Sunday, December 26, 2010

I'm Telling Ya, Pickin' Ain't Easy!

So, after reading my last post you figure you still could make a living "picking antiques"? Yes, I did see and read the articles that are now popping up online about how "easy" it is to make a living "picking antiques." You will notice my name does not appear as the author on any of them.

I'm betting that if you follow their links and such, in the end they will want to sell you something, or there is tons of advertising all over and around the articles....maybe they will offer you an "e-book" or manual or something...or, they are making money on the "clicks" to the sites you end up on.

Beware...Pickin' Ain't Easy.

And beware of anyone who tells you it is! I have yet to hear Mike & Frank of American Pickers spout about how easy it is to make a living at picking. Yes, they make it look easy & fun, and, to a point, it is. If you hit that point will slice right through you, and you will suddenly realize you are resting your gut on the hilt of the knife...

If you plan to get into this biz to make lots of money, forget it. If you think you can just "buy old junk and sell antiques"...well, c'mon down, I'll sell ya a semi-load for $5000....heck, I'll be real nice....the load might even be worth $5000....

Oh, and keep in mind that I have a refrigerator shipping box to sell ya...real cheap, too...'cause you might need it when the bank forecloses on your house....

You need to wonder when this sort of line is posted:

 "When I lost my job, I became an antiques picker, and I made lots of money and I want to show you how!"

Doesn't it sound like every other "get rich quick", "make money at home sitting on your duff" and all the rest of the questionable "make money easily" pitches?

Yeah, "For 4 easy payments of $19.95" they will send you some bad videos....

Hey, I will tell you some valuable information FOR FREE!

Oh, wait, I have been doing that all along in this blog, haven't I?

Wait...check that out over there....

Now, for effect, I will climb up on this covered wagon belonging to one of those snake oil salesmen while he's out having a snort of gin at the saloon down the street....ooooof..ack, OUCH!...DAMN SLIVERs!....Oh,.man, it reeks of body odor up, to stand up out of the stench...cripes, whew, eww, talk about taking your breath away...and NOT in a good way....

Aah, oh, ok, here we go:

I am telling ye NOW, that YES, you can buy stuff at garage sales and thrift shops for a mere 25 cents an item...yes ma'am, only TWO BITS, a thin QUARTER, and you CAN sell some of those items for $5 - $20 PER item to antiques dealers all-day-long...and you might even make money, once you sell all the other 25 cent "dud" purchases at your garage sale.

Oops, I killed the pitch with that last sentence, didn't I?  Oh well, that is only because I believe in TRUTH in advertising...

Look, one of the issues is thus: KNOWLEDGE IS KEY!!! That is where pickers make their money in many cases. Yes, we get lucky once and awhile...but, even that "luck" is based on an EDUCATED guess, IE: a knowledge based hunch, and/or we recognize the quality of something. We already KNOW that the painting we are holding is REAL, and is OLD, and is well done...which indicates it could be a very good piece. 

Now let's look at the one the excited soul over there is clutching.... It is 1800s in appearance and style...and he is SO excited....just swooning and drooling over it, because it is signed by a big name artist nearly anyone would  recognize....ANd it sure looks like a painting....BUT, it is actually an "oilette."

No, it is not a painting at all. Basically just an "embellished" print. Still worth $125.00 for what it is...but not $1,250,000.  Bit of a difference.

As professional pickers/dealers, those "scores" we are buying are "lottery tickets" that we already know are winners...we are just unsure of HOW MUCH we will win. We might get our money back, we double, we might do far better.

If you know little about antiques and their MARKET values, where to sell, etc, etc, it is not a get rich quick business....

Even when you have a vast knowledge it is not a get rich quick business!

The odd person might actually luck out, and buy a fantastic piece for pennies on the dollar, and "get rich quick." However, I assure you, there are lots more who buy something for $100 and find out it is actually only worth $50...or $5....or 50 cents.

We all hear the fantastic stories....and of the true ones, 90% of them are FLUKES. That random person who knew little, not a professional antiques picker at all, happened to stumble upon a rare item (in behind the ugly print they bought, the rare Tiffany vase in with a box of junk, etc, etc) and sold it for a million bucks!

Yes, it does happen, but it is usually a pure fluke.

So, with all the long term, highly knowledgeable, very experienced pickers who are out there (and pretty much all of us are barely eking out a living when it really comes down to it) how do you figure that you will be able to make a living from picking, and support your family, by just jumping into the business?

Look, I realize it may be your dream to do this...but, please, take my advice, most of you need to do just that....

Keep dreaming.

I do say that in the most respectful way. This business can be a heck of a will chew-up-and-spit-out many people who try to get into it as a "profession." Some end up leaving their love of "old stuff" behind them....never to return....and that is a shame.

Oh, HEY, wait, is that one of the newbies in the back whispering "I think he's just afraid of competition!"

Ok, for those foolish enough to utter that...

Here is a hockey analogy (I am in Canada, you know...I think it is part of our genetic code to bring hockey into things...even when you are not a hockey fan):

Imagine a pick-up hockey game at your local rink or even a game of street hockey between the following teams:

Team 1: Wayne Gretzky, Dale Hawerchuk, Tie Domi, Theoren Fleury, Sidney Crosby


Team 2: You and 4 of your beer buddies....oh, heck, lets say FIVE of your beer buddies...wait, make that SIX...(and to keep this realistic, let's assume that you have no professional hockey players in your circle of 99.9% of the cases out there, that is a safe assumption.)

Now, before they get playing, do you want to take bets on the winning team being you and your buddies? Hmmm? Didn't think so (unless you are one of the five players on team one, that is.)

So, competition is not a worry for me. I have been in this a long time. I have been to enough garage sales where 4 dealers are walking out, and I still score some great stuff. I have picked enough attics that have "already been picked" and pulled out wonderful things. No, I am not bragging, I am just "saying" is our experience and our knowledge that make us money. Yes, I could go in to any pick after Mike & Frank (of AP) have cleared out what they want from a place and likely still pull out a load of good stuff, also. We all know different things, different knowledge, have different backgrounds, access to diffent markets, etc.
I am worried about some things, though.

What I am worried about is the number of people who are (not in order of importance):

(a) Going to get ripped-off, either on purpose, or inadvertently due to an amateur picker's complete lack of knowledge, giving professional pickers a worse name than we already have (which is usually due to the few scammers that are cocky enough to call themselves "pickers" and not what they actually are..."crooks".) The amateurs that make mistakes included myself when I was starting out.....though it was more over paying than under paying. But, a glut of over-zealous amateur pickers, with little knowledge about what they are buying, could be detrimental to the trade....and to themselves. If you grossly underpay for something, and fail to recognize that, or fail to compensate for it, there is a high possibility that the word will get around that you "ripped off so and so." It is really easy to get a bad reputation, and takes no work to keep it. It takes tons of work to create a good one, and still much more work to keep it! If you are SERIOUS and really think you can survive the hell that comes along with trying to actually earn a living at this...well, I'll tell ya, it does build character...! You'll have that, once you have been in it awhile, for sure...the stress lines come, the scrapes, cuts, etc, turn to scars, the hair turns grey (or your forehead gets longer).

(b) Going to get hurt going picking in places that hold hidden dangers. If you are from the city, grew up in the city, are rarely ever out of the city and are unaware of the hazards an abandoned farm site holds, DON'T risk your life picking it! I know nothing about old mines, so thus I do not venture into old  mines, unless I have someone with that sort of experience along.

(c) Going to go bankrupt.

(d) Going to have a formerly stable relationship explode into a divorce, separation, etc.

(e) and so on, and so on, and so on...

Ya get the picture yet?

Still fuzzy for some of you?
Ok, you might want to read my next post to clear the picture up a bit. Ah heck, everyone can read this one...C'mon, take a walk in a picker's shoes...It is sort of "Being John Malkovich" for the picking crowd....

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