The Value of Picking

Treasure hunting, dumpster diving, antiquing, trash picking… American Pickers has come to be one of our favorite shows to watch. This History Channel show caught our attention after Klint had picked on me for my love of cruising the streets the night day before trash pickup, looking for treasures that people have simply thrown out for no good reason. My latest find had been a plum colored vanity table with an intact mirror, a beauty that only needed some refinishing and would go perfectly in a room for little girls. The girls and I love going to the thrift stores as well, looking for treasure boxes, vintage linens, and other things that appeal to our interests. But, American Pickers takes this love to a whole new level.

You have two best friends, Mike and Frank, a dumpster diving duo who adore the dirty, the rusted, and the forgotten. These guys bicker in their van while on the road, make fun of each other whilst picking in leaning barns, and make outrageous bets. We began watching the show simply to see where the guys ended up and who they met on their adventure. Then the show wrapped us up and we got hooked for the inherent values that their picking showed us. Here are some of those lessons:

“Just cause it’s old and rusty doesn’t mean it is worthless” – In today’s society too many people throw out perfectly good stuff simply to get something newer and shinier, rather than taking the time and energy to fix what they have. People are too scared of dirt, treat rusted objects like they are completely trash, and don’t look beyond the surface to see the value. Frank and Mike show us over and over again that trash actually could be treasure if you take time and patience to really look.

“Junk actually tells a story”– When people see loads of junk outside, rusted and overgrown they often think that the people are just dirty and need to throw all of it out. But, in watching the show we have learned so much about America’s history. Photos of women fencing, old amusement memorabilia from Coney Island, vintage cars and bicycles, signs, toys, labels… all of it tells a story. What materials were available, what technology we had to manufacture, what society was interested in at the time… all of it is important to our culture.

“Treat everyone with respect”– This lesson is in every episode because let’s face it, it takes a special kind of person to collect enough stuff to fill up barns, trailers, warehouses, and properties. Some of the people that Mike and Frank encounter are eccentric in appearance, once in awhile a tad scary. But the guys treat everyone with the utmost respect. They don’t talk down to them, try to trick them, or make fun of them. Even when one farmer sends the guys into a barn, fully knowing that there are animals about, and tricks the guys into thinking that the emu would hurt them… they didn’t get upset, they laughed it off actually! These are people who others have written off as weird or mentally irregular, but to the Pickers they are comrades in collecting.

“Patience pays off if you know when to hold and when to compromise”– Sometimes the collectors have a hard time letting go of their treasures, even though they want to sell. To them everything has meaning and the thought of it going away is rough. But Mike and Frank are patient and their haggling skills can’t be beat. At the same time though, they know when it is ok to work with the collector to make a sale happen. My favorite thing that they do, when the collector and the picker can’t find a common ground on the price, is to play a game to see who wins. Flipping a coin, playing Rock Paper Scissors, either way neither feels cheated. What a great way to solve an argument!!! (I think this would work great with kids as well!!)

“Generosity comes in all forms”– Today we watched an episode that touched me more than ever. The guys went to a place called Bushkill Park, a place that has seen massive flooding, Hurricane Ivan, and all kinds of disaster. It has the oldest funhouse in America and the owner called the guys to come pick so he could get some money to reopen the park. Mike found two hand-painted carnival posters that would have attracted people to the park. They weren’t in the best condition but were so cool that the guys bought both for $700. Their researcher Danielle found an appraiser in NYC who told them that the posters were in fact worth about $5,000 EACH! They ended up selling while the guys were still on the road in the area. Now, this is where the story could have ended, with making a $9,300 profit. However, the guys decided to head back to Bushkill and give half of the money to the owner of the park to help with renovations… how awesome is that?! The owner was stunned and I know that the guys felt great about the experience, they made a great profit and helped restore a piece of American history. And the best part is that this is not the first time that Mike and Frank have done something like this, they are extremely generous.

So there ya have it, one of our favorite shows and the values that we are showing the girls, all the while fueling our desire to go pick our neighbors garages and trash!! Cheers!!!

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