How to become an American Picker – Part 1

It’s simple to make money as a picker!

Notice that I said, simple, not easy. Simple being that there’s nothing complex about picking antiques or junk for profit. It involves two steps: Buying something then, selling it for more money. Got it? Good. Because if you keep that in mind as we travel through this never-ending rabbit hole into the picker’s world, you’ll stay grounded. 

American Pickers the TV show

Generally I find that the reality shows about antiques & auctions to be pretty unrealistic and incomplete in there portrayal of the business. Storage Wars, Storage Hunters etc. while entertaining, are severely edited and distorted in my opinion. American Pickers, on the other hand really seems to nail the art of picking. While it too is heavily edited, it seems that they’ve found the magic sauce which translates real-world experience to TV pretty well. Albeit, there are creative liberties taken. 

What is a picker?

A picker is someone who shops selectively for things to make money on. Period. This obviously leaves a LOT of room for individuality and creativity. Antiques pickers as with the TV show mentioned above, hunt in a lot of barns, attics and basements for their finds. I’ve been doing so since 1979 and it’s still my favorite part of the business! Every pick is a treasure hunt. How can you not love that?!

How do you become a picker?

  • First of course, you’ll have to decide what you want to pick. Since most of us pick at least sometimes in the antiques genre, I’ll start there, but the basics apply no matter what you pick. The important thing is start with what you’re the most familiar with. 
  • Next put aside a determined amount of cash that won’t bust the family budget which to spend on your finds. I emphasize cash, many of your prospects will not take checks or credit cards, and those that do will likely give you a better deal if you’re paying in cash. 
  • Set your sites on some targets: I use my iPhone to map out areas very often, and I love to pick barns attics and basements, but I recommend to newbies that you start with estate sales, flea markets, antique shops,  consignment stores etc. Later as you get more experience you can move on to auctions then graduate to “cold calls” (which provide serious adventure!)
  • Now get out there and get your feet wet! Learn the art of haggling, buy a few things (start with lower priced items) nothing is a better teacher than experience.
  • Make some contacts to sell to. Now you’ve got to sell you’re gems, so start calling auction houses, antique shops, look for newspaper ads and for people that buy.  Or consign. Tell them up front you’re a new picker, and that you’d like to bring some things by to show them. You’ll find that because they too rely on things to sell to keep in business, that they are eager to meet a new picker. From here it’s important to cultivate relationships, keep track of who buys what and expand your network. 
  • Remember, your business is a “people business” as are all.  It’s a very competitive people business.  If you always treat clients with respect and you keep your cool as egos puff up (they will!)  as tempers flare (they will!) you’ll stand out in the business, and your network will grow exponentially. 

Becoming a great picker is a true and noble art form, these are just the basics. Stay tuned and we’ll delve a lot deeper

Read: How to become an American Picker – Part 2

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