What Do Antique Pickers Do?

Dan Cavallari

Antique pickers are people who find, buy, and sell antiques, but they generally do not sell those antiques to the general public. The main clientele for antique pickers include antique dealers, interior designers, and high-end collectors. These pickers must have extensive knowledge regarding antiques as well as places to locate certain antiques, and he or she must be willing to travel to different locations to find various pieces. A head for business is also a crucial skill of these pickers, as they will be responsible for creating a fair price, selling the piece, documenting the sale, and managing any accompanying paperwork.

Antique dealers are the main customers of antique pickers.
Antique dealers are the main customers of antique pickers.

The most important skill antique pickers must have is a crucial eye for detail and a keen sense of authenticity. Pickers can travel far and wide just to sift through a person's barn or storage unit, which means they will end up looking at a lot of junk. It is important for antique pickers to be able to recognize the diamond in the rough — the true antique sitting among the piles of junk. They will also need to do an assessment of what kind of restoration may be necessary, what a fair price for the item would be, and who would be an appropriate buyer for the item.

Estate sales often feature antiques that are more valuable to pickers, such as this 19th-century pram.
Estate sales often feature antiques that are more valuable to pickers, such as this 19th-century pram.

Another important facet of the job is knowing where to look. Antique pickers can waste a lot of time if they are simply going from pile to pile in a neighborhood, looking for valuable artifacts, though some do exactly that. Others create strategies for finding appropriate places to look without wasting time. Estate sales, for example, are great places to find antiques that may be valuable and can be purchased at a bargain price. Yard sales, too, can be a great place to look for valuable antiques. Most antique pickers will, however, end up sorting through barns, garages, junk piles, and storage units from time to time.

Antique stores may be owned by antique pickers.
Antique stores may be owned by antique pickers.

Once the picker has found some antiques, he or she will develop strong contacts within the antique world with dealers, collectors, and even professionals who may be interested in purchasing, such as photographers or film directors. The picker will come up with a fair price for an item and sell the piece to a dealer, who will in turn sell the piece to the general public. Generally, antique pickers do not sell antiques to the general public themselves.

Antique pickers have extensive networks to help them sell hard-to-find items.
Antique pickers have extensive networks to help them sell hard-to-find items.
Antique pickers may specialize in selling first edition books.
Antique pickers may specialize in selling first edition books.
Antique pickers may frequent rummage sales looking for good deals.
Antique pickers may frequent rummage sales looking for good deals.

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Discussion Comments

Scrbblchick

I once worked in a restaurant that was going for an eclectic "old timey" look, along the lines of Cracker Barrel. The owner had a few things he could hang on a wall, but not enough to make it look like an old barn. He ended up hiring an antique picker to find vintage signs and movie posters and other large items. He invested a lot of money into those collectibles, but then the restaurant folded a year later. That same antique picker came back out and bought most of those items back. He had his own store and needed things for the shelves.

Rotergirl

Sometimes I think I'd like to become an antique picker, because I really enjoy rummaging through boxes at yard sales and flea markets. But after seeing what real pickers go through on that TV show, I don't think I could handle rummaging through old dusty garages or trying to negotiate with people who are most likely hoarders, not collectors.

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