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Media Matters to Vintage Vendors
Published in the Summer 2013 edition of Vintage KC Magazine
Written by Michael and James Fry

The vintage & antique landscape has changed dramatically over the last decade.  From total market disrupters, like Ebay, to personal impacts, like the economy, we have seen interest & prices go up, down, and sideways.  However, the last few years have seen a noticeable increase in the public’s attention to all things vintage & antique.  The country has come to accept and even envy the “junk dealer” due mostly to the recent boom of vintage & antique related television shows.  We tallied at least 42 currently running reality TV shows having to do with picking, up-cycling, and antiquing.  Shows like American Pickers, Pawn Stars, Cash & Cari, and Storage Wars have gotten many more people interested and involved in the vintage & antique re-sell market.

No one argues the fact that reality TV shows have brought more attention to the industry, but whether this attention helps or hurts seems to be a matter still in contention if you work in the business.  We sent out an email poll to Brown Button Estate Sales’ email subscribers asking how these reality TV shows have affected the market.  A full 81% of respondents stated that the shows have increased prices & competition, 14% have seen no change to the industry, while 6% believe that the shows have lowered prices & competition.  This increase in prices and competition is a two edged sword.  With an increase in competition it can be harder to pull off the perfect profitable pick, but once you do, the increased interest brings more customers to your booth or online store resulting in higher prices. As Eric Rosell (owner of Kansas City based Etsy store Vintage Chocolat) notes, “It’s a good time to be a buyer of vintage items because no longer are vintage items found only in one place. It’s a great time to be a vintage junkie, because competition from different resellers allows you, the buyer, more places to acquire your vintage treasures. All in thanks to these TV shows, the vintage business is booming.”

One question that has to be addressed when discussing reality television is; just how much reality is there?  How much of the shows are real life verses scripted situations?  How many hours of film were left on the cutting room floor to show that one fabulous find where the picker made ten times the money?  Most of the new found interest in vintage and antique items comes from a genuine appreciation and appeal in a certain time period and its craft.  However, we feel that some of the recent excitement in this industry can be chalked up to the hype and “best case” spin in which these shows portray picking.  Enter almost any chat room of dealers and serious re-sellers and you can find a thread grumbling about the inflated prices, lack of drudge work, or the rarity of profit-losing picks presented on these shows.  Now, we understand that those negatives don’t make for the most riveting programming, but if someone decides to jump into vintage re-selling based on that “reality”, then they are in for an education.

To view the full summer 2013 digital edition of the magazine click here.
Or go directly to VintageKCmag.com for their full backlog of issues.