Friday, December 12, 2014

Weird Research Encounters - Google Results

I was doing some research this evening, via GOOGLE, and I had something....

Well, how can I say this....?   


I guess you could say that some rather "odd" things were shown in the search results.....

Rather, um, insanitary sorts of results.

Now, before I go too much further, I should say that I have been using Internet search engines and their results for researching all sorts of vintage items. In the very nature of some of these items you tend to trip across bizarre results. Those not-at-all-relevant-to-your-search-terms results inherently pop up simply due to the "not usual" combinations of words you are using.

Now, I expect some weird results when I do research on medical items, commercial equipment, and use some terms that are more obvious in their potential to be problematic. Such examples include:
  Brass Boer War Era Enema Syringe
 Enlarger Pump Vacuum System
 Vintage Lingerie Rack
and when you do searches involving combinations of such words as:


and I could go on and on with all sorts of key words, but I really don't want this blog posting to be at the top of the search results for all the fetish, porn and other site searches being done....

Nothing wrong with all that, "live and let live", as the saying goes. For me, it is just that those particular  searchers are not really serious readers of this blog....!

Or, rather, I should state that those who are looking for those sites are not, at that particular moment in their day, intending to read about antiques & collectibles.

Well, not in the way I write about them, that is....and I am referring to antiques & collectibles, not the searchers..

SO, let's erase some of the images we're conjured up from our minds, shall we?

OK, so, I have gotten a few weird results while doing pretty banal searches before. One particular search was when I was doing some research on a piece connected to that classic physical comedy team Laurel & Hardy.

I typed  "Laurel & Hardy" into Google.  I was expecting to get some fan site, maybe find some history on the guys.

However, there it was....

The #1 top site was....

A porn site!

And no, it was not a gay porn site, either.

So, I suppose, considering that I am "straight" as far as my "private life" goes, that was not really a huge problem with me, if I was actually looking for a porn site involving that comedy duo's works being somehow recreated with and integrated into pornos.......!

Ah, I can see the concern spreading across some of your faces....

Don't worry, I won't be reaching into the realms of TMI...

By the way, TMI  stands for "TOO MUCH INFORMATION"...this little sidebar is for those of you trying to read entirely something else into that abbreviation!

And, btw, what ever you did read into it I can't fathom......NOR do I want to know

Actually, as for that #1 ranked site for "Laurel & Hardy", I have no idea what the site had as to content...aside from it being a porn site. I won't explain how I knew that, as I really don't think I need to.

(If I need to explain, well, you are very likely a minor, and a very, very, very sheltered one at that. If you are over 18 and haven't a clue what I am talking about....well, you have issues I simply can not help you with. I am a picker, not a counsellor or shrink, sorry. You must have the wrong blog.)

Besides, I was on the computer at my store at the time, during business hours. I figured it was not exactly something I needed my customers seeing...nor hearing.

I realize some people do get very excited over antiques & collectibles, yes...

But not quite THAT excited.

So, if you are not entirely distracted......

(And I don't want to know why you are distracted if you do happen to actually be entirely distracted....)

BACK to the original subject of this blog...

I had done a search on Google seeking some information on an antique/vintage object.

The item?

Take a guess...and try to think of something as bland and as non-kink, non-fetish, non-sexual, etc, etc, etc as you can.....

Any ideas?

Well, it was simply....

A doorknob.

 A very old doorknob, actually...pre 1870, I'd think. However, I don't know its age for sure, at the moment. You see, I came directly to my blog to write this after seeing the results I got for this simple, banal, 3 word search.

It happens to have some markings on it, and upon close inspection I realized they were not American, nor European, but Asian in origin.  I figured maybe they were possibly Japanese. So, I went with that....and typed in the following as my search parameters::

Japanese Bronze Doorknob

Oh, and I should mention that I tend to set Google to do Image searches when I am doing research involving vintage objects, rather than text ("Web") searches.

So, I learned something new. However, it is something I really did not need to know.

And, it is pretty close to being something I would rather have not known. 

The images did not quite rank up there with the sorts of images you wish you could un-see.....things like a particular scene in John Water's cult film "Pink Flamingos". For those of you who are not familiar with Mr Water's earlier works I will try to be gentle in my description.  This scene; almost seemingly randomly inserted in the film; involved a "performer" doing bizarre things/movements with a muscle that is not one usually even given daylight exposure in public ....or even in most private circumstances; in the average person's presence, anyway. But John Waters is who he is...and cast this, um, "unusually talented" fellow is his film.

The scene is burnt into my mind like a recurring nightmare....I wish I could blot it out....... the horror...oh the horror....

So, the images Google brought up were not that sort of image.

However, I think that if I ever travel to Japan, I will carry a box of latex gloves around with me, just for those times I need to twist a doorknob.

That is it.  Do your own search, ok?

 I am trying my utmost to forget...!


An additional word of warning: "bronze door knob" is not a useful set of search terms when looking for antique hardware, either....!!!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

How NOT To Run Your Store!

I was on Facebook this evening, and like many days on there, I was quickly looking over a couple threads on a collectors page. 

What page, items, etc is not important in this case.  

The memory it triggered is the important thing.

Within this little story is a lesson that should resonate for all store owners, especially those of you in the "junk biz". 

Frankly, it doesn't matter if you run a second hand shop, thrift shop, antiques store, collectibles store, flea market booth, operate just a flea market table, run a perpetual garage sale, etc, any of these cases, PLEASE DO NOT be like the owners of the store I am about to describe!

* * * * * * * *

About 15 or so years ago, a fellow dealer and I were enroute to an antiques show a couple provinces over. We did a little buying along the way, stopping in at the odd shop we knew about or happened to come across.

We tended to looked through the yellow pages, brochures, etc for shops to potentially check out, while killing a little time after supper, sitting in the room at the hotels/motels we'd book into for the evenings.

Anyway, one place we  found, possibly in the yellow pages, we decided to check out.

We finally found the place, and when we walked in we had both thought:

 DAMN, this place is packed!

We have/had very different interests & specialities; John being into high-end glass, "true antiques", quality porcelain, sterling silver, Sheffield plate and that sort of traditional fare,  and I myself was into country antiques, nostalgia, toys, advertising, etc. 

Despite our divergent interests, there was some damn cool stuff within the scopes of both of our fields of interest; scattered all over, mixed in amongst mediocre stuff and a smattering of junky, shelf filler sort of fare.
Luckily, pretty much everything in the store was tagged. We hate when things are not priced.

But, there was one odd thing we quickly noticed about the tags.

They only had code numbers on them...not a price!

 We asked about a couple things each, and quickly realized why the place was packed, and still had cool stuff all over....

Every time we asked about the price of an item, relaying to them the number written on the tag, if we could even read it, (considering how faded, dusty, and smudged many of the tags were) the 3 owners of the store (all family, I think) huddled around a stack of semi-loose pages, all dog-eared, stuffed in a book/binder. Flipping through it, and finally selecting a page, presumably connected with the number we gave them, they whispered amongst themselves, furtively looking up at us during their conversation..  

Then, eventually after much whispering, page flipping, and glances in our direction, they would finally quote a price....

Which was easily 3 times what the item was worth....

After going through 3 or 4 of these agonizing episodes, some of which took 10 minutes or so, we looked at each other with eyes rolling and walked out. We have never gone back, and no one we know whom we have told the story to has ever darkened that store's doorstep, purposely, that is.

Now, does this sound like your shop? 

If so, I have some top notch advice you need to consider. 

You have a couple options on how to make money in this sort of scenario....because you sure as heck are not making a single dime right now. 

Option 1: Close and lock your doors. Then, go out and get a  9 to 5 job.

Option 2:  Go outside, tear down your store sign. Flip it over and with a can of spray paint, in big letters, write the following word:


 Then, underneath that, write:

Admission $1.00  

This way, you might actually make a buck.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Picker Entertainment!

Sometimes in this business you trip across amusing little things, old humorous articles in the way of old newspaper clippings that someone from yesteryear clipped and saved in some old book,  funny little letters, goofy comedic postcards, amusing photographs, information in books that is so-o-o-o outdated it makes you giggle, etc.

Well, I tripped across something that made me laugh today, and I thought I'd share it with you.

It turns out the folks at Bombardier had a sense of humour at one time...and decided to include their brand of humour in their user's manual for their "Snowmobile". 

I have personally not known these as a "Snowmobile" has always been known as a "Bombardier"; which we pronounce as "Bomb-bah-deer". That might be one of those Canadian prairie slang terms unique to us Canadian Prairie folks, who knows!

Anyway, I'll leave you now to enjoy the cartoons I found while leafing through it...Enjoy!.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The More The Merrier - Subcultures and the Antiques Business

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

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

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

You may have already heard of some of these terms:




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


These groups are full of people who are as like minded as the antiques crowd. the only difference is they just happen express their interest in history, the fashions, the "gear"/objects, etc in a different way than we do. 

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

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

 The problem with the "antiques business" I quickly noticed/encountered when I was a young dealer/picker, was those in the business projected staid, snobbish, boring, dry, elitist (etc, etc,etc) types of attitudes. 

Not exactly appealing to a younger crowd...not by a long shot. The business has changed in many ways, loosing some of those negative traits from some circles, but it has a long way to go. 

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

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

What we all know history is NOT is BORING 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 31, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With that little space filled.....

A Weekend Garage Sale Hobbiest Picker is born!

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

Some do, some don't.

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

So, are you a WGSHP? 



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

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

Safe pickin', folks! 

Sunday, June 29, 2014


I encounter dangers while picking. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Monday, April 28, 2014

TEST - What Kind Of Picker Are You?

You are in test today!    

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what makes a picker, in my eyes?

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 16, 2014

So You Want To Be A Picker?

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

Sorry, no pretty pictures here.

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

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

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

"Joe Friday" ring any bells? 

Still have no idea what I am talking about?

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

You're still reading?  

Ok, test time:

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

Didn't even go hit Google?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 Hard Things You Need To Do To Be Successful

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

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

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


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

AND work on weekends....

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

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

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

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