Canadian Pickers sounds like it might be a show with Tommy Hunter.
But the co-stars of the History Television series, which comes to West Kootenay this month, aren’t interested in guitars unless they’re old and for sale.
Scott Cozens and Sheldon Smithens are pickers of a different sort, constantly in search of antiques and collectibles which they try to flip for a profit.
“I’ve been buying and selling virtually my entire adult life,” Smithens said on the phone last week from Newfoundland, where he was filming an episode. “I grew up in the trade. My parents were antiques importers and later auctioneering was in our family.”
The two men spent four and a half months criss-crossing the country last year, shooting the series’ first season while proving the adage one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.
Now they’re on the road again, paying cash for items hidden in basements and attics.
“We’re looking for people that have a collecting bug and maybe went overboard,” Smithens says. “That’s quite common. Or someone in the family. Could be an uncle that passed away that filled up a barn full of stuff. We don’t mind a little dust. In fact, we kind of relish that.”
In St. Thomas, Ont., they recently acquired a giant bell purportedly from the engine of the train that struck Jumbo the elephant in that city in 1885.
In Alberta, they picked up an old wooden pulley for $60, envisioning it as a coffee table base.
From a man who spent decades in the amusement business, they bought an entire Ferris wheel.
“We actually only kept the cars because we plan on selling those as swings or novelty items,” Smithens says. “It’s the unusual things that keep us laughing and interested.”
There is a big difference between a picker and a collector, he explains. Pickers don’t particularly want to hang onto anything, but find choice items and move them fast.
“Once in a while I get tempted and put something in my cabinet just as a memento, but for the most part we’re out there looking for something we can buy low and sell medium.”
Doing it before TV cameras can make their task easier or harder, depending on the situation.
“We’ll hit somebody who will throw us a plum just because we’re doing it for the show. And other times somebody says ‘Well, I’ve seen your show, and you offer too low!’”
Most people are happy to play along, although not every visit produces dividends.
“Some hoarder thought maybe he was going to sell that day and then decided he couldn’t part with anything. That happens occasionally,” Smithens says.
Canadian Pickers is based on a popular U.S. show. Smithens received a call last year asking if he knew anyone who might make a good host.
“In the antiques trade there are so many characters out there wheeling and dealing and picking,” he says. “I suggested several friends and associates, including Scott and myself.”
A few weeks later they filmed an audition tape and were hired.
A key difference from the U.S. version is the travel involved. While south of the border tens of millions of people can live within a few hours’ drive, in Canada there are often huge distances between population centres. But Smithens says they’re doing their best to showcase the country from end to end to end, including our area.
“We’re looking forward to the Kootenays. We’re always hunting for things we will quite likely find in your area — railway items or mining things. I’m a big fan of sporting goods. I can’t pass up a good pair of snowshoes or early skis. I have a feeling we’ll find some of those.”
Smithens has been here before for both business and pleasure, while Cozens played with Vernon in the BC Hockey League in the 1970s.
Canadian Pickers will be in the area August 13 to 21. If you’re interested, call 416-531-2500 ext. 605 or email canadianpickers(at)cineflix.com.