Shots by Shana Photography

As (Not) Seen on TV

Posted by  //  January 20, 2015  //  Local Business

By Shana Karn & Andy Seyfried, Co-Owners, The Second Knob
129 North St. Dryden   Open Tues, Wed, Fri & Sat 10-6, Th 10-8 & Sun 10-5

Do shows like American Pickers, Storage Wars and Antiques Road Show impact the local antiques & collectibles market?

The short answer is “Absolutely!”

It is important for people to keep in mind that the majority of these “reality shows” are scripted. They are written and filmed with one main objective: to draw and captivate an audience. While these shows can provide insight into a piece’s provenance or history, quite often, an assessed value is very inflated.

We are all attracted to a good tale—especially one that has a happy ending. In the case of reality television and specifically shows like American Pickers, Storage Wars and Pawn Stars, the “happy ending” often involves a fairly large profit. Unfortunately, in the real world, those happy endings are much fewer and further between. Case in point, in many areas, the majority of storage auction bidding was done by owners of thrift stores. Sadly, a large number of these thrift stores have gone out of business as the popularity of Storage Wars (and other similar shows) grew. Bidding on storage units has become a game—a competition, if you will—where the shows have created a huge increase in bidders and prices. Smaller “mom and pop” shops cannot compete.

Storage Wars and other shows involving bidding competition gained popularity by tapping into the same auction “fever” that was propagated by E-Bay and other online auction sites years ago. Like in any auction, the desire to win can drive bidders into fierce and frantic bidding with little regard for an item’s true worth. The result is that the perceived worth of items is driven way up. Sadly, in Storage Wars and similar shows, what the viewer sees is likely staged—the “hidden gems” are conveniently placed to intrigue both bidders and viewers. And, of course, the winning bidders then have to justify their bidding by throwing out “values” on items found in their unit. We the viewers, get to see only the “cream of the crop” units. The ability of television and online appraisers to set true values with just a glance at an item has been and should be challenged. When someone comes into The Second Knob with a box of “treasures,” which they want to sell, they frequently preface the conversation with, “I saw this on E-Bay” or “I saw one like this on American Pickers.”  The seller’s expectation is that we will accept E-Bay auctions or a television show as a reliable and/or trustworthy source for value of an item. In reality, we have to determine age, condition, value and probable marketability in our demographic area. Unfortunately, in these situations, more frequently than not, we determine the item’s value to be less than what the seller has perceived it to be.

On a brighter note, shows like American Pickers, Flea Market Find and Pawn Stars have encouraged people to take a closer look at what they have packed away in attics and barns. What was once considered old “junk” and thrown away now gets more attention, which is a good thing. The younger generation gets a peek at the craftsmanship and ingenuity that existed before their time. Consider today’s mass produced electric coffee grinder compared to a late 1800’s cast iron, counter top coffee grinder. Which of these will still be around and functioning in another twenty-five years? The recycle-reuse-repurpose trend contributes to preserving items from the past which are no longer made. This trend also immensely benefits our environment. In our store, we love to mix the nostalgia of the past with gifts of new.

Unfortunately, most of the reality tv shows and their celebrity “experts” contribute to the over dramatization of real worth of antiques and collectibles.  Sadly, as buyers, we are often the bearers of “bad news.” The Second Knob, along with other small business antiques stores, is forced to dispel misconceptions placed on people by these shows.

So when you bring items into a local antique store, prepare yourself for what is not seen on tv and try to avoid beginning the conversation with “I saw on American Pickers…”

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