Are there really that many collectors of antique garbage?

Given the recent glut of “american picker” type shows, they always mention “this is worth 4-10000 times as much to a collector.”

I find it hard to believe, given the sheer amount of garbage available, that there are enough collectors of this crap.

One example would be those old gas station signs. How many of those signs would one collector have?

I can understand something that is inherently rare, like restored Coke machines from before 1950. For these, you might be hard pressed to find a buyer with more than one.

On one episode, the picker found an old bicycle gear from an old bike. Just the gear and one pedal, iirc. However, he claimed it was worth hundreds to a collector of that brand of bicycle. Really? For just part of the bike? Why not get an old bike separate all the parts and sell each piece for hundreds?

On pawn stars, they’re always talking about cannon collectors. I can understand smaller memorabilia where you could fit hundreds in one room. But how many cannons would a collector conceivably own? Every cannon that comes on the market is going to a limited number of buyers, right?

I’ve never seen the show in question, and I have no interest or knowledge in bicycling, but I’m guessing the reason that people don’t do that is because a complete bike of that particular model costs substantially more than you would be able to get from selling off its components piecemeal.

Have you ever walked into one of those chain restaurants that have that kind of old junk all over their walls? Old road signs, gas station signs, advertisements, farm tools, etc., etc.? A lot of them have people whose job it is to go out and buy that kind of stuff to decorate their business establishments.

As far as “collectors” go there are probably plenty of people who aren’t really collectors of those items but will buy one because they think it is cool and will look good in their romper room, den, or garage. I’m not a collector of WWII propaganda posters but if I saw one I liked for a reasonable price I’d buy it.

If a part goes for that much I would imagine a whole bike goes for even more.

I’m not sure how to answer that question. Most people who own cannons (I know a few) don’t own that many. Same goes for most people who collect automobiles. Some people, like Jay Leno, own so many automobiles he houses them in a big warehouse near the airport that he bought.

Jay Leno bought an airport?


Sure, but how many collectors like Leno are out there, and do they have unlimited funds? It seems to me that supply far outstrips demand.

Oh, and note that I’m differentiating between collectibles (like baseball cards, comics) and just garbage.

The reason bike park A from brand A is worth so much is because you can’t find brand A bikes in complete condition. Those bikes are difficult to find, and parts that are decent enough condition to put on a bike so if it was restored it would look decent… they’re rare.

(At least in theory.)

As for cannon collectors – people with enough money to collect cannons aren’t too worried about where to put it, they’re buying fucking cannons. They’ve got the cash to spare.

yeah but it’s not like Pawn Stars are buying 3 cannons per show either

How many there are isn’t important when you only need to find one collector looking for that piece. Years ago it might have been a gamble but today, with the internet, and the ability to reach a global market, selling “collectibles” is far easier and much safer.

But probably less lucrative.

Amazingly, there is still collector money out there. I just went to the Barrett-Jackson auto auction, and was amazed what prices were brought by signs, toys, and even antique automotive tools and equipment. But they were cool, I can see why people like them.

Yeah, for a while my dad was in business with a guy who bought, restored, and sold classic Mustangs. The pickings are not what they used to be - now that it’s so easy to sell internationally, good cars are more expensive and hard to find.

Whatever you do, don’t watch Cash and Cari …

She took the metal bits out of a hoover cupboard, and refinished it :eek:

She takes antiques and ‘refinishes’ them, totally fucking any antique value they might have had. If I were empress, she would be ‘remodeled’ by lopping off her head.

The OP seems to put plenty of stock by words like garbage and crap. I imagine some of the same language was employed by people decades ago who were throwing this stuff out and unwittingly helping create the collectibles of today.

Well, the obvious thing (and Mike says this all the time on Pickers) is that the pieces of things are sold to people are restoring the bike (or motorcycle, or car, etc.) and need that part. Like someone else said, it’s not like you just get on ebay and find the whole thing – these are rare items, and someone might spend years trying to just assemble one piece in its entirety. Or maybe they have the whole thing but want to replace a piece that’s rusty/ruined.

It’s a stretch to call it garbage. They show plenty of stuff Mike and Frank don’t buy; they make it clear that just because something is old doesn’t mean it has value.

Mike is a smart guy; by making the show he’s made money off the show itself (including merch), greatly increased his visibility both as a buyer and a seller, and overall given a booster shot to the industry, probably creating new collectors and driving up the cost of what he sells.

I know the show has increased my knowledge and interest of “mantiques.”

I was thinking about this later. Wouldn’t it just be easier and cheaper to go to a sign shop and have them print up a new one based on the old design? That way, if you had a chain restaurant, all the restaurants could have exactly the same decorations.

No, I was referring to things like when a business goes bankrupt, the stuff even the vultures and auction buyers wouldn’t touch, like signage. This stuff wasn’t purchased 50 years ago, a hoarder picked it up at a dump. Also, stuff like signs could just easily be remade at any print shop. 50 years ago, these signs weren’t handmade by Picasso. They were mass produced by a machine, just like today.

Also, are there really that many buyers trying to buy something like an old Mobil gas station sign that would make them worth something? If they were actually worth as much as they say on the show, why isn’t there a counterfeiting business like for the classic Coca Cola advertising?

The usual rules of supply & demand don’t apply with collectible stuff, basically. It’s entirely possible for something to be collectible, fairly common, and still expensive.

Like the OP, the value of some of these antiques has always puzzled me, but I guess there really are buyers out there for this stuff. I love watching American Pickers (Pawn Stars not as much). Mike and Frank seem like cool guys and each stop they make is like a treasure hunt.

I can better understand the rare bike part or similar items being valued highly. There are many different items that we see on these shows just once, or only once every few episodes. An unusual piece of furniture, for example, or the large, rare carnival banners that they found at that defunct amusement park. But they find those old rusted signs everywhere, and the fact that they can sell them for hundreds of dollars just seems strange to me.

They did mention on American Pickers that the internet really has changed things. The value of many of these collectible antiques used to be very dependent on the regional availability of each specific item. Now, a buyer can purchase what he wants from almost anywhere and may be able to find good deals online for things that are rare in his location. And a seller can find buyers from far away who might be willing to pay more for some items than a “local” would.

Don’t propose that to the people who own Hard Rock Café, just sayin’.

Speaking as a guy who did restore a classic motorcycle just two years ago this is why the parts are so valuable. I was also restoring a fairly popular and not really that old of one. (1976 triumph Bonneville, START, FINISH) So I could get a lot of parts as re-pop items if I wanted to. A lot of the things Mike goes crazy about are pre-WWII. A lot of that stuff was scrapped for the war effort making anything that survives even more rare than just age would account for.

The other thing they don’t mention is that a lot of times these old bikes are sometimes worth more as parts than as a complete unit. To use my bike as an example again I bought the basket case for $1200 and put an additional $2800 into restoring it. So for an investment of $5000 I have a bike worth ~$5000. I could have easily made my $1200 back from just selling a couple of parts for what I personally know other people bought them for and had more parts to sell.

If you look for parts an Ebay you will see this with a fair amount of regularity. Find a part you are looking for, then look at other listings by that seller. If you add up all the parts they are selling it’s a whole motorcycle being parted out.

I only have my motorcycle as a reference but I could see it easily see it translating to other vehicles.

I think that’s what is actually done in many instances. I believe a lot of the stuff you see in, e.g., Cracker Barrel is replicas.