Antique Secrets: GOLD!

I found gold today. Ever since I have been picking for antiques and collectibles. I have found gold teeth 4 times! Today, it was in a prescription bottle. Nine grams of dental gold. I had gathered together a couple of books on geology, two old slide rules, a pocket knife, and some hardware, and this old prescription bottle. I laid it on the “cashier table” at the estate sale. The man said, “hmmm, how about five dollars?” Sure… OK. When I weighed it out and figured that gold today was over $1600 per troy oz, and nine grams is about .28 troy oz, and the gold value estimate of dental gold could be 75%, it comes out to $344.

I let the seller set the price. I did not hide the items. They were all there to be seen. But, I ask you, was this dishonest or unethical? I’d like some comments from some of you.

Years ago, I bought a large and important collection of minerals and crystals from someone. I was able to obtain some wonderful rare pieces. I was able to get the library, and some other antiques and things. In the collection was a pretty valuable “Thatcher’s Rule” which is like a big cylindrical slide rule. I bought it for $100. I sold it for $600. I went back and gave the person I got it from another $200 after I received my payment. The guy I sold it to sold it for $1500. Was anyone in the wrong here? Does ethics have any business at all in the picking business?

I would love some discussion to add to our posts here. Even the famous “American Pickers” on TV have some controversy online about their escapades.

Does it have to be gold? is that too blatant of a find? What if you find cash in an old book? What if you find any kind of item, that you know is impossibly rare, but it is so obscure and esoteric, and the chances are you are the only one in a hundred square miles knows anything about it. If you buy it cheap, are you taking advantage, or just a smart business person? After all, you “paid” for your knowledge. Is that any different than a doctor knowing more about how to cut into you. He is adding value to the situation because of his education.

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Price Sticker Ideas for Antique Pickers for Dealers Cases and Displays

Some pickers have items for sale in display cases in antique malls. This is a profitable way to sell your items. One of the main problems I have seen is when you are moving through a store, and see a locked case, and you find one or more items you may have interest in. But, you can’t see the price! Dealers need to put a very visible price on every item in the case! As a collector, and a picker, I usually just keep moving, never to return, because it is just too big of a pain to ring for the shopkeeper to bring a key. Then they stand there watching you look at one or many items. I hate it when you can tell there is a price sticker ON THE BOTTOM of the piece, but you can’t see it. Books are usually the biggest problem, as the seller prices it in pencil on the inside front cover. Books should have a bookmark type if tag, plainly marked with the price out the top. Everything should have a visible price on it. In a large mall especially, people zoom through the store, glancing only, scanning the case. Here’s the secret: You usually have one or two seconds, to tell them about everything you are selling! These malls are frequented by antique pickers and book scouts too, all moving fast when they are there.

Another of our secrets, and a very nice touch, and a way to add value to your items, and a WAY TO KEEP CUSTOMERS IN FRONT OF YOUR CASE, is to print a small card. Include historical information, descriptions, dates, etc on the card, with an obvious price on the card. If you need to reduce the price, don’t show it on sale with a cheaper marked down price. This is a way of telling the customer, “Something is wrong with the item, and I just found out about it, so now it’s cheaper.” Always print a new label.

I went to an estate sale put on by a savvy dealer. He did something I have never seen before or by anyone else. He attaches a piece of blue painter’s tape on each item, and puts his white price sticker on the blue tape. First of all, every item is plainly marked, and your eyes readily find the well marked price. He personally is an antique picker, dealer and collector himself, and knows how important it is to protect the item, with the painter’s tape. It is easy to remove, and will not mark or deface the finish, or cover, etc.

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The Picking Books Antique Dealers Don’t Want You to Know About

When I wrote my first edition of: Antique Secrets How the Pickers Find Treasure in Another Man’s Trash (ISBN 0-87341-722-4). I went to a local large antique mall store, and showed it to the owner. I asked if they could sell some copies there. She looked through the book and started to get a little belligerent with me! She said “I do not want any of my people or customers even knowing about this stuff!” I asked her if she wanted a copy, and she was too mad, and walked away. The book has been reprinted by the publisher as Picker’s Bible: How To Pick Antiques Like the Pros ISBN 978-1-4402-3039-4

I thought maybe I might take a copy back in there and show her… Nah!

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Antique secrets: Your Shopping List

Create an antique picker’s shopping list.

Here’s one of our favorite secrets: Write down your goals! Make a list of all the things you hope you will find as you are out picking. Once you have wants that are written, something magical happens in your subconscious. Your eyes and ears are programmed and piqued.

For example, I needed a box stapler, to assemble boxes for shipping products on ebay. The stapler is one of those big units with handles that you crunch a large copper colored staple to fasten heavy cardboard. I tried a few fastener places, and asked if they had a used one, because I was not about to pay $200 for a new one. I put it on my “shopping list” I was out and about one day, and actually had a load of stuff I was shipping UPS (The reason I needed a stapler!). I saw a pawn shop. I usually do not go int pawn shops regularly. I do enjoy the show: “Pawn Stars” however! In the back of my mind, I thought, “they usually¬†carry all sorts of tools” Let’s see what they might have. I walked in and because I had it on my list, and knew exactly what it looked like, within five minutes, I found my box stapler! It was $59.00. When talking about the stapler to the pawn shop owner, he said it was the only one he had ever seen. He said if I wanted it, I could have it for $10.00! “Oh, OK, sure!”

Five Minutes, $10.00, better than what I wanted. Put ANYTHING you want on your written shopping list!

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Please comment on our blog. If you comment, the blog will be better. Someone else will comment too. We will hear about some amazing picks, and tips and hopefully secrets that will help us. The more stories the better for everyone.

I am sure that any who may be reading this will all be in various locations anyway. It’s not as if you are hurting your chances by diluting your own area.

PLEASE leave your stories, tips and secrets of the trade. It will help everyone. Photos, and videos are welcome.

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Hello Future Millionaires!

A few years ago, way before American Pickers, before Pawn Stars, and even before Antiques Roadshow, I saw a special on TV about millionaires. There seemed to be a common thread among many of the millionaires they interviewed. They were millionaires, not because they were lucky. They worked hard, and they were FRUGAL and THRIFTY! Before they were millionaires, they lived like they were rich, because they had stuff like the rich, but did not pay a rich man’s price for it. They would buy second-hand. They would buy items on sale. They looked for closeouts, and had great stuff they paid very little for. When you are living in the world of pickers, you are a millionaire in embryo. You find valuable items you pay very little for. Pickers enjoy finding things to resell and pickers find great deals on things they use, have, keep, and consume. WARNING! It will sort of change you and ruin you and destroy you in a way. You will discover that you will have a very difficult time paying retail or list price for anything, ever again. I actually get kind of nauseous thinking I need to go to a regular store and buy anything that is especially expensive. I usually always shop three or four places, like I am some sort of purchasing agent, looking for the rock bottom price on something.

Back to our millionaire comparison. If you want to be a millionaire all you need to do is spend $500,000 on items, at half price. Or, only $250,000 on items that are 75% off. Or, a hundred grand on “ten cents on the dollar” products.

Picking for a profit is just the half of it. Picking for items for yourself and your family at a deep discount can be much better than asking for, and getting a raise at work. You will improve your lifestyle, and lift your standard of living. You can stretch and increase the value of your dollars. So much of the news is loaded with the decreasing value of the dollar. Here is a way to reverse that. Buying for pennies on the dollar, is better than Wall Street!

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Antique and Collectibles Price Guides

When I started this “business” I really got excited about so called price guides. I thought that they were like manufacturers cost books. Not hardly. The first reason a price guide is written, is for the author to establish they are some sort of expert. The prices for the most part are only a guess. The real value of an item is what you can sell it for. Price guides can be useful for learning about various topics of collectibles. The photos are important. If the author has described the items, and listed correct model numbers or names of items it is invaluable. If the writer goes further, and lists the variations, and tips, and warnings, then they are in fact experts, and the reference is important. Pricing changes and fluctuates often. Ebay and other online venues have been a major engine of change for all antiques and collectibles. Amazon, and other bookselling sites have rocked the bookstore business irreversibly. Even if you look at past auctions on ebay, you only get a very recent window of pricing history. There are tools such as Terrapeak and others, that can give you longer history information, but there is a price for this information.

What I like to do, is keep a collectibles journal. It’s nothing more than a small address booklet with letter tabs. I save a favorite search on many of the items I either wish to buy, or want history on. As an item comes up on auction, and I am notified, I “watch” the item. The closing bid amount is in my “watched items” list in My Ebay, and is kept there for as long as I wish. Once in a while, I will transfer the closing bid prices on these favorite searches, into my index, by brand and part number, etc. As more items come up for bid, I keep the journal going, until I have a REAL PRICE GUIDE. this is now a pocket sized spotter’s list for when I go picking for things. I am now the expert.

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Craigslist! the Online Picker’s Money Maker $$$$$

Recently I bought a $750 Glass Fusing Kiln from a Craigslist ad. He was in Montana, I was in Utah. We both drove half-way and met in Idaho Falls, Idaho. I had already talked him down from $1000, so I figured I paid for my gas, He hadn’t sold it as soon as he hoped, and was willing to pay his own gas to get my cash.

Craigslist sells $Millions of product constantly. If you are a Power Seller on ebay, like I am, You will still do well to sell on Craigslist. You save commissions, and listing fees. You can ask for and receive cash, and save PayPal fees. You can sell Large items, that are difficult to package and ship.

You can also buy and sell and resell hidden treasures if you look often and know your products. Someone has even produced an ebook on how to do it. Let us know what you think about it!
Click Here!

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Storage Wars and Other Storage Unit Auctions

I have bought many items directly from the tenants who have had storage units. I have even sold from a storage unit in the past. The TV shows showing the glamor of the Storage Auctions, are (I’ve heard) all scripted. Still, many people watch, and dream about finding the dream pick from an auction like this one day. I know there are better ways to do it, than I have done before. If anyone has any good tips, I’d like to hear from you.

I am also planning on researching more myself like I have found on these information resources I list below. Many of these and other ebooks have a wealth of information. Let me know what you think:

Click Here!


Click Here!




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Listening… Between the Lines

You really need to listen. One time at a place I worked, I overheard a fellow employee talking to someone about his parents moving. He even said they were selling some stuff. It must have registered in my mind a few days later, and I asked him, “Dave, are your parents still moving?” He said, “No, they are gone” I asked what thy did with all of their old stuff. He said much went to secondhand donations, some was sold, etc. We talked about what they had, Vintage tube audio equipment, Klipsch Speakers, turntables, and other (valuable) collectibles. I missed out by not really listening. This was a “lead”. You need to follow-up on leads!

Another time at this place I worked, I just happened to be talking to a fellow employee about my collecting of radios, when the stock boy walked by and heard some of the conversation. He said, “If you like old radio stuff, I’ll bring in something for you”. He brought in an old Vibroplex “bug” telegraph key his grandfather used while working on the railroad. He sold it to me for $20. He quit a month later, and died within that same year. I found out much later, this key was so old, it was the first generation that Vibroplex made, and probably a prototype. I showed it to an expert, who said it must be, because this did not have the serial number they always put on their devices. A wonderful find. And the chances happening when I got it were one in a million!

I was also at a thrift store, and overheard the following:
Customer, “you’re late!”
Girl, “Sorry, I know I’m late, I told you the cart would be out at 11:30”.
Girl, “You called and complained about me hiding the books you want in the clothes dryer out on the floor”
John, “I was there, they were gone…”

Some real strange things go on in the work of picking. Pickers really need to look and listen. You’ll find out a lot of information.

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