Blog: Pam's Pennypinching With STYLE

Picking and Collecting

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Boy, do I enjoy the cable show AMERICAN PICKERS.  It's my kind of collecting - going into masses of seeming junk and coming out with real finds at a good price. I don't know a lot about the industrial Americana that they seem to specialize in, but it amazes me that out of a rusty pile they can pick out the ONE old rusty Harley-Davidson frame that a collector would want to mount their vintage engine on! They KNOW this stuff, and the people whose collections they are scouting KNOW their stuff, too.  Out of a whole backyard of metal parts, the original owner can tell JUST what year the part is dated and all sorts of things about where it came from (provenance). THEN the pickers find just the BUYER for that pair of 1920's gas pumps - who will then restore them and add them to HIS collection.

It proves to me that it is still possible to find little treasures in obscure corners. I tend to specialize in thrift shops. The "old lady" kinds are better - many with items from senior estates or a result of downsizing to go into a retirement home...But I have found goodies that have slipped through the cracks even at Goodwill and Salvation Army stores, where most of the "good" stuff is skimmed off the top. My 19th C. hand-colored framed lithograph of a boat in full sail is one example. And my little mounted bronze head of an India girl is another. One for $15, the other for TWO. And they are both worth a lot more than that.

I started off liking modernist chrome and minimalist lines, but the things that I could afford were more classic, so I have developed into an eccentric traditionalist. And my eye has developed over the years, I am proud of that.

For some eye-training of your own, if you are interested in such things (and to discover what that Murano glass ashtray that was brought back from a 60's trip to Europe is going for now retail) - take a look at on the net.  I am hooked on the vintage part of the site.  It's amazing what the little treasures (and the mid-century furniture) of our parents and grandparents are all going for. (Although these prices are not the cheap end that I can afford!)  These are the prices after someone like me has scored on a deal and then made a profit by selling it off to a dealer of some sort. (See the process on AMERICAN PICKERS from the first sale from a crammed barn to their retail prices. They give you a pretty good course in negotiating prices, too....)

I didn't intend any of this. I just grew up loving my grandmother's and my godmother's old stuff. And the taste grew and grew.  Touches like that do add to a nice, tasteful home atmosphere, at prices often lower than the reproductions! Not to mention that they will retain their value - which most cheaper reproductions don't.   So it makes sense to cultivate your taste and get your eye used to finding that ONE thing in a pile of cast-offs that is of any interest. And it's thrifty, too! Something that I am proud of...

Do you like "old stuff"? 




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