Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Tonight: Canadian Pickers go for "rusty gold"
Scott Cozens and Sheldon Smithens (above) are the hosts of Canadian Pickers, a new scavenger series premiering tonight at 10 p.m. on History Television. The two Calgary-based antique enthusiasts root through stuff collected by individuals all across Canada in search of “rusty gold,” treasures hidden amidst what others might see as trash.
The two dress cowboy causal with a little Wild West flair, which basically just helps them blend in with the locals. “Most collectors have a streak of eccentric in them,” says Cozens, who has a day job as a lawyer. “Some have taken it to a different level.”
In tonight’s opener, a totem pole gets uprooted, a metal horse that was once a wind mill weight is lifted and several antique radios are picked up for a song.
The series follows the same search-and-find formula that has made American Pickers such a success on both sides of the border. That series has drawn as many as 700,000 viewers to History, a network-like number on the Canadian specialty channel.
With so many flea markets and antique shops spread coast-to-coast, as well as private collections in attics and barns, it’s easy to see the appeal of these shows. Everybody collects something, and almost as many people are selling these days—especially on places like eBay—as buying.
Smithens and Cozens, who were in Toronto last week to promote the series, admit it is a buyers market right now in the antique business, although they’ve both seen a bit of an up tick in the past year. Some times people just hold on to things too long, says Cozens. “I have a Madam Katzenjammer tea cozy that used to be worth $1200 bucks,” he says. “Now nobody even knows who the Katzenjammer kids were anymore.” (They were among the most popular newspaper comic strip characters in the early 20th century.)
People tend to hold on to their grandparents china or furniture thinking these family heirlooms are money in the bank when in fact the market isn’t generally interested in that stuff any more, says Smithens. And if you’re holding on to something because it says “limited edition,” forget it, says Cozens. “It’s only limited to how many they can sell.”
Star Wars souvenirs from the ‘70s, for example, have more dealer value than movie collectibles from the ‘20s or ‘30s.
The two men have their own special interests. Smithens tends to covet arts and crafts or art nouveau furniture and jewellery. Anything with a Hudson Bay logo on it also catches his eye. “Throw a beaver on anything, I’m interested,” he jokes. Cozens is always on the lookout for pre-WWII advertising, Teddy Bears and G.I. Joes.
While Canadian Pickers takes them right across Canada in search of “rusty gold,” both tend to see Quebec and Ontario as generally the best places to root for collectibles. “Winnipeg is also a hot spot,” says Cozens. “It was the Chicago of the north 100 years ago.”
Rooting through history has turned these two into field experts in every sense of the word. That’s why it makes sense that they’re on History Television, says Cozens. “We look at ourselves as running a parallel path to museums,” he says, “except we don’t hide our treasures in vaults or basements. We try to bring it out in the open so everyone can see it and enjoy it.”
Or buy it. Smithens and Cozens sell many of the items they acquire on the series at their own private eBay, canadianpickers.com. That’s also where fans can check out the “Picker’s Handbook” and scan the “Pickipedia” for antiquing tips.
Smithens and Cozens met while sorting through collectibles. According to Smithens, “Scott used to take advantage of me in my shop.” Cozens says it was Smithens who always took advantage of him. “He’s the hard bargainer on the show.”
Viewers who like to do their own picking can pick up a tips from watching these two in action. Smithens and Cozens rarely offer one price per item, preferring instead to ask the values as they move through a collection and then lump several items together (including some stuff they really don’t want) in order to get a best price for the entire lot.
“We don’t do as much of that on the show as we probably do in real life,” says Cozens. “It’s hard to tell a story on 40 different items—plus it drives our cameraman crazy.”