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Best Underground Shoppers - 2011
Garage sale pickers
"No, you can't take my picture!" Marcus Breen hollers. "I'm a picker! We are totally incognito."Apparently, in order for him to score the very best deals, Breen and all the other pickers who are prowling our garage sales and thrift stores, looking for nice things that they can mark up and sell to antique dealers and to their own clients, must remain as anonymous as possible. They belong to a secret underground that allows them to show up, unrecognized, to scam our things.It seems that remaining invisible is just one of many tips of survival in this ultra-exclusive club. Pickers and antiques dealers tend to arrive early for a yard sale or an estate clearance. "If you plan to start selling at 8 a.m., and you see someone looking around your property, that's a picker," Breen says. "We want to be there before you even set up, to see what you've got before the other pickers get to it."Picking is an especially competitive and sometimes nasty sport, Breen says; there's no love lost among these people who make their living reselling our old junk. "I hate showing up at 5 a.m. at an estate sale and seeing three other pickers in line ahead of me. And we're all trying not to be too obvious while we're glaring at each other."Sellers have gotten savvier, Breen laments, since the advent of reality TV shows about his ilk. "It used to be that no one knew we even existed, but now you've got things like Storage Wars and American Pickers, and so when you start wheeling and dealing, people are less willing to cut you a deal. They're like, 'Are you going to resell this?' I liked it better when it was easier to blend in."