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Real Deal‘: A new show for real collectors … especially ones who want to make a fast buck

November 14, 2011 | Category: Auctions, Exclusive

~An AmeriCollector.com Exclusive~

487  400x300 toy howerton toys <strong>Real Deal</strong>: A new show for real collectors … especially ones who want to make a fast buck

Yard sale speculators, eBay entrepreneurs, garage sale gamblers – you read it here first: There’s a new show just for you! It’s called “Real Deal,” and it premieres on Sun., Nov. 27, at 9 p.m. Eastern Time on the History Channel (or, as they call themselves, HISTORY; can they actually trademark that?), with a bonus episode on Mon., Nov. 28, at 11 p.m. ET (after brand-new episodes of “American Pickers” and “Pawn Stars“).

Now, there are a lot of collector’s shows on cable now – “Pawn Stars,” “American Pickers,” “American Restoration,” “Storage Wars,” “Oddities” – and I’m a big fan of all of them: I must be, since I’ve seen every episode of all of them at least once. But there’s still a niche to fill: Few of us own pawnshops – or any shops at all; few of us tool around America’s back roads for a living, rifling through old barns and warehouses for days on end; few of us have the time, knowhow or money to restore old, rusty motorcycles or gas pumps or arcade games to their original condition, then sell them for a profit.

In fact, not that many of us make our bread and butter by buying and selling collectibles … but when we can, many of us DO buy and sell collectibles for extra cash – on eBay or Craigslist; at flea market or antique mall booths; or by consignment to auction houses. And this is ESPECIALLY true in this slack economy, when disposable income is meager, and a little wheeling and dealing can really help pay the bills.

“Real Deal” follows four collectibles dealers as they negotiate with sellers for flippable items, which requires not only nerves of steel but in-depth knowledge of the collectibles themselves and the current demand for them. In each case, the seller can accept the dealer’s offer, haggle or auction the item off.

For example, how much would you offer for a ’56 Lincoln Mark II that looks like it just rolled out of the factory? “Gary,” the seller, knows he’s got a hot item that could fetch to the tune of $70,000. Our “Real Deal” regular offers $30,000. Gary declines and the car goes to auction, where it realizes $45,000. Gary considers himself a winner, having shrewdly turned down the 30 grand.

(Of course, ordinarily a consignor would have to transport the item to the auction location at his own expense, wait for the auction to take place, hope the bidders are biting that day, deduct from the hammer price a 15 to 20 percent consignor’s premium for the auction house, deduct a listing charge if a catalog was issued, then wait six weeks for a check to come in the mail. And the item could go unsold for lack of interest or because it did not reach the reserve price, or it could sell for a lot less than the consignor expected. I’m just saying: Auctions are not only a crapshoot, there are various charges involved.)

“Whether it’s a collection of footballs signed by NFL legends or an autograph by Harry Houdini, a World War II German Storm Trooper dagger or a 19th-century spittoon, everything that comes into the auction reveals something about an earlier time and the way people lived in the past,” reads the “Real Deal” press release. “But an article that’s rich with history doesn’t necessarily make its owner rich. One seller thinks he can get $580 for a 1904 home electrotherapy machine. The dealer offers $240. No deal, decides the seller, and heads to the auction house, where he gets only $225 for it.”

And you thought “Let’s Make a Deal” was high suspense!

Seriously, if you fancy yourself a junkyard Indiana Jones, as I do, “Real Deal” comes closer to real life than other the collector’s TV series: It’s like “The Art of the Deal” meets “Antiques Roadshow” (or even “High Stakes Poker” with the Keno brothers).

But tension, conflict and plot twists are not enough: All good programming needs charismatic characters, and “Real Deal” would seem to have them. These include champion auctioneer Bryan Knox of Birmingham, Ala., and the four competing dealers: two pawnbrokers, Glen Parshall (of Bargain Pawn in Las Vegas) and Chip Plemmons (of Carolina Pawn and Gun in Canton, N.C.); antiques dealer Jason McCoon, owner of Tory Hill Auction Company in Raleigh, N.C.); and Troy Howerton (aka “The Redneck Picker”) of San Diego, an enterprising Everyman who works out of his own home but has truck/will travel to make a gainful transaction.

Troy is, in fact, a fellow many of us can immediately relate to – one who has taken some hard knocks but keeps getting up. “I’m just a regular guy who lost his job due to the economy,” he told me. “While I have always had the picker mentality, I knew I was out there on my own. It was time to pave my own way again. My true passion as a young man was to be a coach. However, that opportunity did not come to fruition.

“I have a background heavy in sales and management,” he explained. “I was also a small business owner. I have failed my way to success in today’s crappy economy. I made a conscious decision that if I made this business work for myself, I would help others in the same situation. I have helped countless people learn how to make extra money and have a better life. I wake up every day with a good attitude and am grateful for a roof over my head! I always am thinking that someone else has it worse than me. Self-motivation and a strong sense of urgency are what keep me going. I have a family to support and bills to pay like everyone else. I am making the switch from full time picker to author and teacher in the reselling business.”

Honestly, can anyone NOT like a dude with an attitude like this? He’s even written a book that will be released right after “Real Deal” hits the airwaves.

I couldn’t help asking Troy some specific questions about himself and picking as a livelihood. Here’s what he told me …

AmeriCollector: How did you get interested in picking, and how long have you been doing it?

Troy: I first got interested in this business when I was 15. I used to go with my grandfather to auctions. I first took collectible picking seriously in 2001. I lived in the Midwest and collectibles were easy to find. Here in California, they are hard to come by!

AC: What are your favorite “picking grounds”?

Troy: I really like the swap meets and auctions. Although I have found great collectible items at yard sales too! I have a great network of fellow collectors. My phone rings every day from someone who wants to buy sell or trade.

AC: Do you specialize in anything when you pick? Are there any kinds of collectibles that you stay away from, and if so, why? (For example, Rick Harrison on “Pawn Stars” won’t trade in Nazi memorabilia, and Dave Hester on “Storage Wars” won’t sell weapons in his store.)

Troy: I really don’t specialize in anything particular. It’s about two things: profit and finding a home for your find. You have to keep in mind, I’m not picking for ME, I’m picking for somebody else. About the only thing I stay away from is art: It has a smaller niche market, and it’s something that does not really interest me. Now trench art or “steampunk” – different story!

AC: Do you collect anything yourself?

Troy: Not as much as I used to. At one time I had a very large pedal car collection. That bug bit me real bad in the early 2000s. I had over 30 cars at one time. I also had one of the largest Zippo lighter collections in my area. They were both very expensive habits! Now I stick to old license plates, porcelain signs, college football memorabilia and old tin toys.

AC: Do you find it hard to sell some great items that you pick?

Troy: Very rarely. I think I have a good enough eye to sell most everything I find whenever I put forth the effort. I always keep in mind my profit level. Sometimes you may have to wait a little while to find the right buyer. It also is economy of scale: Some folks would buy it in a heartbeat is it were less expensive!

AC: Do you ever restore anything that you pick before selling it?

Troy: Sometimes. I usually will sell things as they are. I leave the restoration process to the professionals like Rick Dale of “American Restoration.”

AC: What are some of the really great picks that you’ve made, both in terms of the rarity of the items and the money you made?

Troy: Several come to mind. Probably my favorite, most fun and one of the most profitable was a box of vintage toys, Major Matt Mason action figures from the 1960s. I bought the whole box for $15. It had an old Zeroid robot toy in there as well. I pulled in over $1,500 for the whole lot.

Another would probably be the old Gamewell telegraph register. I picked it out at an auction and bought it on a hunch: paid five bucks and sold it for $200! Funny, as the same week I bought this, there was an episode of “American Pickers” and Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz found a similar one. Probably the one and only time I knew about something that they didn’t!

AC: What do you consider a reasonable profit margin that you hope to get when you make an offer on an item?

Troy: I think a reasonable profit margin is at least 300 percent, or tripling your money. That is fine for most people, but I like the sweet spot of making five to 10 times my money. Those items are out there, you just have to know what to look for. That comes with a continuing education!

AC: How do you usually sell what you find?

Troy: AS FAST AS I CAN! (Laughs.) I sell about 25 percent online, 25 percent at auctions – such as Don Presley Auctions in Orange, Calif. – or at swap meets and 50 percent within my picker network.

AC: I think a lot of folks fantasize about becoming pickers. Is it a tough way to make a living?

488  340x260 troy <strong>Real Deal</strong>: A new show for real collectors … especially ones who want to make a fast buck

Troy: This is NOT an easy business! You have to be self-motivated and have your working capital invested at all times. You must always be educating yourself as well.

I don’t know what jobs out there that can provide the flexibility and freedom that this industry can, but if you are not self-motivated, you are sure to fail – not just at this business but at anything you do in life. Also, I don’t know where you can invest your money by making a disciplined buying decision and get the returns on your money like you can in this business. When I am working this business to its fullest capacity, there are days I will make $20 to $100 per hour – but there are other days you don’t make a dime!

AC: Do you think TV shows like “Real Deal” and “American Pickers” will raise the public’s awareness of picking?

Troy: Absolutely! It’s not only profitable, but it’s FUN! You meet some great people along the way too!

AC: How did you get a book deal? And what’s the book about: Is it strictly a bio or a how-to? And when will it be available?

Troy: I had the idea to write a book about nine months ago. I actually wrote the first draft and didn’t like it. I shredded it and started over!

I figured it would be a great medium for folks who wanted to learn how to get into this business and earn some extra money. My main goal was just to help others who needed to earn some extra money working from home. The book is part self-realization, motivation, tips and tricks, but most importantly how to find the stuff, use problem-solving techniques with the power of cash, negotiate and make disciplined buying decisions with a twist of my scientific techniques.

The book will be available on my website on Sat., Nov. 26, the day after the premiere of “Real Deal” on the History Channel.

AC: Speaking of which: How did you get on “Real Deal”?

Troy: I started a YouTube channel in October 2010. I was contacted by Mike Toole from Mike Toole Casting via my Facebook page. I thought it was a JOKE. I was just sharing my finds and giving some advice, and all of the sudden I was inundated by production companies! I was very flattered and excited to be “picked” out of a lot of other people they were looking at. I went to the offices of Zodiak Media Group and auditioned. I actually had to try out two more times after that.

I was chosen to be on the show with auctioneer Bryan Knox three other fine gentlemen: Chip Plemmons, Glen Parshall and Jason McCoon.

AC: Did you know the other cast members before going on the show? How do you get along? Are there rivalries, as between Dave Hester and Darrell Sheets on “Storage Wars” – or do you all work independently?

Troy: No, I did not. We all get along fabulously. We are just a bunch of regular guys that buy and sell for a living. We all come from different geographical areas and are all different in a lot of ways, but we are all cut from the same cloth!

No rivalries, but I think we all try equally as hard to make each other laugh as much as possible. We all work independently of each other. The other guys are in the pawn or auction business.

AC: How does “Real Deal” differ from, say, “Storage Wars”? Do you pick only collectibles, or do you also go after usable goods that you can make a profit on?

Troy: When you compare the shows they are very SIMILAR for a few reasons: (1) You have very little time to make a wise decision on what you see. (2) You have no time to research! (3) You better be damn sure you know what the value is before you make an offer and, more importantly, what costs are associated with HOW you are going to sell it! A lot of variables in a very short period of time! Sometimes you have to “play” the seller and not the item. Kinda like poker!

There is a GIGANTIC difference when you are picking. Let’s take a storage unit auction, for instance. You can only bid on what you see and have to take it all no matter what the price. When you are picking, you can make a more disciplined buying decision because you have a couple of great advantages: opportunity for research, TIME and the opportunity to use your problem-solving skills.

Finding a good “true” pick (like you would see on “American Pickers”) is not that easy. Finding a good pick can take days or weeks! It takes time to build a network of people to get that “pick referral.” Yes, you can wander aimlessly up and down country roads, but that is time-consuming and often you wind up coming home empty-handed with a big fuel bill! Finding storage units are really simple these days. I just go to StorageTreasures.com and can find one in my area in minutes!

Don’t forget that part of being a modern-day picker is NOT all about collectibles. Think about everyday commodities! With the tight economy we live in today, everyone wants to save some money. A truly good picker can buy and resell things like appliances, furniture, electronics, exercise equipment and more! I talk in great depth in my upcoming book about how to find and resell industrial items like restaurant equipment and other commercial products. So you don’t have to be an expert in antiques to be considered a picker!

AC: Why do you think reality shows like “Pawn Stars,” “American Pickers” and, we hope, “Real Deal” are so popular?

Troy: My humble opinion is this: It’s all about the “deal”: Was it good or bad? I think the fans like to “play along” at home … They ask: What is it really worth? Did the seller take less than he or she wanted? Was it a good decision? It’s the tension of the negotiation! Or: That guy only offered him that much? Cheap bastard!

AC: Are there any especially dramatic incidents that we should watch for on the 10 pilot episodes?

Troy: Oh, there are plenty! You will just have to tune in to “Real Deal” on the History Channel, airing Sun., Nov. 27, at 9 p.m. ET (with a bonus episode on Mon., Nov. 28, at 11 p.m. ET), after the new episodes of “American Pickers” and “Pawn Stars.”

Keep visiting AmeriCollector for more about Troy Howerton and “Real Deal.” Learn more about the show on the History Channel Web site: www.history.com/shows.

Images courtesy History
History logo <strong>Real Deal</strong>: A new show for real collectors … especially ones who want to make a fast buck
Commercial for Real Deal

Other links:

Troy Howerton
theredneckpicker.com
facebook.com/redneckpicker

Chip Plemmons
carolinapawnandgun.com

Jason McCoon
toryhillauctions.com

Glen Parshall
pawnplace.com

Bryan Knox
bckauctions.com

Don Presley Auctions
donpresleyauctions.com

Storage Treasures
storagetreasures.com

 

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Restore MORE! Will ‘American Restoration’ launch a junkyard renaissance?

May 2, 2011 | Category: Restoration

American Restoration Rick Dale1 300x225 <strong>Restore MORE! </strong>Will American Restoration launch a junkyard renaissance?

Rick Dale | American Restoration

So far, I’ve seen about 10 episodes of “American Restoration” (including the original pilot), which premiered on the History Channel last month (see “Restoration angels” on April 15), and I can’t get enough of them, for four reasons:

• The focus is on the work more than on personalities.
• The restoration process is really cool.
• The items that are restored have broad appeal.
• The possibilities are ENDLESS …

That last one is the biggie. How many times have you seen an old, rusted gas pump in front of an abandoned service station, or gone to a garage and spotted a dinged-up kid’s pedal car that was missing its wheels and most of its paint – or uncovered a flea market Frigidaire, circa 1940, that looked and smelled like it was used to store bait – and thought, “If this thing were in really great condition, it would be the coolest thing to have in my den”?

Maybe it’s the fact that so many manufactured goods these days, no matter how high-tech, seem cheap and shoddy compared to what they used to make. (Remember when cars actually had more metal than plastic on and in them?) Or maybe the depressed economy has given us a better appreciation of the virtue of thrift and the salvaging of disused items. Or maybe we just love retro and get off on the fact that we can have some really wonderful stuff if we are willing to invest in it …

Even my wife – who collects NOTHING and doesn’t “get” why other people do – enjoyed “American Restoration”: She loves the idea of taking something old and crappy and making it new again, especially if it is an object of sentimental value, like your dad’s old Radio Flyer.

I’m certain that more and more people are going to seek professional restoration services as a result of “American Restoration.” The show will surely jump-start all kinds of businesses and possibly whole academic programs at colleges and vocational schools around the country. After all, people have been restoring collector cars, antique commercial and military vehicles, vintage fire engines, old steam locomotives and rolling stock – not to mention fine furniture – for years … Why not long-abandoned machinery, kitchen appliances, commercial and recreational equipment and all the other artifacts of our culture that bring back memories?

For now, though, I’m glad that “American Restoration” seems to have gotten off to a great start – and even features visits from some of the “Pawn Stars” guys (sort of like Fonzie and Richie Cunningham showing up on “Laverne & Shirley” … well, sort of).

I’m looking forward to many more episodes …

Images courtesy of History Channel Press.

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Restoration angels: The History Channel’s ‘American Restoration’ premieres April 15

April 15, 2011 | Category: Exclusive, History, Restoration

~ An AmeriCollector.com Exclusive ~

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380  400x300 american restoration crew <strong>Restoration angels:</strong> The History Channel’s ‘American Restoration’ premieres April 15 April 15: a date that always reminds me of death, taxes, and collecting … and whether money owed to the IRS will put a crimp in the latter, at least in the short term.

Sometimes I find myself lying awake at 3 a.m., wondering about this collecting impulse in general and the next hot item I’ll be sniping on eBay in particular. Is it just me, getting weirder in my own head like Ted Kaczynski in his shack in the Montana woods?

When you get down to it, collecting is a solitary journey. Sure, you can go to lots of shows and auctions and events; join clubs and chat rooms and make friends; trade information and items; but at the end of the day, it’s everyone doing their own thing within the framework of their individual lives.

Certainly, collecting is an important part of my life. Sometimes I have to restrain myself, but for the most part I collect systematically, reasonably and within my budget; it does not threaten my marriage; I do not receive hate mail from creditors; my little ones do not whimper from hunger in the wee hours because I blew my paycheck in an online auction.

Still, I can’t help wondering sometimes: Am I nuts?

Then I consider the popularity of “Antiques Roadshow” and note the newest collector “reality” shows – many of them spin-offs or rip-offs of “Pawn Stars” – and realize: I may be crazy, but I am not alone. There’s “American Pickers,” “Oddities,” “Storage Wars,” Auction Kings, “Auction Queens,” “Hardcore Pawn,” “Mounted in Alaska” … Some of these are bound to fizzle out, but “Antiques Roadshow” is an enduring classic, and I’m pretty sure “Pawn Stars,” a personal favorite, is here to stay as long as Rick Harrison and Company care to keep it going.

What’s next, then: a show about a pawnshop on the Jersey Shore run by “guidos” with a special interest in taxidermy?

Nope: It’s a return to basics, the logical next step after “Pawn Stars,” a show I never miss (see “Hardcore history: 6 Reasons I love ‘Pawn Stars’” in the Feb. 23 AmeriCollector). It’s called “American Restoration” (www.history.com/shows/american-restoration) and features the crew of Rick’s Restorations (www.ricksrestorations.com), a Las Vegas business headed by owner Rick Dale, one of the guys who the “Pawn Stars” folks routinely bring in to restore stuff for the shop. In that context, it means fixing up a damaged item to make it salable at a realistic price that will make the pawnshop a decent profit.

For me, this is one of the highlights of “Pawn Stars. That’s because, sooner or later, any serious collector of anything of real rarity and value or importance has to agonize over whether or not to purchase something with condition issues and have it restored (another thing I think about during bouts of insomnia). Do you pass on a one-of-a-kind item because it needs some TLC by a professional? Does the cost of repairs outweigh the rush of getting a treasure at a bargain-basement price? Is restoring the item at all going to compromise its integrity?

Rick’s Restorations specializes in “classic restoration,” which they define as “returning the classic object to its original state when it was new.” They point out the difference between “restoring” and “customizing”: “Customizing is to add or modify something that doesn’t make the object original anymore. To do a classic restoration, you must make sure that all of the parts being replaced are specific to the object you are restoring.”

I asked Rick some questions about his work. I expected some great answers, and I wasn’t disappointed …

383  400x320 rick dale <strong>Restoration angels:</strong> The History Channel’s ‘American Restoration’ premieres April 15 AmeriCollector: Looking at your Web site, most stuff you routinely restore seems to be made partly or completely of metal, with or without moving parts, but not electronic: i.e., pre-1960 machines, appliances, non-wood or upholstered furniture, and toys. Is that accurate?

Rick: We restore everything that is made from metal, plastics, wood, upholstery, aluminum, fiberglass, composite, etc. We are up for any challenge! If it’s old we can restore it!

AC: How long have you been doing restoration work, and how did you get started?

Rick: I have been doing restoration since I was nine years old and I’m now 52. Ricks Restorations has been in business since 1982.

AC: What do you enjoy about restoring vintage items?

Rick: I enjoy the complexity of each piece: It feels like I was born in a different era. The smiles the customer gives me when he or she see the item when finished is pure joy and satisfaction in itself – and I make a living doing it! We are restoring history and memories all at the same time.

AC: You guys are obviously sticklers for historical accuracy: How do you get the colors and other details right when you restore items to as close to their original condition as possible?

Rick: When we tear down a project, there is always a clue in it that lets you know. If not, then the research begins on the Internet.

AC: How far do you go to fashion a part if you can’t find a usable original?

Rick: Most parts are available online somewhere or we buy a complete exact piece to replace parts. Last resort is to fabricate a part exactly.

AC: What kind of items do you especially enjoy working on?

Rick: I love restoring different mechanical items. The more complicated, the better! There is no challenge we can’t take on.

AC: What items pose the biggest challenge to you?

Rick: The biggest challenge is not breaking the item in the tear-down phase and making sure you don’t lose any parts. There is no instruction manual so reassembly can be difficult at times.

AC: What are some of the most interesting things you have restored?

Rick: The most interesting pieces we have done to date:

a 1920s railroad train vacuum that has a mix of electrical motors and mechanics

• a 1940s coffee vending machine. There are more moving parts in this than a Swiss watch and it came from the first hotel built on the Vegas strip. You have got to see these episodes!

AC: On “Antiques Roadshow,” the Keno brothers always tell people not to restore old wooden furniture – that collectors like the “used” look – but a well-used Chippendale cabinet looks a lot better in your home than a rusted Coca-Cola vending machine. All the same, do you ever recommend NOT restoring something?

Rick: Sometimes . . . but it is truly up to the customer. We are restoring their memory. It’s not always about the money!

AC: I think I saw a “Pawn Stars” segment when you restored a soda vending machine to be used as a simple refrigerator, rather than a working dispenser. Do you often restore items to be used for somewhat different purposes than they were originally made?

Rick: Re-manufacturing something is always fun and challenging. You work with what you have because everyone has a different picture of what they want. It’s their happiness I want to provide.

AC: What do you yourself collect?

Rick: I collect nothing. With tens of thousands of pieces restored, I would need a city block to keep it all. After all, it’s a business!

“American Restoration” premieres Friday, April 15, on the History Channel: Check your local listings … and let us know what you think!

Images and video courtesy of History Channel Press.

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Hardcore history: 6 reasons I love ‘Pawn Stars’

February 23, 2011 | Category: History, What experts collect

377  400x320 pawn stars <strong>Hardcore history:</strong> 6 reasons I love ‘Pawn Stars 1. They’re current – and they’re hip. Like “Antiques Roadshow,” the hit History Channel show “Pawn Stars” appeals to the collector – as well as the profiteer – in all of us, because they both attempt to answer the most enduring philosophical question in human history: “How much?” One notable difference, though, is that PBS generally doesn’t have to bleep out anything from “Antiques Roadshow.” Another is that the “Roadshow” is a local event wherever it goes, attracting A LOT of people with lots of things to choose from, virtually all of them, well, ANTIQUES, as the show’s name indicates (although they do have some recent pop-cultural items). “Pawn Stars” often gets into newer stuff that is not antique per se but is nonetheless collectible: Super Bowl championship rings, video games, collectible athletic shoes, “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” items, etc. In short, the collector’s next frontier …

2. They feature interesting stuff with broad appeal – but it’s still a “guy” show. Loyal watchers of “Antiques Roadshow” know the drill: Each hour-long program features one or two pieces of furniture, a painting, a couple of ceramic or glass pieces (often Asian), a sports item or firearm, some jewelry, a toy or doll and something distinctly American, like an NRA or War Bonds poster, plus odd item that may not fit into any category. Personally, I’m not fascinated by jewelry, dolls or ceramics – but that’s just me. The “Pawn Stars” guys tend to focus on the stuff that I personally find more exciting, even if I don’t collect it: antique weapons and militaria, motorcycles, pinball and slot machines, old lunch boxes …

There are good reasons for this, of course: Part of it is the personality of the “Pawn Stars” folks, Rick Harrison, “Old Man” (Richard Harrison, Rick’s dad) and Big Hoss (Rick’s son Corey). These guys run Gold & Silver Pawn Shop (also called Gold & Silver Coin Shop, www.GSPawn.com), a working 24-hour pawnshop in Las Vegas, with comic relief from Chumlee (Austin Russell, Big Hoss’ boyhood buddy).The Harrisons have a much better chance of selling a Kentucky long rifle than a stack of old issues of Vanity Fair or Playgirl. And while I don’t know the demographics, I suspect the viewership of “Pawn Stars” is mostly male as well.

378  400x320 pawn stars chumlee sword <strong>Hardcore history:</strong> 6 reasons I love ‘Pawn Stars It also comes down to numbers. The “Roadshow” has a huge pool of folks bringing in their treasures and trash, in cities around the country, and an army of appraisers to pick out the more interesting stuff – and they aren’t shelling out their own money to buy any of it. “Pawn Stars” is set in a working pawnshop in Las Vegas: They have a much smaller staff; they feature only items that they have an interest in selling in the store; and you better believe an item has to tickle their interest or be an easy sell for them to make an offer.

That’s the business of collecting right there – the buying, the selling, the haggling – and that’s something that “Antiques Roadshow,” by its very G-rated non-commercial nature, can’t match.

3. They show the importance of doing your homework. “Antiques Roadshow” appraisers are experts in their fields: They know what things sell for and, if unsure about an item, they research it online or consult their colleagues before their segments are filmed and they give a price range. On the other hand, again, they are not there to buy what people bring in (although I don’t doubt that some people contact them after the show), and therefore they’re not supposed to be have an interest in the sale or purchase of what they appraise.

The “Pawn Stars” people do. Therefore, it’s not only prudent for them to call in experts to describe and appraise the higher-end stuff – especially things that require restoration – but it provides a little drama, a little education, some basis for negotiation. That makes for great TV. It is also a constant reminder to collectors and sellers alike that it pays to know your, well, stuff before you make an offer or accept one. DO YOUR RESEARCH!

4. They’re pretty up-front about how much an item is worth. When the “Pawn Stars” guys know something about an item, they can be pretty firm in their bargaining, especially if the item in question is not that unusual, not that expensive and/or not in great condition. That’s understandable: As the guys explain, they need to make a reasonable profit; display space is limited and they don’t want the thing sitting around; and if it needs some kind of restoration, well, that’s got to be figured in. However, sometimes they do go out on a limb a little and throw out an offer on something they aren’t sure about, either on a hunch or an impulse. God knows, I do …

(On occasion, Big Hoss has risked a bundle on, say, a Chris-Craft runabout in need of major restoration, but it usually worked out in the end, and he gets a lot shrewder with every new season of the show.)

When the guys DON’T know the value of a potentially rare, high-end or counterfeit item, they call in an expert – and this is what makes “Pawn Stars” great TV. Everything is laid on the table, once an expert prices a piece; it’s just a matter of whether Rick and company want to buy it, and if they can make a deal. That’s when Rick invariably has to explain to at least one dummy on every show that he can’t purchase an item at the retail price and sell it for a profit.

379  400x320 pawn stars guys <strong>Hardcore history:</strong> 6 reasons I love ‘Pawn Stars

I’ve noticed that Rick generally offers somewhere between 50 and 70 percent for stuff that he wants, with the higher percentage for really cool stuff that he takes a fancy to and feels he can sell easily. Most collectibles dealers won’t settle for that percentage, let alone tell you what they expect to sell an item for: As I have said more than once in this column, even so-called respectable dealers will screw an unwitting seller to the wall in a New York nanosecond if they can, paying only a small fraction of what they will resell the item for. So I can’t help but laugh when some guy brings in an old flintlock pistol, for example, and wants $500 for it, and Rick brings in an expert who says it’s really worth $2,000, then the seller gets miffed when Rick won’t offer more than $1,200 for the gun. Talk about chutzpah!

5. The show features restoration as part of collecting. The collector’s mantra: “Condition, condition, condition!” It’s ideal to get an item in perfect or near-perfect shape; in fact, the trick is to get stuff in as close to its original, mint-new state as possible.

Unfortunately, life rarely shakes out that way. Sometimes unique or hard-to-get pieces need some professional TLC to transform them from flea-market trash or junkyard rats’ nests to highly prized collectibles, and the “Pawn Stars” guys are quick to get master restorers in on the act. In fact, one of the best “Pawn Stars” spin-offs or imitations that I’ve seen is “American Restoration,” which features one of the guys who restores the “Pawn Stars” purchases. To me, this is one of the best things about the show: seeing a rusty old clunker transformed into a Big Daddy Roth dream machine, with flaring chrome exhaust pipes and liquid-fire detailing. For these guys, restoration is a labor of love – and the results are spectacular!

6. They love history! OK, a visit (real or virtual) to a Vegas pawnshop may not be the same as a pilgrimage to the Smithsonian or the British Museum, but I’m one of the few people I know who has been to both (as well as CBGB), and I barely got past the front door in any of those places. In fact, all I can remember of the British Museum was some Egyptian statuary and the Reading Room, where Marx (Karl, not Groucho) wrote “Das Kapital.” (I also remember the open sewer that was the pissoir at CBGB – and even less about the Smithsonian.) In the case of the two museums, that is a lifelong regret: I just didn’t have the TIME to see more – another reason to be thankful for the Internet: A virtual tour is the next best thing to visiting a lot of places in person …

But I digress. My point is that “Pawn Stars” absolutely screams history, even if it’s pop cultural history. And if you manage to retain a stray fact or two from the segment on the colonial lottery ticket signed by George Washington, or the recent one about the metallurgy book owned by Isaac Newton, that’s worth more than all those hours in a junior high school history classroom from which you took away zilch.

The Harrisons LOVE history: These guys have a certain amount of charisma, but they are not actors; yet, you can see enthusiasm pouring off them – even the normally saturnine Old Man – whenever they talk about an item’s place in history and its possible importance. They may not offer much for the piece, but that fascination with the past – priceless!

.

History Channel: Wheels of Fortune

Images and video courtesy of History Channel Press.

Are you interested in being on Pawn Stars to sell or pawn something cool?  Contact History Channel for details.

Coming soon! 6 ideas for improving Pawn Stars

 

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