Prattville Pickers

By on 6 May, 2013 in Kate and Stephen, Shopping with 1 Comment

A relative who has just moved to Montgomery is looking to furnish the house he has purchased. He’s not really a “new furniture” type of guy. He’s more of a bargain hunter, looking for something classic and timeless and overlooked. He wants to furnish his home with treasures — but is on a budget.

As a result, we have recently spent some time in thrift shops. And junk stores. And yard sales. And emporiums that specialize in second-hand goods.

If you’re in a similar situation (or just bored), you’ll want to scoot up to our neighboring city to the north. There, you’ll find Prattville Pickers, just off Highway 82 on the way to Tuscaloosa. It’s not an innovative concept: Take a very large building and rent out stall space to various “junk entrepreneurs.”

It’s an industry that has always been around, but has accelerated in recent decades. Mass produced consumer items have become collectable. The nostalgia machine manufactures desire for older things. Recycling is actually a useful way to keep functional items out of the landfill. And the whole thing is bound together by a vast collection of shows like Antiques Roadshow and American Pickers that suggest that a little effort can result in vast riches, merely by connecting the right scarce item with the right buyer. Here, amid collections of old RC Cola bottles and assorted tractor parts, you stand at the end of the life cycle of America’s material detritus.

So there we are, looking for a good solid bedframe at a reasonable price, but there is so much else to see. Piles of National Geographic magazines, lunch boxes, rusted gears, tea pots, neon beer signs, and any other number of items that sellers are hoping that buyers will admire.

Prattville Pickers is worth checking out, if only because of the scale of the place. It’s nearly 100,000 square feet, and as with any such place, the inventory is always changing. You just never know what someone is going to have in stock at any given moment.

The whole premise of “picking” and turning junk into treasure is that the owner has not yet been able to find the proper buyer. This is incredibly problematic in the age of the Internet. A hoarder of old lunch boxes would — at one point in history — have to be blessed with incredible luck to find a lunchbox collector. Today, however, there are entire forums devoted to the buying and selling of such items — and the market tends to price-adjust according to availability.

So the odds of you coming across a secret stash of baseball cards or comic books (where the owner just has no idea of the value of the thing) is vanishingly rare. And if you’re looking for a real bargain, it’s important to remember the single most important rule of thrift shopping: “An item is only “worth” what you can get someone to pay for it.”

But you still might get a nice chair or end table or vintage lamp for a reasonable price. After all, these people need to get rid of this junk so that they can buy more junk. And that means that this junk is priced to move!

Here’s a look at what we saw on a recent trip up the road to the Prattville Pickers:

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  1. Becky Payne says:

    I have never been to Prattville Pickers…so glad I found this write-up! Making plans to pay them a visit tomorrow ~ can’t wait to see what I find!

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