Make a Living as an Antiques and Collectibles Picker

How to become an antiques and collectibles picker
How to become an antiques and collectibles picker | Source


A Picker has nothing to do with the banjo. They are people that make their living looking for collectibles that others will buy. They spend their time digging through other people's barns, attics, garages, and abandoned buildings looking for particular items.

They are on a mission to locate special pieces that customers may want and pay good money for. Some work for other people and many work for themselves. The economy has spurred people to start searching for unique items at garage sales, flea markets, estate sales, church sales and thrift shops in their region.

Many antique and collectibles buyers can help save the past and make some money too. Most of the rusted and forgotten junk sitting in the fields and basements is thought to be worthless, but someone may want it.

Antiques are defined as anything that is 75 years old and older. Anything old is not valuable so more people are interested in collectibles. They do not have to be old, just in a high demand.

One good ways to find some deals is to be the only one looking at someone's house or barn filled with stuff. Many hoarders are visited by "junkers" that want to look around but not all hoarders will be open to this.

vintage motorized bike is a great collectible
vintage motorized bike is a great collectible

Vintage items sell

Some vintage items such as jewelry, bikes, posters, bicycles, metal signs, motorcycles and clothing sell for high prices.

Some women collectors will pay well for a vintage era purse from the sixties or an antique dress from the roaring twenties.

Male collectors like to find old Schwinn bikes form the forties and old 30's era wooden console radios. They will restore them and sell at an antique show or shop.Online sometimes sells for a good price but I think seeing these items in person does a much better job of selling themselves.

I like old rocking chairs and recently bought three at a local auction house. They represent history and look good in the house. Of course I'll sell them for the right price.

Antique Bakelite silverware set
Antique Bakelite silverware set | Source

Reasons to start an antiques and collectibles business.

There have been pickers and estate buyers for generations, but the antique picker is fast becoming a popular way to make a living.

Of course the pawn brokers are a type of picker as well. They can sit back and wait for people to bring them items but not all are antiques or valuable.

Antiques Roadshow, Pawn Stars and now Storage Wars have piqued people's interest in making money off collectibles and antiques.

The downturn in the economy has created new and creative ways to raise cash and make a living, for sure. With the influx of recent reality shows, the “American Pickers” program really stood out.

Most of my family and friends have grown up with the love of antiques and collectibles. They are a good way to preserve history, culture and interest in a way of life. They are also a great investment if you buy right or hold onto an item until it increases in value. The team of Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz drive all over the back roads of America, looking for the most unusual and difficult to find antiques and collectibles imaginable.

It is usually planned by the third member of the team, Danielle Dolbey, who sets up meetings in advance. There are times Frank and Mike strike out with a potential seller, so they must freestyle and look for a deal. They scour the streets looking for an old garage,barn,vacant building and knock on some doors.

How I became a picker

Steps to starting a freelancing antiques and collectibles picker business.

There are definite steps that will help you become successful as an antique and collectibles dealer. You need to take care and follow proven methods or you'll waste a lot of money and time.

Here are some of the best steps I know to become successful business:

  • Set up a business name

  • set up business account

  • get an occupational license

  • get a state sales tax number

  • get business cards and poster,fliers made up

  • set up a website and/or blog

  • set up online store

  • hold information seminars or appraisals to network

  • teach an adult education class

  • read and research religiously

  • visit many, many antiques shops, second hand stores, pawn shops,flea markets and online auction sites as well

  • read and comment on forums for collectibles and antiques

  • a reliable smart phone with browser

  • list of potential buyers

  • pay people to be “bird dogs” or lookouts for potential sellers

  • post classifieds ad in local papers all over the country looking to buy out barns

  • offer to do 'cleanup” service

  • offer services to Realtors who do estate sales

  • get a small pickup truck or van to start out with.

  • Set up a booth in a consignment shop to start with and then move into your own shop when you become successful

  • never think you know it all, learn something new everyday

Mike Wolf rejected by Gunpoint

Diplomacy-How to wheel and deal

Finding potential deals means you must be tenacious, approachable and diplomatic.

You'll never be able to find the prize if you're shy, afraid to knock on doors and take "no" personally. It's like being a door to door salesman. Mike and Frank know how to approach most sellers with charm and humor. I like the fact that no matter how dingy and dirty the place is, they never show any judgment in the voices and manners.

People want to be seen and heard, so respect their space and lifestyle, or you'll never get anywhere with them.

Speaking to people about selling their daddy's old motorcycle, rusty bike or metal sign that's been hidden away for decades, takes some finesse.

How you approach them and the tone is equally important. They may not think their junk piled up in the barn is worth anything but when you start asking how much they want or offer a big price, it may put them off or make them suspicious.

Since most of my deals and collectibles are usually set in a rural location, you'll be dealing with people who don't come in contact with many strangers. Newcomers and city dwellers especially, will not always be welcomed.

They don't want a repeat of when some fast-talking city slicker cheated granddad out of his land or something like that.

I've run into this situation before so you need to warm up to them. Small talk and being genuinely interested will help. Do not pretend to like them or put on an accent because they will know. I've seen people do this and it's embarrassing and rude, to say the least.

Be upfront and be careful not to show too much interest or you'll not be able to afford anything.

Picker Sisters

Finding Bargains

There are several good sites and books to help you figure out if there is a good deal or not. I check out the Ebay auctions and then subscribe to Collectors Weekly to see what is popular

Calling on your list of buyers is one way to figure out a price. Another way to thumbing through a general price guides such as Kovels Price Guide, Schroeder's Price Guide,the Antiques Trader , Warmans' Guide and Millers.

There are many item specific price guides too numerous to mention.

When you are out of town, visiting the local library or bookstores will be a valuable asset. Also go to the local auctions to find a bargain.

Website subscriptions services such as Price4Antiques charges $12 a year,

an old manual cash register is a good item for pickers to sell
an old manual cash register is a good item for pickers to sell | Source

Final Thoughts about becoming an Antiques Picker

The whole reason for picking and searching through junk is to make money.

Weather you frequent garage sales, estate sales, thrift shops, antiques malls, consignment shops, or knock on stranger's doors to pick through their junk, there's a deal waiting for you.

Not every one will make a large profit or any at all. It takes many hours and years of experience to know what is real and what is a dud.

My best deal was the sale of a 60's character doll by the name of “Blythe.” She had a small body and an over-sized head, but when you pulled her cord, the eye colors changed four times. This was bought at a garage sale in the late 70's. I sold her in the early 2001 when the Ebay fever was boiling for $1250 to a Japanese buyer. She sat quietly in a china cabinet for many years, until I saw how much money people were paying for these dolls. Sorry Blythe, everyone has a price!

I guess everyone and everything has a price and I couldn't turn that down. Look around and watch some programs about collectibles also. Not all antiques are valuable just as collectibles are not. Antique pickers learn from their mistakes and move on.

It's easy to get burnt and hang on to your mistakes. Keep your price guides and cellphones handy. Good luck.

Vintage Blythe dolls

Vintage Blythe dolls are a great selling collectible item that collectors will pay high for
Vintage Blythe dolls are a great selling collectible item that collectors will pay high for | Source

© 2010 Stacie L

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Comments 16 comments

Stacie L profile image

Stacie L 6 months ago Author

Yes, I think half the fun of picking for antique and collectibles buyers is the hunt!Thanks for commenting ;-)

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 months ago from Dallas, Texas

Love the treasure hunt in the picking and have been at it for decades. There is a certain satisfaction in finding a treasure from the past.

Stacie L profile image

Stacie L 21 months ago Author

Thank you for your sharing your experiences about the auctions and flea markets business. it can become addicting to attend and the hunt is very exciting.

You may have the best experience to become someone's collectibles picker.

GiftsByDiana profile image

GiftsByDiana 21 months ago from Hubbard, Ohio, USA

Great tips here !

I've been going to auctions and flea markets since I was a baby as my Grandpa's helper and then later I worked at booths and even in an auction office registering folks and cashing them out at the end of the day.

Now I have my Mom's gift shop in Hubbard, Ohio.

You sure do learn a bunch about people and we have made many great friends over the years too :)

LisaKeating 2 years ago

Love this article. You have lots of relevant information. I am a picker. Of course today people say we are popping tags! I love it. I sell in an antique mall and on ebay. I have some collecting-related hubs if you want to check those out.

auctionwally profile image

auctionwally 2 years ago from New England

Great article Stacie! I'm an auctioneer and have been a picker for 30+ years, it is a great way to make a living. And with this economy, there's a lot of opportunity out there for people un-employed or under-employed in the picking world. As an auctioneer who still picks, I also encourage others to pick for my auction. It's a never ending cycle of opportunity! For more info on auctions & antiques go to

phoenixpicker profile image

phoenixpicker 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

I am living proof that picking does bring in the money. People love to collect vintage items. I just bought a set of old vintage fisher price animals for $3. I sold them for over $25. Do that a few times a day and you have some great profit! Look up Phoenix Picker on Google and watch my videos how to become a better picker! Great article packed full of awesome information. Thank you Stacie for taking the time to write it!

Stacie L profile image

Stacie L 4 years ago Author

Picking for someone else is more fun when you use their money. Thanks for reading and commenting

Lovelovemeloveme profile image

Lovelovemeloveme 4 years ago from Cindee's Land

thanks for the hub. interesting read

Stacie L profile image

Stacie L 4 years ago Author

The Grrl:Yes, I agree that being a picker could have you stuck with lots of stuff. I did write about being a hoarder so people need to be careful. The right way is to keep in contact with your buyers when you are out in the field and now these smartphones and other devices can help tremendously.

Thank you for reading my picker hub and leaving thoughtful comments.

That Grrl profile image

That Grrl 4 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

The problem with picking for yourself is you take on all the risk and you need to find the right buyers for all your stuff. I think it would be easier to pick for yourself as a hobby and just pick up stuff you know you are going to make use of right away. The more you keep around the more you look like a hoarder rather than a picker/ collector.

jaysin 4 years ago

very good advice. i started picking at 15 before i knew what a picker was. i started with yardsales and cleaning out barns for elderly people and had some low end stuff given to me and as time passed working for these people and getting to know them they opened up and offered to sell better stuff in the basement or attic daddys old shotgun old steam trunks ect one person after working for needed 400 for a new water hearter and called asking if i was intrested in something she had she sold me a near mint loui vatton sp? steamer trunk that i sold to a antuiqe shop for 15,000 and actually gave her half the money such a sweet ol gal she was

Stacie L profile image

Stacie L 5 years ago Author

@j Sunhawk: it's sounds like you had fun being a picker...yeah some hot collectibles can become cold as ice ,without warning..beanie babies are taboo..sorry ;-)

J Sunhawk profile image

J Sunhawk 5 years ago from South Carolina

In one of my previous incarnations, I "picked" for a dealer. He'd pay me about 30% of its auction value. So I got "smart" and started picking for myself.

Still have an attic full of junk. Interested in any beanie babies?

Stacie L profile image

Stacie L 5 years ago Author

@whatzis; thank you for reading and commenting on my hub.

Frank and Mike buy things I would never buy! LOL

whatzis 5 years ago

Very good- and interesting as I have been "pickin" for over 40 years. I don't buy the stuff Mike and Frank do as there are different interests in their part of rural America.

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    Stacie L902 Followers
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    Stacie L has been in the antiques and collectibles business most of her life.She learned from her mom, an antique dealer.

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