Thursday, August 15, 2013

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

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


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

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

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

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

Wikipedia defines expert as:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is not my expert opinion.  

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

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

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


You know what? 

Color me "Sage." 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pickin' For A Livin' - My Confession

I live in Manitoba. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

And that is a bad sign for internet sales.

Postage and shipping rates have really hurt us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Professional Skrounger?  

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

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Junk Biz Reality TV - Right, Left or Straight ?

Welcome to the crossroads on the back roads of this landscape called the Junk Biz!

Get in the passenger seat, and you can get a close view of what I am seeing.

Let's go straight up the main road...not right nor left down those side roads...perhaps we'll get to them later.
The road straight ahead, the one well traveled, well, we all know it goes where everyone else has already gone. Been there...done that.

End result?

A general consensus that adds up to Meh.

So, how about turning right or left, down one of those other roads?

In picking circles, the road less traveled, is the one we'd likely take when looking for treasures...after all, the less people who have gone down it, the more likely we are to find treasures everyone else has missed, right?

The problem with that scenario is that often it doesn't  end up anywhere...well, anywhere except perhaps a dead end on to an lonely expanse of field....and no viewership...and you might get stuck, and a long walk to the nearest town....and have to pay a significant towing bill.

Once and awhile it might end up in discovering a wealth of treasure that may end up making you some good money....but let me tell you a fact: 

The odds are simply not in your favor.

Production companies and their backers/accountants aren't happy with random risk, no matter how interesting it looks from the passenger or driver's seat. Unmapped territory is not for the feint of heart...or those who are at all risk adverse.

 Veteran pickers aren't happy with that scenario, either.  We do tend to be adventurous, but we're not stupid. We don't toss our cash away, either. 

 Usually there is a method to what seems like madness. Most times there has been research into the route or at least the general area to back up our seemingly random, convoluted route.  Like a veteran picker and a good production company/producer both should realize that maybe some serious, heavy duty research is in order, to maximize the potential of that road less traveled....and to get off the same congested, worn, and tourist trap ridden route everyone else is on. Find some fresh territory, and potentially get on to a fresh pick where no one else has been, and one which is lucrative, and you can bank on for a long time.

A good picker will consult the locals, and others familiar with the territory. They know they can improve their odds of doing well with more information gleaned by talking to those who know these back roads well. The locals who know the unwritten history,  unrecorded stories, and referrals from locals who the picker has treated with respect, get to know, treat well and end up get references from...and may even gain friends who show them around from place to place, introducing them as a person who can be trusted.

 This tends to result in  great success buying from those who would never have let you on their properties, let alone sold you those great folk art whirligigs their uncle carved in the 1930s....and they even told you the story behind each one.

You could just drive down that unknown road. It might even seem like a good idea at first, and it sometimes is a fun time, you may have a little success, even.... but most times it is simply a waste of time...where you end up turning around...and you could get first stuck or just entirely lost.

So, let's stop at this little, not the trendy one with the $7.00 lattes you like...the one across the street, the one that the long time locals frequent...better coffee there, anyway!
Time to do some research.  
Oh, and yes, I do have some old maps with me, and I did get a tip from a former resident of this area...told me the name of a guy to ask about...have your coffee, and I'll do some research...No, I'm not wasting time talking to those "geezers"...their stories are better than most history books you will read...granted, some of their stories are fiction......

OK, let's get back on the road. Our odds are far that I have talked with the locals, got a few extra leads, a few referrals, additional info, had some details corrected, etc.. I did some research at home, some time ago. I admit, I am also a little familiar with the area, as I did some picking while on a trip to follow up another lead, which took me down this same main road. Plus I talked to a local, who referred me to another resident who moved here some time ago....and I heard rumor of this fellow from an old school picker I talked to a few years back....who passed through this area once, before this well traveled road was "well traveled"......well, let's just say I have a hot lead as a result of all the info I have compiled...

So, when we get about a mile down this road, we'll let's take this left turn, instead of that right towards that barn we initially thought was is empty as empty can be, from the information I confirmed, while we were at the old cafe.

And a turn....and on to this gravel road.....

Doesn't look like much out here, does it?


But look over my way......... 

Now, let's see....
I was told me to turn to the right...
 towards the white pick-up truck...

Cool.....check out what is around this bend...!

.... an old prairie village! 
Check out the "parked vehicles"....

.....antique threshing machines!

Plus, the village still has many original, still standing buildings...and they appear to be pretty intact, quite likely still full of cool, old stuff!!!!!!

 AND, get this, I found out the entire village is owned by one person!  

 You know that "weird looking geezer" you referred to? (His name is Samuel, by the way.) I met Sam last time I was through  that town. I wasn't aware he was as wealthy as he is...turns out he bought stocks in a company years and years ago, which shortly after was bought by International Business Machines, just when they were starting to buy out other firms. He sold them at their peak...did very well, apparently. Anyway, he told me that everything in this place was all just "old junk" to him. He bought it all, lock stock and barrel for $1.00 at a municipal tax sale, back in the 1960s!

I told him I was a serious buyer, but he waved his weathered hand at me, and said he'd refuse to take a dime for anything. I thought he was brushing me off, but then told me he was just happy someone might actually want and make use of some of it....and I can have whatever I want from the place.....right down to the buildings themselves, IF I can move them..or parts of them!

And our timeline to get the stuff? 

Get this!!! He said to take my time, he is in no hurry to demolish any of the places. For future picking stops I just have to call ahead to him or his niece (the waitress you didn't leave a tip for...not very  classy, by the way, dude) so he can make sure the access road isn't blocked off by the derelict vehicles he normally puts across the road.


 Cool, eh? 

Anyway, the point is:

When you talk to the right people,

Do some proper research,

Treat people well and with respect,

Make some real friends in the area,

Have gained experience in the business,

Network with people in the area and/or are familiar with the area yourself, can discover some hidden gems in places you would not expect them to be....which in the short AND long term can be highly profitable. The fun you will have is included for free...even though obviously there will be still hard work to do along the way.


*** A Note/Confession ***
Ok, ok, ok, some of you long figured out that the tale end details of a village full of stuff offered up for free is an unlikley sort of scenario..."a picker fantasy" as it were...! Imagination took over as far as the final details of this little drive down the back roads go. Yes, of course the story is essentially fiction, though not at all inaccurate as to the various experiences a  veteran picker has on a for a village full of stuff for free.....

OF COURSE I am still looking for that kind of place!  
 OH YES, I DO have leads, information, details, stories, rumor, (and even solid locations!) of similar places such as the long abandoned, never picked old village as I described. Yes, I am, I am not pulling your leg.
Hopefully they will all turn out to be their own stories, blog postings, etc....for sure will hit some dead ends, false leads, wild goose chases, etc, and some will be mediocre, average picks...and some may be absolute "motherloads" of cool stuff....but their stories are still have yet to be experienced...and those experiences is what I love...well, finding a treasure or 2 helps, too! 

An FYI, regarding the photos: They are of places I have actually seen, from trips I have been on, places I located using the skills (etc), which I skiffed over and sketched out above.  

The story above may be fiction, but you will read many equally intriguing true incidents and stories in this blog...Yes, my life as it is. I am a real picker....snippets and moments in the life of someone who lives and breathes "The Junk Biz."