find these places, including old maps, area history books, and one of the best things, referrals from other people I have bought from. (HEY, some more TIPS!)

Just talking, yakking, "shooting the shit", telling stories, talking about farming, auctions, old buildings, whatever, can bring out a lead, trigger a memory in someone.

I did actually, sort of manage to do some picking, without cash. I had gotten a call about some old farm stuff a fellow had, and seeing as I was going to be in the area, I was going to give him a call if it wasn't too late by the time I got there. I thought it was better to check it out and see if it was a decent lead.

Anyway, while talking with him, he recalled a trip he had taken, and had seen a bunch of gravity gas pumps in a shed behind a gas station while he was getting gas at a little 3 building town.

Now, he saw the pumps 20 years ago, but, the potential is there. Some things don't change in 20 years. Then again, the pumps could be long gone.

We got along great, were on the same wavelength as far as the valueof much of the stuff, was a nice guy, and he is now going to do some digging for leads for me in the area. He and his family have lived in the area since the 1880s, solid, trusted local citizens.

He has a nice old family farm site, well kept, but still with a basically intact, but slightly leaning, 1880s hand-hewn log beam barn as well as a newer (1950s) barn, as well as some other out buildings.

He told me his grandfather & father saved everything. Odd, the shop building we were in was pretty bare...but I did see 3 barrels by the door when I came in...with bits of metal sticking out of them. I knew right away what the situation was.

Turns out, he has been hauling scrap off the property for a few months....

And taking loads to the dump regularly.

I found one 4-pane, weathered old barn window, good "raw material" for those into folky crafts, the shabby chic look, and such.

He was surprised I even wanted he had hauled literally a huge truckload of them to the dump.

He had a minty cookstove, but kind of plain, and it made my back hurt just looking at it. He did realize there was little market for them locally, as he had seen once 10 times as nice on a local website for $100, with no takers. He did not hold any hopes of getting rich of his old junk, just wanted rid of it.

He also did have some antique furniture, most of which was not of interest to me, and, besides, he had a buyer already hot on the stuff. I did assist him in valuing the pieces, and he did seem to appreciate that. Normally I charge $35 an hour for verbal appraisals, but, hey, I figure it will work out in the end. All part of establishing a repoir, and who knows what stuff I will get as a result of the places he refers me to.

The summer night sky was starting to dim, being past 10:00PM, so it was time to head home. I will be going back to pick up a load of decorator farm-type stuff, and one good piece of furniture that I did speak for, a beautiful 1880s Ukrainian settler's trunk in original green paint. The problem with not having the cash on you, and making plans to come back and pick the item up later, rather than being able to buy it and load it then, is that you risk loosing that piece. I doubt he will get second thoughts about selling it and going back on his word, but there is always a chance that a family member may suddenly get sentimental, or "artificially sentimental" (ie: GREEDY), and suddenly lay claim to it. When I had a shop in the city, I had a couple occasions in estate situations where family suddenly wanted items I had made offers on, then a week later said family member would would walk into my store wanting to sell the item.

Hopefully I get the trunk. The sooner I go out with the cash the better. You know what folks? You can help! YES, YOU CAN HELP! Imagine that!

BUY, BUY, Facebook albums are full of stuff, and my eBay auctions are running (see my Facebook page - "Fedora Antiques").

How is that for blatant self promotion?

I have been thinking...yeah, yeah, I know, you heard the gears grinding...

Maybe people would contribute to a picking fund.....for ME to go picking.

Bear with me here...

I am not talking about big money. Say you have $2 in your PayPal account, and are closing it out, that sort of thing. It all adds up, eventually. I realize I have a grand total of 4 official followers, and I have no idea how many of you are following this from my Facebook posts, or have stumbled upon it. For all I know there are a total of 6 people following this. But, I guess it is worth a shot. People contributed to "SAVE KARYN" , and she was just wanting to pay off a credit card she got over extended on. She even parlayed the whole thing into a nice little enterprise.

I'm just letting the idea perk a bit in the old grey matter....hang on...maybe go to the fridge and get a beer or a glass of wine.....maybe get me one while you are there.

Hmm...maybe I could let it accumulate, and let it grow to a certain point, like, maybe , $500 or a $1000. Then, I would go on a picking trip with a video camera, tape some of the trip, initially "release" it on You Tube for only the "investors" to enjoy, then give them advertising and/or credits on the publicly released You Tube film...YES, YOU can be a sponsors for "CANADIAN PICKERS"

Whadaya think? Are my little tid bits of picking tips, cautionary tales, quips, blathering, humor, and generally entertaining banter worth a couple bucks to you?

Or maybe you find it to be an invaluable sleep aid?

If not, just keep following, keep reading. Maybe someday you'll decide that you made $100 because some of the advice you spotted here, and figure ya owe me a cash tip! Or maybe you decided to carefully turn around that old bottle and handle it more carefully than initially planned, and saved yourself from a nasty acid burn. YES, you reading about my carelessness (ok, ok, ok, stupidity) will save you from injury.

Yikes, my ego is getting big now, isn't it?

If you figure you have learned nothing, other than my grammar can tend to really suck, that is fine, also....enjoy the blog! I do enjoy writing it, and without any readers, I'd have less reason to write....having some readers keeps me going, some incentive, giving me some sort of invisible push to write.

Keep it up!