I’ve got flea marketing on my mind because I have a little trip to one planned for the end of this week. It’s one of my favorite things to do – wander through mounds of junk in search of the treasures that appeal to me.
One of the dangers of modern life is that we have the capability to “engage” in an activity without really engaging. I’d like to think that this phenomenon started with the advent of VHS tapes of goldfish in a bowl, but I’m afraid it goes back much farther. For years people who never cook have accumulated cookbooks. People who never travel have gone to screenings of travelogs. Now you can even go to the flea market from the comfort of the Lazyboy.
A little over a year ago I wrote a post about why I dislike American Pickers. At the time I pretty much said that I just wasn’t drawn to all the man-tiques, that all the rusty bikes and car parts just were not my thing. But now we have two more “picking” shows, and I can’t say I like them either.
Oddly enough, one of the shows, Market Warriors, is aired by PBS. It features the four people in the photo above, who are taken to a flea market, given some money and told to find a certain type of item, say a piece of art glass. Then they shop again, this time for one or two items of their own choosing. The point is for them to make the best deal possible because all their items will be sold at auction, and the one who makes the most money on the re-sell is the winner.
There are all kinds of problems with the show, the least of which is the fake trash talk that occurs between the four contestants. This is PBS after all, and so no real trash talk is allowed, evidently. I’m sure these are four perfectly nice individuals, but they just don’t come across as being authentic. Yes, I do know this is a reality show, but somehow one just expects more from PBS.
The way the show is set up is working to guarantee failure. One of the weeks I watched this show, the “winner” was the person who lost the least amount of money. That’s right – all four contestants lost money on their items. Part of the problem is they are buying for a specific auction house that has a specific clientele. In the past I’ve been very successful at buying vintage clothing at flea markets and then reselling it and making money, but I have a strong suspicion I’d lose money if my clothing was taken to an auction that specializes in art pottery.
The second new program is Picked Off, which is made by the people who bring American Pickers into our lives. It airs on History. I watched the first episode, swore off of it forever, and then had to give in and watch a second time because two local men were appearing on it. In this show we are given four teams, all of which are different each episode. They start small, with $100, and try to pick an item worth more than the other teams’. The team with the least valuable item has to leave. Then another team is eliminated, and then another, until the last team standing wins $10,000.
Again, the rules get in the way of any real “picking” experience. There are tight time restraints, and the worth of the items is determined by a pair of brother experts (though I strongly suspect they are getting behind-the-scenes assistance, from the internet perhaps.) But the worst part is that it just feels hokey, with all the judging taking place in a “barn” with suspenseful music and cliffhangers going into commercials.
The episode that had my homeboys in it was filmed in the New Orleans area. One of the challenges was for the pickers to find a piece of Mardi Gras memorabilia. None of the teams knew a thing about such, which is to me a problem with both shows. In requiring these types of narrowly focused purchases, you end up relying on luck instead of the knowledge of the pickers.
And now the answer to the burning question: Did Lizzie’s hometown boys come home heroes or zeros? I’m pleased to report that they did win the $10,000. One of them is the son of the auctioneer who handled my MIL’s estate, and he was literally brought up in the antique business. I’m thinking that all those Saturday nights being a runner for daddy’s business finally paid off.
Top photo copyright PBS
Bottom Photo copyright history.com