How to Earn a little Extra Money as an American Picker
There is a great show on The History Channel called American Pickers. It chronicles the exploits of two guys, Mike and Frank, who drive all over America looking for rusty gold. There are lots of names for what Mike and Frank do; junk dealer, antique dealer, picker, reseller, and others. They make their living finding the treasure in other peoples trash and turn it around for a profit. If you've got a good eye for these hidden treasures, you can make some extra money too.

1.) First Thing To Do - Find a niche.
One of the first things you notice as you watch Mike and Frank is that they each have their own niche. Mike is an expert on all things bicycles and motorcycles. He once spotted a rusty old v-twin crank shaft with no markings on it and turned it into a couple thousand dollars profit. And he gambled big on that one, offering the owner quite a lot of money up front, before knowing if he really had a treasure or not.

Frank, on the other hand, is an oil can man. These old relics of American driving history speak to a lot of collectors, and Frank has been collecting them for most of his life. He's also an expert on old advertising pieces, and you'll often see him buying old porcelain signs.

To find your niche, look to your own habits: do you have any collections? Maybe someone in your family collects postcards, and you've gleaned a lot of knowledge about the subject. What do you know a lot about? Maybe you've studied interior design and know quite a bit about Art Deco or another era of design. Mid Century Modern is really hot right now!

2.) Next Task - Find your treasure.
Mike and Frank have various ways that they tap into their treasures. First, they advertise. They'll put a little ad in small town newspapers or specialty trade publications, asking people to call them if they have certain items to sell. They also print up a simple flier that they keep with them, to hand to potential customers. It has the name of their business, their contact information and a long list of the types of items that they like to deal in.

Then, they go free styling out on back country roads, trying to spot a property with a lot of stuff laying around or with a number of outbuildings that may contain years worth of accumulated junk collectables. They'll ring the doorbell, show the owner their flier and hope for the best. Sometimes they strike out, and sometimes they strike that rusty gold.

Finally, they have a secret weapon named Danielle. Danielle works for Mike and Frank at their home shop in Iowa called Antique Archeology. She combs the internet, looking for people trying to sell their stuff. She places ads and handles the customer calls. She does research on different regions, towns and cities, trying to tap into who the local hoarders collectors are, the guys who collect just to collect.

Not everyone can afford someone like Danielle, of course. But her skills are things that Mike and Frank did on their own for a long time before they were successful enough to hire someone.

Once you've found your niche and developed your knowledge, you'll know what trade publications you could target to advertise in. You'll know how to comb online classifieds and newspaper ads to find people who are selling what you like to buy. Through experience, you'll get to know which estate sales are good and which ones are probably just so-so.

3.) Now Find your audience.
These are the people you sell your collectibles and antique treasures to in order to make that profit

Frank and Mike have developed lots of contacts over their many years as pickers. They know a guy who deals in bicycle parts. They know a guy who is really into old movie posters. They've got people they can go to and either offload one of their treasures for a quick turnaround, or use the collectors expertise to appraise an item and ensure they get the best price for it when it's ready to sell.

They also have eBay accounts. They'll use whatever method they have at their disposal, whether it's through their local shop, dealers all over the country, or the entire internet, in order to sell their recycled junk picks treasures.

If your chosen niche is full of small items, like sports cards, pottery or antique toys, eBay makes a lot of sense. These items are easily shipped and widely collectible. If your niche includes larger items, such as Mid Century Modern furniture and accessories, you may need to rent space locally in order to minimise what your customers pay for shipping. Craigslist can also be a good avenue to target local customers. Do some research and find the methods that work best for you and for the types of items you're selling.

You can earn a little or a lot of extra money being a Picker like Mike and Frank, it all depends on how much effort you put into it.
You have to do your research, become very knowledgeable about your niche, and also about the best ways to find treasures at decent prices, that guarantee profit when you resell. The great thing is that you can start small and work your way up as your expertise and bankroll grows.

Who knows, maybe someday you'll be one of those expert dealers that Mike and Frank go to when they find products in your niche. Also see
Shared publiclyView activity