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The Mystery Behind Pickers & Pickin'

By 2:05 PM , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I get the question a lot: so, what is a picker?

As owners of a vintage and antiques "only" shop we get the majority of our inventory from "pickers." A term that has been used in the trade since time began, but most recently has become more widely known due to the popularity of the hit TV show American Pickers.

Folks are intrigued by the word - "pickers" & "pickin"- it sounds like you've just gone out and dug up the most fabulous things. And, sometimes that's exactly what happens. 

Pickers love digging through old dusty barns, dilapidated houses, old forgotten store fronts, sheds that are falling to the ground, and country auctions, most in rural locations. WARNING - you can't just go out and start digging in these spots, a picker, first, must get to know the property owner. These coveted pickin holes are the only places in the modern day world where time really does stand still. 

There are those of us who just melt at the site of an early original piece being pulled from a leaning barn - never mind that it's covered in 100 years worth of dirt and is filled with things that should never be there in the first place; like old nuts & bolts, canning jar lids, old pencils, spiders (both dead & alive) yada yada yada ... you get where I'm going. And, the story of what caused it to be abandoned in the first place is often times just as interesting as the piece itself.

One of my all time favorite pickin stories was about 10 years ago - a picker in southern Alabama was cleaning out a barn when he pulled out what he described as a "tall table" out of the barn's corn crib. From the photos we could clearly tell that this was in no way just a tall table. It was an early 1800s Alabama Slab or Huntboard (as they are also called). For those of you who don't know, a Huntboard is a Southern form of furniture with a short narrow case and tall legs. Legend has it that the furniture pieces were made for easy transporting to the lawn of plantation homes. The men, riding horseback, would then belly up to the Huntboard to partake of food and liquor. The intended purpose was to keep the men from soiling the dining room after a long day of hunting.

The picker actually wanted to leave it behind to be bulldozed down with the barn, but his wife insisted that they take it to sell. He was so mad that he threw it atop of a pile of lumber on an open make-do trailer and off it went into the sunset bumping and bouncing and almost falling off several times, as it traveled down the dusty gravel road toward home.

That evening, the pickers wife put the "tall table" (with that exact description) up for sale on eBay. One morning I was perusing eBay's ending auctions when I saw the description and the photo. It had an opening bid of $100.00. To make an already long story short, there were others out there who recognized the Slab/Huntboard under the disguise of a "tall table" . When the dust all settled and the bidding ended we were the lucky winning bidders of a $5,000 tall table! Which we promptly sold for $15,000.00. As you can see being a picker or buying from one can be rewarding. 

An example of a 19th century Huntboard 

But do you have what it takes to be a picker? Find out:

How do I find pickers to buy from?

on our next blog post, com in' up soon!

Happy "pickin!" xx

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