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Antiques, antiques, antiques: the rise of a new craze

Updated on May 20, 2013

No matter where one looks, antiques and vintage items seems to top the list of shopping crazes for the American consumer. Shoppers seek out items to buy in hopes of turning a few dollars into thousands. Tales of gold at garage sales or thrift stores lurk around the Internet, stirring the innate desire to strike it rich with one buy. But where did the fad really start? As with so many other things in America, we need to look no further than television for answers.

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Antiques Roadshow is an oldie but goodie, that show that you would secretly watch when no one else was around. The excitement of finding out the history behind the item the woman onscreen found in a dusty attic and then finding out what its potential value is (in pounds, if you wanted the British version) is fun for anyone, not just antique junkies. Like a winning lottery ticket, finding out one has a valuable heirloom in their basement is an exciting prospect.

Although Antiques Roadshow is ultimately responsible for originally engaging audiences in antiques, over the years the audience for antiquing has changed drastically. With the start of the new decade, an unusual trend started that no one could predict. Ever since Mike and Frank hit the road and American Pickers hit the airwaves in January 2010, the infatuation with antiques has grown exponentially. More shows followed the History Channel sensation, with Pawn Stars, also on History Channel, showing people bringing their valuables to a pawn shop, of all places, to appraised and receive fast cash in about half the actual value. These shows gave way to a host of trash-to-treasure television shows, making 2010 a rich year in the world of antiques. This list is only a small sample of the incredible number of antique-related television programming that has fueled the latest shopping craze.

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American Pickers
Release Date 1-18-10 (History Channel). American Pickers stars Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz as two excitable pickers on the road. With the help of their trusted colleague Danielle Colby-Cushman to locate gold mines, they pick through barns, homes and yards filled with lots of rust in search of lost treasures.

The cast of Pawn Stars

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Pawn Stars
Release date (History Channel). In Las Vegas, one pawnshop reigns supreme: World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. Pawn Stars details the activities of the staff and their customers as they haggle over prices of various antiques. Often items brought to the pawn shop for consideration holds great historical value. Experts are also often brought in to determine the nature of the item, whether or not it is real or replicated (including authenticating autographs), and provide a value range.

American Restoration
Release date 10-25-10 (History Channel). A spin-off of Pawn Stars, American Restoration features Rick Dale and his antique restoration shop, Rick’s Restorations. Rick and his team take in antiques from customers and restore them to their original glory, or upgrade them according to the wishes of the customer. Items restored include bicycles, gas pumps, vending machines, etc. The television show has seen crossover cameos from other antique experts such as the cast of Pawn Stars and American Pickers.

Storage Wars
Release date 12-10-10 (A&E Network). Storage Wars follows several “rival” buyers as they attend storage locker auctions and try to outbid one another for the contents of the lockers. Because they can only perform a five-minute inspection of the lockers from the outside, they do not know what is hidden within the locker. The show itself has received a lot of negative press as of late, with accusations by former star Dave Hester that producers plant the items that are found in the lockers. Items range from cash to thousands and thousands of dollars in merchandise, making it appear as if anyone can bid on a locker with a high chance of striking gold.

A live auction at Gallery 63

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Auction Kings
Release date 10-26-10 (Discovery Channel). This fun and quirky auction house show takes place in Gallery 63 in Sandy Springs, GA. Owner Paul Brown review items that are brought in for auction. Estimated values are determined as well as the initial starting bid. Unlike other shows where the customer finds out right there what money they can expect to receive for their antiques, all bets are off until the auction gavel pounds with the final bid.

Hollywood Treasure
Release date 10-27-10 (SyFy). Joe Maddalena and his team travel to locations all over the world in search of true Hollywood treasures for auction. The memorabilia they bring in hail from movies and television shows of old, and the cast often converses with the stars from or those who have worked on these movies and TV shows. The stories that come with the items, such as how they ended up in the hands of the current owner, can be fascinating at times as Joe and others work to convince the owners to place the items in auction.

Auction Hunters
Release date 11-9-10 (Spike). A mash-up of Storage Wars, Auction Kings, and Hollywood Treasures, the cast of Auction Hunters participates in storage locker auctions and live auctions in order to find treasures to sell to collectors and experts. These auctions mainly take place throughout Southern California, but like Joe in Hollywood Treasure, they are willing to travel for auctions.

Ashley Broad caught in another angry moment

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Hardcore Pawn
Release date 8-16-10 (truTV). Hardcore Pawn follows the angry antics of Detroit pawnshop owners Les Gold, Seth Gold and Ashley Broad. The owners of American Jewelry and Loan take in a lot of different items and spend more time yelling and fighting than working, but from time to time they see antiques or vintage items in which they must research and determine a value.

Television is not the only place that an influx of antiques has hit. With antiques taking over television, everyone is suddenly an antique expert. Etsy, the popular antique and handmade store, has suddenly risen in name-recognition. Ebay has become overrun with the number of antiques and vintage items that is selling on any given day. Upon the writing of this hub, typing the word “antique” into the search engine on Ebay yields 2,070,972 results.

Swap meets have seen a sudden rise in supply and demand for antiques. Some swap meets have gone from selling lost treasures at a very low price to selling these items at retail. Even garage sale finds have gone up in price, as people have found that just a little research earns them more money in the end. This has resulted in an oversaturated market that can leave the heads of novices spinning. The chances of finding a treasure for just a few dollars are not as good as they were prior to 2010, and with each passing day the hopes of doing just that disappear even more.

Like all fads, however, the fanaticism over antiques will eventually fade as people realize that television, due to crafty editing and possibly planted items, is largely deceiving in regards to the amount of money one can make with antiques. Once consumers realize that there are no millions to be made, the market will revert back to where it was in the days when only Antiques Roadshow told the tales of items from the good ol’ days.

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