Friday, January 27, 2012

This post is very RARE! AND ONE OF A KIND!

Many veteran dealer's long list of pet peeves includes the common mis-use of terms.  I could blog, and blog, and blog about various terms being mis-used.  "Fumed Oak" is one that, for some reason, seems to really "get in my craw"...(whatever that means!)

The terms RARE and ONE OF A KIND (also even more misused is the term in its popular abbreviation OOAK) are two that get tossed around a fair bit, and the majority of what you see posted on websites like eBay tend to be neither rare, nor one of a kind, despite the sellers proclaiming that.

We all make mistakes. Some make more than others. However, research is part of this game, so if you don't do your research and you arbitrarily declare something is "rare", you list it on eBay as such, and when you do a search fr the item, yours appears amongst 3247 identical 1995 McDonald Happy Meal toys...well, then you're just an idiot.

If there are only 2 others, and they don't  have the same color combo yours does...well, we can excuse that.
I do, however, suggest you change "Rare" to "Scarce" or "hard to find".

If you had put ONE OF A KIND on your listing...well, then you are just a complete, moronic idiot.

If you know that yours is the prototype for those pieces, and can prove it is the one and only one ever produced, OK, then "One Of A Kind" is warranted......slap "OOAK" all over the place at your hearts content. If they made 2 prototypes, and they are identical....slap OOAK anywhere...then I get to slap YOU.

We can not really lay the blame so much at all those sellers' feet, though. As I recall, I remember when eBay actually SUGGESTED you use those very terms! I remember shaking my head when I saw the suggestion of using "RARE" (among other terms not really applicable to most items sold on eBay)....seems to me it came up mainly when you were re-listing an item. Not sure if they do still, they might have finally nixed that little bit of "advice."  

Anyway, instead of me going on and on...I suggest you check out this article on, as it covers the bases!

Happy picking!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The 3 F's - Future, Family, Furniture

Made a trip to Winnipeg last week; mainly to take my stepdaughter back to her home. With us we brought an antique wardrobe she had purchased from a friend of ours.  The unit is quite large, being about 7 1/2 feet tall. Quite the beautiful piece; exterior components being made with single super-wide planks of oak, 1880s, sporting hand cut dovetails and machine cut square nails. It is likely European (more than likely British) in origin, considering it had evidence of the type of woodworm occupation seen on many European pieces.  Woodworm, of which the sort that this piece shows damage from, does not occur in Canadian made items, due to our climate being less than ideal for that pest to survive in.

Being the loving step-dad, I got to load/pack/secure the wardrobe, deliver it, help unload it, and even repair/re-glue it, etc once it was in her apartment.  Her dad (yes, her dad and I are on friendly terms) supplied the claps and assorted tools I did not have with me. She's lucky to have 2 loving dads and a loving mother, all interested and plenty of experience in the antiques business. That has helped her in various past endeavors  and interests, and will help her in the future. She will realize this more and more as she goes through the years, but at present, she is young (21) and may not realize how much help this support will provide & educate her. No matter, she is on her own life path, and we are here to assist her.

Sometimes I am sure she thinks we are being a pain in the butt, critical, annoying, stupid, or just plain irrational....all of which might be true on occasion! She'll just have to sort out which times are legitimately "nutty" and which are truly our attempts to help steer her in a positive direction.  That is part of life experience, and she's an intelligent sort. As with anyone young & newly "out on their own," the haze created by the glitter, dismay, annoyance, sadness, excitement, anticipation etc, of her current  daily experiences, many of which are fresh and new, will become "ho-hum" and commonplace.

Once that occurs, the fog will clear, and she will see  things far more clearly, and in ways she didn't view them before.

We love her, and wish to see her succeed in whatever she wishes to pursue.

The lives of those in the "junk biz" are quite different from the "mainstream", and thus seem unusual to those who have never been part of this lifestyle. We are the same as everyone else in this world, really.   We have faults, needs, desires, goals, ups, downs, wishes, fantasies, dreams, interests, dislikes, good habits, bad habits, and  all the other long list of positive, neutral and negative attributes which comes with being human. 

So, now that everyone is weeping and feeling all gushy, it is time to change the subject!

This particular piece I had seen at an local antiques auction. I didn't stay for the entire sale, as I didn't need stock, and had bills to pay.  Knowing that it was a good piece, I had no doubt it would sell for $400 at minimum, despite some of is issues.  It was a well advertised sale, and every good item that was being sold received bids that were at retail levels,and most were actually exceeding retail levels. 

Tip, just because it is an auction, does not mean you are buying it wholesale no matter what you pay!

And that includes bidding against a dealer....we collect, too!  We also bid & buy on behalf of friends, relatives, collectors, etc! Plus, we are not stupid...we know when you are just trying to "bid us up"...and that is a dangerous game to may cost you far more than you would think, and I don't mean just in dollars and cents, though you will take a hit in your pocketbook, for sure....if not at this auction, it may be the next.  The antiques community is far smaller than people would think, and with online social networks, your little game may have consequences that reach further than your local community.

No, nothing occurred at this auction to make me venture into that little tirade...just some good, solid advice for those newbies out there who may be tempted to play the games that some reality shows portray. Real life is not like Reality TV.. The true REALITY is that when you find the consequences of your actions coming back to haunt you, affecting you in negative ways, it is suddenly no longer amusing, interesting, nor  entertaining.

So, back to the wardrobe....

I found out later that an "oak" wardrobe at the sale sold in excess of $600. There happened to be two wardrobes at the sale, only one of which was really oak. 

My assumption was that it was the oak piece that had sold for $600+, and I was not surprised. Well worth that, and with a few repairs/restoration, and if assembled properly (the auction company's staff had assembled it with the base upside down!) it could garner $1500 - $2000.

The other wardrobe sold for $50, and it was a local used furniture dealer who purchased it, who we deal with and are friendly with.

I heard another friend of ours bought the wardrobe, and for a still cheap amount of $250, delivered. Good profit for the furniture dealer, and a decent price for the wardrobe, which I assumed was the "faux oak" (see my "Test Time" posting) one. It was maybe worth $450, in my opinion.

When our friend showed it off to us, I was stunned to see it was the REAL OAK one...The "faux oak" one had sold for over $600!

The truly valuable one sold for a bargain basement price of $50!

  I thought that the base being flipped over was quite obvious, but in retrospect, it perhaps  was not obvious to all of the potential bidders. I can only assume that they looked at the (typical) heavy wear present on the upright facing underside's 125+ years of floor contact produced wear as severe what they assumed was portion of the side that was meant to be visible. .

Goes to show that, despite an item being at a well advertised, well attended auction sale (or ANY sale), you well may be the only person in the room that recognizes the true value of that object.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

If Only I had Picked That....& No Regrets.

There are many potential "treasures" that people overlook, discard, pass over, ignore, etc.

"Prototypes" can be worth big money. But, finding one is the trick....but before you find one, you will have to figure out how to identify an item as a prototype! And a historically SIGNIFICANT one at that...

Late last year (December 2011) one of two known prototypes the "hobble skirt" style Coca-Cola bottle was sold at auction, with the original drawing.

The lot only sold for a mere $228,000.

Not bad for a chunk of glass and a piece of paper!

If you tripped across one of these bottles in some attic, basement, storage locker, would you have dug a little deeper as to it's origins?

Learning to identify such things comes down to more than just reading.

You also need to get over the "if only it was me"...and that is one of the things we all struggle with....some will not admit it, but at times, I wear my heart on my sleeve. I admit it. I wish I had found that prototype.

But, I know that if I come across something in the same vein, I will recognize it...hopefully!

All I can do is prepare, learn, train, and live life as best I can.

If you follow my blog, you will end up with tips & hints, and links to information you may well have not found on your own. I will also be adding some videos to future postings, with some "how to" segments.  I am one of the few true pickers on the web that is willing to give away information.  Sure, there are lots of "self proclaimed pickers" out there professing prowess, and spouting rhetoric about "how easy" it is to make money, even make a living, from "picking."

When you view and listen to these self proclaimed experts, you need to:

Be cautious.
Be critical.

And turn on your B.S. detector to MAXIMUM.

If someone has done garage sales for a few years, that does not make them a professional picker.

If someone has gone to 50 auctions, that does not make them a professional picker.

If someone has done storage auctions all their life, that does not make them professional picker.  it might make them a professional storage auction buyer, possibly only in their own minds, but determining that is a whole different topic, and I will leave it up to you to check out Glendon Cameron's wise words at You will probably find that Glendon and I have slightly different views on what a "picker" is.
Thus far, it is a friendly banter/debate. LOL.

As a result of the Reality TV trend diving into the "Junk Biz" and many aspects related to  it, I have found myself having to refer to myself as a "hardcore picker".  Glendon calls me a "hustler", and that is a positive term in his realm....but that term, up here, has yet to take on a 100% positive, I will stick with "hardcore picker".

IE: I do what I need to do to make a buck from buying/obtaining, selling and marketing "junk", and using my skills in that arena to the best of my ability.  I adapt, and "multi-task" when I am picking. By that I mean evaluating situations, sites, and prospects that may not profit one way, but could profit very well another way. Taking an attitude of looking at things from different angles...such as seeing value in things that someone with limited skills and/or blinders will not recognize.

Surviving in the "junk biz" in Manitoba is no easy task. Any Manitoban antiques dealer, second hand dealer, auctioneer, picker etc, etc will likely back up that will those from other provinces who have had experience in the Manitoban/Canadian Prairies marketplace.

Thus, I have "trained" in one of the toughest markets in North America for over 20 years.

I jumped in "green", and those surrounding me said to my face and behind my back that I would not be in business for long

Twenty plus years later, many mouths that made those statements have respectfully retracted their words, and stepped up, giving respect where respect is due.

Others have denied they even uttered such statements, but yet are unable to hide their embarrassment.

Many others' mutterings have entirely disappeared from buzz of the junk biz entirely, their statements having predicted not my demise, but their own.

I have asked myself "Will I survive the new trends?"

For me that is easy to answer....I live, breath and will die in this business. I've adapted, changed and learned, took chances, tried, failed, tried again, failed, tried in and day out.  I will be making a living from the junk biz, in some shape or form, until the day I die.

The question is:

Will you survive in this business?  

Follow my writings, videos, etc, and you may gain some insight on how I have survived in one of the toughest markets in the "first world." I have not even managed to chip an ice cube off of the iceberg of accumulated knowledge gained from my experiences. 

This is hardcore stuff, from fun, humorous and hilarious happenings, to devastating & heartbreaking experiences. It is all coming in the new year, laid out, spread out for you to read, view, see, and, most importantly....



Monday, January 2, 2012


SO, been thinkin' and there really is one reason...well, in a way, there really are many reasons, why I keep writing here.

And those reasons have been growing in number, slowly, but still growing.

Those many reasons are all living, breathing entities....and they include YOU.

So, thank-YOU for reading, participating in my indulgence, putting up with complaining, opinionated rants, etc.

Hopefully you have gotten something out of my ramblings, and will enjoy reading for many blog postings to come.



Sunday, January 1, 2012

Formula: Storage Wars:Texas + Moe Prigoff = Storage Wars: Barry Weiss

So, with STORAGE WARS:Texas hitting the tube, we now have another "professional storage locker" buyer who has that antiques/collectibles buyer sort of slant.

I realize these programs follow a "formula." Thus, the plan seems to add Moe Prigoff to the Texas crew to create that vibe that Barry Weiss gives to the original Storage Wars.

I like junk TV programming, I is my business, after all. I am also intelligent enough to see it as "entertainment" and not "that is REAL LIFE" is a polished, edited, buffed up, TV representation of life, but not real life. Heck, for one episode of AP they film about 50 hours of OVER 49 hours worth of footage is edited out! It is entertainment, and I like it, usually.

I have to admit, I am already a little tired of the way the spin offs seem to be going....ALREADY.

Though, I guess if I got a call to be a buyer featured on what would undoubtedly be called "STORAGE WARS: MANITOBA" I might consider it.

Cash is cash, after all.

However, I have substantial doubts it will get to that I really doubt that following the "formula" they have will really work for long.   Unless you really change things up, and make the next "spin-off" its own program, independent from the parent, the formula based clone is destined to fall to the wayside...some quicker than others. The offspring might well bring down the parent into the pit of cancellation, also.

Reality TV hasn't figured out what producers of successful fictional TV program franchises have figured out.
Let's take the Law & Order franchise, as an example.

They are all DIFFERENT.  Yes, they target a similar/same audience, but, their STAYING power lies in the fact they have very DIFFERENT characters, a DIFFERENT formula for each series, and DIFFERENT settings.

Yes, there are some crossovers in characters, even the odd plot, and they are similar in a some ways. However, in other ways they are VERY different from each other.

 Many of the reality TV franchises can not lay a legitimate claim to their shows being VERY different from each other. Some of the spin-off programs have had the embarrassing misfortune to have hosts that even opt to use the same lingo used by the parent show's hosts!

That is just, well, tacky.....I find those TV moments down right painful...I cringe.    It makes it a little too obvious that the hosts are not "legit".... 

That is, unless you are unfamiliar with the trades they are depicting, and you assume that the lingo used on the parent program is the common lingo used right across the trade. Yes, we have trade terms used right across our business...some examples:

Mint condition
NOS/New-old stock

Let's take some lingo yanked from American Pickers as an example.  "Honey hole" is not a term I had EVER used  (nor use now) to describe a great picking spot.

From what I have been told by a few veterans of the metal detecting hobby, the term is used in the metal detecting world...and has been for as many years as the hobby has been out there. That actually makes more sense to dig holes when you metal detect, usually.

 The first time I had ever heard it related to picking was on AP....and I have been in this biz for just as long as Mike (Wolfe) has. (Though I am younger than Mike....might not look it, but it is true! Hey, I've earned my grey hair and weathered features, damn it!)

The first time I heard Mike say "honey hole" on American Pickers I did a triple take...

 If you weren't aware of the fact already, "honey hole" does have some other definitions that were far more commonly meant when those words were spoken.

As you see, neither of which relates to the antiques business...well, directly, anyway...but any of those sorts of stories are strictly kept amongst a group of pickers, sitting around a bonfire, and after several bottles of beer have been consumed....

Wikipedia nails it down as a mainly hunting & fishing term, though they add American Pickers as a "Popular Culture" notation.

The power of TV is pretty strong in the popularizing of terms and their uses, eh?

I am betting that there will be a "UK PICKERS" or "BRITISH PICKERS" or "PICKERS IN KILTS" or whatever, that is almost inevitable. A change of country can potentially work as a twist that may well hold viewers, if the casting is right.

I have to admit, I was initially a bit excited about "Canadian Pickers" being produced.....until I saw the first episode....and the rest of the episodes.  I was very hopeful....I am an optimist, believe it or not.
Their 2nd season is going to air (finally) in January 2012, so I will save you from any rants, critiques and least until after the new episodes air.

 Though, I would really like to hear YOUR opinions of the show....

Actually, comments on ANY of the junk biz TV shows are welcome!

I'd also like you to honestly note how long you have been a professional/making a living/supplementing income/etc in the "junk biz", if you are a long time junker but not pro, or if you are a rosy cheeked fresh newcomer, inspired by the programs you have seen.  I actually think it is GREAT there are newcomers, fresh faces, etc, so do not feel shy that you have become hooked on "junk"...there are MANY of us "addicts" out there.

I have found one thing, in analysis of the last couple years worth of Junk TV programs. The take on things in the "junk biz" by Reality TV seems to have a focus, or at least a "chunk" of attention is paid to, one basic thing..

It includes "getting a deal"..."negotiating"..."appraisals"....."how much"...."it could be valuable"....which are all connected to:

Making MONEY.
The almighty buck and its children (bastard and otherwise), get tossed up on our screens to the point of near absurdity when it comes to those programs.
That is all fine and dandy,  with the economy and all, they are trying to lure people in to watch.

However, too much of it can really make this biz look like a bunch of money hungry folks whose focus is just on that dollar sign...or Pound sign, or Euro sign...whatever.

Ok, I admit that we do like the cash aspect of it, sure, but that is not the appeal for most of the "players" out there in this field.  We have personalities beyond the almighty buck....and reasons we are in this that go beyond  that. Mike shows that in AP...he goes batty over bicycles. Frank goes owly over oil cans. They are legit in their passion when it comes to "old junk", and it shows.

Me? I LOVE the thrill of the hunt. That is my addiction!

Hell, pay me a realistic wage for what I do, the experience I have, education I have accumulated (etc), back me with $$$ for buying and I will PICK antiques and other assorted cool/neat/weird/odd sundry items on a salary basis! Will have your shop filled to capacity in a matter of weeks....heck, under a week if you have no particular category of vintage items you want.

Problem is, I need cash to buy the cash, no hunting for dusty paying too much doesn't work....keeping stuff does not work....

Yep, a true addiction...and I am doing what I have to in order to feed my addiction.

I need, not AA....I need:

Antiques Addicts Anonymous.

My name is Bear, and...umm......I am self-employed...I am an entrepreneur....

So, um, now when do we get to have that coffee & those cookies? I haven't had lunch...spent my last $20 on those tin cans over there by the door......say, what is in the basement of this building?

All in all, viewers who are even just on the fringes of "the junk business" are smart enough to realize that Reality TV's take on the "Junk Biz" thus far is not realistic.

SO, now think of those who are newbies....just how long is it going to take for them to figure out it is just not like it is on TV...and some/many of the things said, done, experienced, etc, is not the day to day reality of that they themselves have experienced the "junk lifestyle" first hand?

And what happens after they have expressed this to ALL their friends, and relatives...who tell all their friends and relatives, who tell all their friends and relatives, who.......)

Got the picture?

Even the "good" junk biz programs will start falling in popularity. Reality TV is crying wolf.

No pun intended....if I had intended a pun, there would have been an E on the end.

That said,  I'd think that Mr Wolfe's original premise (which I believe was to focus far more on the people, especially the real characters we pickers encounter) is actually a more long term survivor, in my opinion.

What do most of us do with an antiques/collectibles price guide once it is a few years old?

Compare that to your other reference books in the bookcase...the many "book of silver marks", "pottery marks" or other books we use for research purposes? And that favourite novel you read and reread?

What about the spin-offs that are pure "follow the formula" of the successful parent Reality "Junk TV" show?

Well, they will be the first to fall....if they didn't hit circular file called "cancellation" after their first season....or first few episodes.

What I clearly recognize that is needed for "junk TV" keep a grip on the audiences long term is simple...non-formula based spin-offs.

Fans have clearly and loudly expressed this about other programs.

 Danielle Colby-Cushman of American Pickers is a PRIME example of this. 

She is founder of a BURLESQUE troop for crying out loud...and a former roller derby queen.... ....she makes/remakes/designs CLOTHING, is an ARTIST...and a, COME ON, can no one (in the production company) not see "SPIN-OFF MATERIAL" flashing in bright orange tubing of a huge (but of course rusty) neon sign???

No, I am not a fanboy of Danielle's. She seems to be a cool person and all, but so are many folks I know in this biz, who think for themselves, and are "eccentric" in some ways...and are not on TV, nor ever will be. Frankly, many SHOULD be...they are certainly all far more interesting than some of the folks that have been cast in these shows.

Don't get me wrong, there are lots of interesting & simply cool folks out there that have been cast/given shows (some current, some gone) that are certainly quality TV characters, but some are just NOT...and who ever cast them is not doing their job well at all.

AH, that is IT, I know what the next big Reality TV blockbuster will be!


Resolutions Of The Junk Biz.

I have been trying to decide what my  New Year's resolutions should consist of.

So far, the list is short.

VERY short.

Non-existent, actually.

I tend to try and work on things all year round, sometimes not accomplishing the resolution, sometimes blowing it away 100 fold.

So why should I create a special list just for New Years?

Working on yourself year round is your best bet.

So, what are YOUR resolutions?

Ah, I hear a number of you saying the same and similar things...

By next year you resolve to be a professional picker, professional storage auction buyer, thrift shop owner, antiques store dealer, etc, etc, etc...

Well, for many of you, my best advice would be to forget trying to keep that resolution..that is, for THIS year.

Accomplishing those sorts of things takes LONG TERM resolve...and EXPERIENCE....LOTS of it!

If you MUST make a resolution leaning in those directions, how about you resolve to WORK HARD AT learning to be a picker, professional storage auction buyer, thrift shop owner, antiques store dealer, etc, etc, etc...

Start small.


Those who start BIG crash even BIGGER.


(There goes one already...)

"Bigger they are, the harder they fall."

It is true, very true. PLUS, those who go big, but start on a flimsy foundation, that consists of:

a lack of knowledge,
few connections,
little (or no) experience,

crash hard...very hard....and tend to have a very, very, very slim chance of recovery in that field. They will likely have to go back to working 9 to 5 for someone else, if they haven't landed themselves in a psychiatric ward. For those going huge, without the background required, the crash will undoubtedly be far too traumatic for them to handle.

With all those folks I see and hear about, who are diving head first into the "junk biz", I can clearly and certainly predict that there is going to be lots of lost storage lockers, bankruptcies,  trauma, broken families, suicides, and yes, even murders that will result.

I know this sounds like doom & gloom, but it is fact.

Think about it. Any "fad" or "promoted" type of business will have essentially 2 groups, in the end.

(1) Those who (will) do well - IE: Those educated in that area already, are naturally talented/gifted in that area, those taking a step up, have already been mentored, taught, trained, did it as a hobby for years, etc, etc.

(2) Those who end up breaking even, loosing a little, loosing a lot, or...loosing EVERYTHING.

How many people bet their entire life savings on a stock tip that everyone else has heard, also?

"Get in on the bottom floor!" "Make billions!"

Some will risk it all, but not many, usually.

TV is a persuasive media. We really do know that we can not really believe everything we see on TV.  Then along came "Reality TV" as a mainstay in the TV world.

But, usually it is a pretty positive slice of "reality"....or, the opposite, a pretty negative - See: HOARDERS)


Naw, doesn't exist.

"Anyone can do this!" (ie: picking valuable items out of a barn in the middle of nowhere)


"It could  happen to YOU!" (ie: filling your home with 50,000 toilet paper rolls, newspaper, twist ties, rotting ferret tails, and of paperclips....but just the smaller loops of them, not the whole thing.)

But, I digress....

This is not a business for the feint at heart....or those looking for a quick buck or a fast way to get out of debt or  just to be "famous" on Reality TV or to find that "BIG SCORE" that sets them up for life......

The BIG SCORE...hmmm....

There are thousands...scratch that...heck, likely  millions of us junk biz vets out there who are STILL looking,searching,striving to find that "BIG SCORE" that will set us up for life.  The (sort of) sad fact is that many of us will (and do) find ourselves at the end of our lives never finding that score.


So, if you have decided to jump into the junk biz, and you are certain you will succeed, well, congratulations kid, you do possibly have on trait required.....optimism!

Why do I say "possibly"?

Well, there is one other trait that you may be mistaking for optimism.

This trait will keep the facts from entering your decision making process.

With all the TV talk, you should have guessed it by now....

PLEASE, before you commit to your "resolutions" for the year, honestly ask yourself:

"Am I being REALISTIC?"