It is a hard, risky business separating trash from second-hand treasure. But if you like to get your hands dirty like the Adam McDonald and Lucas Callaghan from A&E’s Aussie Pickers, then Lady Luck may just reward you. The art of separating trash from treasure is a fine one.
We had a quick chat to Rex Turnbull, proprietor of Mitchell Road Emporium in Sydney and he shared his take on some of the items drawing cold, hard cash on the second-hand market today.
According to Turnbull, one important number to keep in mind is 40. What is highly collectable typically goes in cycle every 40 years or so.
That means, if you have your family Parker or Chiswell furniture sitting around from the 1960’s or 1970’s, you are in luck. Furniture like that, from that era is now enjoying a strong revival. Also popular are vintage or antique lounge suites and kitchen/dining room sideboards.
Turnbull remembers the thrill when a Jacobean sideboard was brought in to his place once. The owners had little clue of its worth, and hoped to get $350 for it. To their shock and excitement, it sold for $2,000.
It is important to remember that items from a deceased estate can also be lucrative. People often overlook the value of pre-loved items that have been in the family for generations.
If you think the cash is all in furniture alone, you’d be selling yourself short. Strangely enough, soft drink bottles like Coca-Cola from the 1940’s to the 1970’s are also hot right now. As are the crates those bottles used to come in. A single bottle or crate can earn up to $120 each depending on its condition. Turnbull says if the bottle is full with the lid intact, the value rises even more.
Even old wooden fruit crates are now in demand, selling for $35 – $75. Yes, that is right, these are the sort of crates that were often used as wood chips for the fire place in the past. As these goods are now harder to find, prices have shot up.
Turnbull also warns potential pickers not to sniff at lighting from the beginning of the 20th century onwards. He reveals that planet lamps from the 1960’s and 1970s now sell for about three times the original retail price. Even old suitcases and trunks too have become popular and are often used as visual merchandising.
Those with a hankering for hunting down Australiana, here’s a tip for you. Old branded stone bottles from the drug company Elliot’s have become extremely collectable now. Turnbull says each bottle is able to fetch up to $200 a piece, particularly those from the late 19th to early 20th century.
Even shop scales are interesting again. Turnbull reckons he has about 20 different scales at varying in price from $20 to $700, from the late 1900’s to the 1960’s.
Investing or selling art however can be a slightly trickier business. Turnbull discovered that the hard way, once selling an art print for $30. The buyer eventually sold on that same piece for 3,000.
At the end of the day, a lot of it can come down to luck and determination with plenty of deals out there for those up for the challenge.