On almost any given night of channel-surfing, viewers can tune into one of a dozen or so reality television shows about people who make their living finding treasures in trash. Whether bidding on storage lockers, bargaining with antique collectors, or haggling for the best deal at a pawn shop, junk-hunting television shows feature larger-than-life characters motivated by finding treasure and making a significant profit.
“The allure of finding treasure in trash is something a lot of people get excited about,” says Randy Brown ’05, a fan of “American Pickers,” a History channel show that follows “picker” partners Mike and Frank as they travel the American countryside looking for old, unique pieces to sell in their two Midwestern shops. Brown says, it’s easy to sit in your living room and think anyone can do what these guys do, “but it takes a lot of hard work, knowledge and luck to be successful.”
Maris Miller `08 knows firsthand about the hard work involved in the re-selling of other people’s goods. Miller’s father has been an auctioneer in eastern Pennsylvania for nearly 20 years. “Some shows glamorize auctions, but in reality the auction business is time consuming, demanding and labor intensive,” she says, “The auctioneer often works closely with people who are experiencing transitions related to things such as aging, divorce or death.”
The long hours, back-breaking work and literal piles of trash don’t seem to discourage junk-hunting stars though. Rather, they (and the viewers who tune in week after week) seem highly motivated by their quest to find value—monetary, nostalgic, artist or otherwise—in the most unsuspecting places. (more…)