Posts Tagged ‘American Pickers’

$38.65

July 15, 2013

Saturday July 13th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   The gap between theory and reality seems to be widening of late. In my head, I’ve got all these grandiose ideas bouncing around for what I want to get done in life, but far too few have had any tangible results. Those that did have happened so slowly, a snail’s pace would signal an upgrade. 

   A prime example would be my feeble attempt to make a few extra bucks wheeling and dealing antiques and collectibles. I’ve been doing it my whole life and I’m in the ideal scenario with my vagabond lifestyle and plenty of free time. In theory, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be killing this.

   I have made a few nice finds, but nothing that’s going to bail me out of the poor house just yet. I knew going in that with enormous glut of TV exposure from American Pickers to Pawn Stars to Storage Wars and everything in between it would light the fires of treasure hunters everywhere.

   I wasn’t getting in it for the quick and easy buck, because if there’s one lesson I’ve learned on my life’s journey it’s that it doesn’t exist along with unicorns, leprechauns and Chicago Cubs in the World Series. I entered the game knowing I would have to work my way into it gradually.

   The main concern as always is my time outlay vs. income. I can’t afford any hobbies that only suck time right now, and I was looking specifically to turn at least a semi steady buck. I think my picking eye is halfway decent, so I set out to look for a supply of trinkets and baubles to resell.

   I compiled a bunch after several weeks of hunting in my spare time, and then delivered some to a friend of a friend who frequently sells on Ebay. We worked out a percentage deal that we could both live with, and I left him to do his thing. We both agreed it would be a low risk experiment.

   Today I received an email from the guy saying my grand total after fees and percentages was a whopping $38.65. Not everything sold, but what did actually fetched a profit. For example, I had a vintage phone I found in a thrift store for $6 and my share after everything was $15. I’ll take it.

   I also found an old model car kit at a rummage sale for $3 and my final net was $12. Again, not a bad profit and the other guy made his percentage too. We only tried a few items, so it’s not like my whole stash is used up, but at this rate it will be a long time before I’ll be in the Fortune 500.

   Rummage season is in full swing, and I am in a mega ripe area. I can’t drive down any street in any direction near me on a weekend and not see homemade signs everywhere. I’m not finding an abundance of quality items though, and it’s not been worth my time and especially gas to search.

   Everyone else is watching all those TV shows too, so anything even close to old is being listed as ‘vintage’ and priced as high as someone would have to be to buy it for that amount. It’s funny to see the looks on shoppers’ faces when they flip over a junk item and see a sky high price tag.

   Still, there are bargains to be found for those that look hard enough. I’m just not sure if I have a desire to be one of them. By the time I fill my gas tank and put stressful miles on my car sorting through randomly scattered junk piles hoping to find a rare gem, the profit I make isn’t worth it.

   I will still fart around with it only because I like it, but this isn’t the way to make any kind of a steady living. I’d have to get a storage facility and set up at flea markets, and right now I’m just not looking to do that. I’ve got other projects that mean more to me than being a garbage picker. In theory, I had a plan to bring in steady extra cash. In reality, I worked way too hard for $38.65.

Redneck Reminder

May 30, 2013

Wednesday May 29th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I was scouring my local thrift store today, looking for my instant retirement plan. I’m hoping to run across a severely underpriced bauble or trinket I can score for peanuts and resell for top buck on ‘Pawn Stars’ or ‘The Antique Road Show’ – but who isn’t?  Life is now a big scavenger hunt.

   We’ve all been relieved of whatever savings we may have had, and the economic collapse that we’re going through has made American Pickers of us all. Gas at $4.50 a gallon with no letup in sight has brought out the wheeler dealer in all of us. Between that and the lottery, we’re crossing our fingers we have a few shekels left for our old age so we don’t have to subsist on pet chow.

   It’s easy to spot the sharks in a thrift store, and we’re all doing the same thing. We’re all trying to outsmart everyone else and haul in something we can resell for a lot more. Sometimes it does happen, but not as much as everyone might think. Most of the junk in there is there for a reason.

   I highly doubt 2004 is going to come back any time soon, so why would I need an organizer or calendar even if it is only $1.99? And I think I’m up to my limit on VHS tapes too. I don’t know anyone who even has a player anymore, but I’m sure someone does. I have an 8 track machine.

   Vinyl records are allegedly making a comeback, so I’ve been stocking up on those of late. I’ve been able to get them between fifty cents and a buck on a consistent basis, and have put together a decent collection of mostly jazz, older country and obscure spoken word stuff I have seen listed on Ebay for significantly more. I have no idea who buys them, but I have a supply ready to sell.

   I used to focus on books and self help recordings, but not anymore. I’ve got enough material to last me six lifetimes plus a long prison term, but I don’t feel my life getting any better because of it. I picked most of it up for very low prices at the time, but now I wish I’d have that money back instead of piles of books and tapes I’ll never ever get to. My intentions were good, but that’s it.

   Good intentions mean nothing without action, and I’m trying to make something happen so I’m not still fishing for thrift store scraps years from now should I be lucky enough to live that long. I do admit I enjoy the treasure hunting aspect, but depending on it to pay my bills is not my desire.

   I received what I’m taking to be a message from the cosmos today when I ran across a copy of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You Might Be A Redneck If…” book. I hadn’t seen a copy in a while, but not a day goes by that I’m not aware of how I missed my shot to be part of that whole phenomenon.

   I can picture plain as day sitting across from Jeff at lunch and having him tell me how he came up with an idea he thought would make millions and how I laughed in his face and told him what an idiot he was and how it would never work. If I could live my life over again starting from any one point of reference, that would surely be it. I missed out on a huge opportunity, and I know it.

   Too late now. I looked at the credits in the book and didn’t see my name there, even though he listed some other comedians I know. I could have been there too, but I blew it. Kicking myself in the aspirations years later isn’t going to change the fact I missed the boat, but it does still sting.

   Will I ever get a chance that big again? Who can say? I’m thrilled for Jeff’s enormous success, as he was and is a wonderful guy. I give him mega kudos for a legendary idea. Not only that, he EXECUTED it to perfection.  And here I sit years later, wishing I had shut up and played along.

Jeff Foxworthy - a great guy with a great idea.

Jeff Foxworthy – a great guy with a great idea.

I was there when it started.

I was there when it started.

To Pick Or Not To Pick?

December 30, 2012

Saturday December 29th, 2012 – Reno, NV

   There’s a part of me that absolutely loves the process of treasure hunting. Shows like American Pickers and Pawn Stars have made it hot with the masses, but I’ve been around it as long as I can remember. My grandfather loved to visit thrift stores constantly, and my father of all people had a great eye for junk and was an excellent picker himself. He scored regularly with antique deals.

 On my exercise walk today I discovered a really neat antique shop in downtown Reno. I wasn’t looking to buy anything, but the prices were so reasonable and the people were so nice that I did happen to pick up a couple of tiny items to give as gifts for some friends who are also collectors.

I found a patch from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for $5 that I’ll send off to my old friend Dave Wilson who lives in Indianapolis and is a huge race fan. Dave is a great guy and he booked me at his comedy club One Liners for years. The least I can do is send a small gift to say thanks.

I also ran across some clean old professional wrestling magazines from the California territory of the mid ‘70s. There were four of them, and they’ve got the great old blood soaked pictures of wrestlers from that era like Ray Stevens, Pat Patterson and even Andre the Giant. They’re really cool, and I picked up all four at $10 each. If I can’t at least break even, then I’m a flaming idiot.

Depending on who is asked, there are rather serious doubts as to whether I am an idiot anyway. It’s not gambling rent money, and it’s something I had never ever seen in all my travels. I looked them up on Ebay and there was another issue that I didn’t have that had an asking price of $25.

I was talking to one of the dealers at the shop, a very nice guy probably in his late 50s. He said he’s been wheeling and dealing for decades, and his specialty is pocket watches. He’d purchased a new old one from a walk in customer about an hour before I got there, and he told me he’d paid $50 for it. A pawn shop had offered the guy $25 apparently, but he wanted $50 firm so he bolted.

The guy at the antique shop showed it to me, and said it was worth probably $300 minimum as is, but quite a bit more with just a little cleaning and maintenance work. He said he expected he’d get about $450-$500 depending on how long he chose to sit on it and hold out for the best price.

I had a nice long talk with the guy, and compared notes on how the collectibles game is playing out in the tough economy. He said something that really resonated with me. “There’s a whole lot more junk than people in the world to go through it all. There will ALWAYS be deals around.”

Like anything, there’s work involved and it’s not easy but he seemed to think anyone with any kind of work ethic and drive could turn a fair profit by putting one’s effort in. He suggested there be a field of specialization, only because there’s too much out there to know about everything.

My quandary is, do I slice my time even more and wheel and deal part time to bring in an extra few bucks or blow it off and put every last ounce of energy into comedy? Nothing is ‘stable’, and I’ve had time issues in the past. But I need money and I love the hunt. I’ll have to think carefully.

This really got my mental wheels spinning though. I’m at the point in my life where I am either going to make my mark or fade into obscurity like everyone else in my family. I’m the single nut off our family tree that actually has a chance to do something noteworthy. As much as I love and respect my grandfather, he was a small time hustler. He admitted as much, and he regretted it.

On his death bed he told me a story about how he and a couple of friends of his could have had dibs on early McDonald’s franchises in the Milwaukee area. It would have been risky, and would have involved selling off some rental properties they all owned together. Gramps turned it down, but his buddies didn’t and they ended up doing extremely well. Gramps wouldn’t pull the trigger.

Gramps told me that was his biggest regret in retrospect, but at the time he said it was a matter of stability. He knew for a fact that people needed a place to live, but fast food wasn’t what it is today and he said he just didn’t see the potential of the big picture. He said he’d worked hard for that money, and just wasn’t willing to put it all on the line. It was everything he had in the world.

I can’t say I blame him, and it’s easy to look back on what could have been. I look back at how many things I’ve screwed up in my own life and I have no fingers to point at anyone else. I made more than my share of stupid decisions, but at the time with the information I had, they appeared to be correct. It’s a whole different perspective from the heat of battle than it is from hindsight.

Right now I’m in the heat of my biggest battle. I’ve given everything I’ve got inside me to both comedy and radio, and my results have been extremely disappointing. In hindsight, I should have chosen one or the other, but I didn’t. I kept getting radio opportunities, and then I’d get fired and go back to comedy. Just as that got going, another radio offer came along and it started all over.

It’s too late to go back now, but here I sit with lots of comedy and radio experience – just when both of those industries are sliding down the dumper at a lightning pace. Radio jobs are harder to find than Amish video games, and it’s a struggle to keep myself booked every week in comedy.

It’s a different world than it was twenty years ago, and I’m twenty years older. Nobody thinks of that being a factor, but it always is. Everyone ages, and our needs evolve as it happens. I don’t have the same needs or wants I did twenty years ago. Being a major star was never on my agenda mainly because I was too busy trying to survive month to month. I thought it would all work out.

How wrong and naïve that was. Nothing just ‘works out’ in life. We have to plan in detail, and then follow up and work that plan. IF and only if we do that, then we can hope for luck to put us in the elite class we may dream of being in. I didn’t do the right things it took to get myself there. I did what I had to do to survive, and that’s exactly what I’m doing now – but not anything more.

Am I a small time hustler like my grandfather and father? Unfortunately, I’d have to say yes to that very difficult and humbling question. I aspired to much more, but never achieved it. Now, do I continue to pursue the long shot that gets longer by the day, or change plans and begin to wheel and deal collectibles because I enjoy it and could probably do ok. I really don’t have the answer.