Has “American Pickers” Ruined Barn Finds for the Rest of Us?

American Pickers“American Pickers” is a popular reality show that features two antique experts who travel the United States, scrounging through barns in an attempt to find valuable classic cars and other collectibles. Since the show’s premier in 2010, barn picking has doubtlessly become much more popular within mainstream culture. What was once a very niche hobby reserved for diehard enthusiasts is becoming increasingly commonplace as more and more Average Joes perceive rare barn finds as yet another way to make a quick buck. This raises the question: Is “American Pickers” ruining the hobby for all of the true classic car enthusiasts who have been picking through barns long before the show’s inception?


The first issue stems from people’s perception of what their antiques are worth. Muscle car enthusiasts know all too well that as soon as a certain kind of collectible car hits mainstream demand, prices are bound to skyrocket. A few decades ago you could find a decent-condition, late-1960s Mustang or Camaro to restore for relatively cheap, while today this is nearly impossible. The same issue is bound to arise with all sorts of classic cars and antiques: After seeing “American Pickers,” even little old ladies are much more likely to expect top dollar for their rusting collectibles.


Another issue is the decreasing availability of barn finds. The beauty of the hobby was that owners had more or less forgotten about their old junk cars. As an enthusiast, you had specialized knowledge about which cars were worth restoring, and you could find some real gems buried away in those rusty old barns. However, with the popularity of “American Pickers,” owners who watch the show are much more likely to dig out their antiques and actively sell them, even going so far as to list them on auction sites like eBay in order to make an easy dollar. As an increasing number of antique cars get sold online, it’s going to be much harder to find something worth restoring buried away in barns off the beaten path.


On that same note, the show has made barn picking “cool” to the average viewer. While the hobby used to be reserved for true restoration enthusiasts, now everyone and their brother will be stopping off at old barns in an attempt to be hip “pickers” like the hosts of the show. This means that the availability of worthwhile barn finds is likely to go way down over the coming years.


Luckily though, like every reality TV show, “American Pickers” is most likely just a fad. As the average viewer gets bored and moves on to the next hip reality show hobby, barn finds will once again be reserved for legitimate car enthusiasts. Hopefully, there will still be plenty of worthwhile classics gathering dust in the barns of America after the show has had its run.