Reality shows find hidden treasures

kmccarthy@ledger-enquirer.comMay 25, 2012 

It started with “American Pickers,” for me and my husband at least.

After discovering the show via Netflix, we quickly burned through the episodes of season one and not-so-patiently waited for season two to show up. We're still waiting for season three.

But in the meantime, it hasn't been hard to find other similar reality shows -- shows that only not involved interesting people with a fun dynamic, but also taught you a little something.

Granted, the lessons on these shows aren't the kind that will land you a new job, but they may help you out the next time you watch "Jeopardy!" or when you want to impress someone at a cocktail party.

Plus, they feature lots of cool stuff.

Here's a run-down on the shows I've enjoyed -- the characters featured are often as interesting as the items they find.

American Pickers: As mentioned, this was our first foray into the "hidden treasure" realm of reality television. Iowans Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz traverse the country and pick through other peoples' (sometimes hoader-style) collections, looking for items that they can restore and make some money on. Each have a vast knowledge-base to draw from and you'll often come away with tid-bits of information about American history.

Pawn Stars: A little less salt-of-the-earth than "Pickers," this show is set in a Las Vegas pawn shop that sees it's share of interesting artifacts and memorabilia. People bring in old records, paintings, weapons, coins and more. Before a deal is made, the pawn shop owners often bring in subject-matter experts to authenticate the items and assign a value. As a viewer, you'll learn what items you own that would be most likely to get you some cash in a pinch.

Storage Wars: This show focuses on four people, three of whom own consignment shops, who go to storage unit auctions. The units auctioned have been abandoned by their owners; bidders get five minutes to look in the unit -- but they can't go in or open any boxes -- before the bidding begins. They're essentially gambling. The fun part is watching them sort through the junk, sometimes stumbling across unprecedented items such as valuable coin collections, sports memorabilia and more. It's fun to try to guess how much items are worth when they get appraised.

Hollywood Treasure: This is our latest find and possibly my favorite. Los Angeles auction house Profiles in History tracks down Hollywood and pop-culture memorabilia, sometimes having to convince owners to part with items, and then sells them at auction. These are mostly big-ticket items, such as the Wicked Witch of the West's hat from "The Wizard of Oz" and a hover-board from "Back to the Future." They also hold charity auctions.

Katie McCarthy, kmccarthy@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8515. Visit her Intellectual Junk Food blog for more commentary.

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