“My life is a mix of American Pickers, Antique Roadshow, and Storage Wars all rolled into one,” says Owensboro Antique Mall manager Samuel Rafferty. That kind of work profile keeps Rafferty pretty busy these days. Rafferty credits his mother for getting him interested in antiques when he was a kid. Now he has over 20 years’ experience in antiquing and has owned the Owensboro Antique Mall for the past 11 years.
From time to time Rafferty also goes out to do appraisals or assist with estate sales. That’s when he slips into Antique Roadshow mode. Some families decide to bring in someone like Sam because you need a large amount to make an auction worthwhile, while his team is more adept at handling small quantities. Having an appraisal done can also alleviate tension and make family divisions of property easier during estate settlements. For those appraisals, Sam and his team go in, appraise the items, and then suggest a sales price for the estate sale.
The antique mall rents booth spaces to vendors who each have their own unique taste and style. Browsing from booth to booth you see vintage toy collections, glassware and flatware, furniture from different periods and styles, heirlooms and everything in between. Rafferty says he has noticed some collectors come in looking for certain items – like antique window frames and doors – because of projects they’ve seen on Pinterest or Facebook. “They’d rather have the rustic look of the original, chipped paint than find things that are already refinished or restored,” Rafferty said. “American Pickers has also created a greater demand for the American Pickers style of collectibles with branding on them.”
Local antique dealer Steve Winkler agrees that the TV shows have influenced interest in antiques. “I think those TV shows are building more interest and people are taking notice of things that may have been buried in a closet or barn somewhere.”
On the down side, sometimes people can have a skewed expectation of what an item is worth from seeing something sell for a certain amount on Antique Roadshow and then hoping to sell a similar item their grandmother had for that same amount. There are different factors involved in pricing. As a general rule, buyers will offer half of what they expect to sell the item for. When that happens, sellers may feel deflated.
“Or like on Pawn Stars,” Sam said. “They might pay a certain amount for an item on the show, but they’re in Las Vegas. That’s a different market out there.”
Winkler also sees a similarity between what he does and Storage Wars. “We have all those same personalities you see on the show.” Apparently, those who have been going to sales start to see the same faces after a while and can eventually figure out what each other are going after. “That all adds to the fun,” Winkler said. “We might get competitive at the sale but outside the sale we’re all friends again.”
Owensboro “picker” Donna Mitchell of Black Sheep Antiques in Masonville travels to find interesting pieces. The iron bed in the front window of the antique mall is one example; it was made of old iron fencing.
It’s an up and down business, and Mitchell, Winkler, and Rafferty all have their treasure stories. Once Rafferty bought a box of odds and ends at an auction for $12 because the liked a set of book ends he saw. When he emptied the box, he found a silver platter that he was able to turn around and sell for $300. If his life was edited for TV, that find would have made the show for sure!
Social media and the internet have also influenced the antique market. Rafferty said they recently had an instance where a vendor had marked an item $500 and it sat for months. Then they put it on Ebay and it sold for $650. In that sense, the internet hurts antiques stores because now buyers can search online instead of browsing antique stores.
For those who still do enjoy browsing, there are lots of options in Owensboro. As already mentioned, The Owensboro Antique Mall is a great place to hunt for your treasures. Trader Baker’s flea market is another one. Peach Tree Antiques downtown has a more high-end selection. David Taylor Antiques on 3rd Street deals in high-end antiques and art. His business is most like Antiques Road Show and is by appointment only. Preservation Station in West Louisville is another great place to look if you haven’t been yet. “Those ladies out there are really creative,” Rafferty commented. “They like to take old things and repurpose them into a new look.”
So if you’re out to do some “pickin” in Owensboro, any of the people mentioned in this article can point you in the right direction for whatever you’re looking for.