Winnsboro resident Tim Wilkes has been a picker since age 14 and those efforts have landed him on a History Channel television show American Pickers and the show will air on television tonight.
As a poor boy in Winnsboro he went around collecting dispensary bottles in the 1960s and selling them for $30 to $35 each. He said he hunted under most stores in the town looking for old bottles.
He expanded his operations to include old bicycles and lumber that he salvaged and straightened from houses being torn down.
Wilkes needed the money, so it started out of necessity, he said. For Wilkes that kind of collecting became an obsession, and he currently has 59 different warehouses filled with various collections like the bottles and oriental rugs.
His wife appreciates his passion but is now urging him to sell much of the accumulated stuff and he plans to open several stores in the Winnsboro area to do just that in the near future. Before he could get his ventures off the ground, the American Pickers scouts called him this spring.
As they went through his buildings they found 99 of the 100 items on their list they use to assess potential sites, so he knew they’d be back.
In April Frank Fritz and Michael Wolfe, stars of “American Pickers,” filmed 13 hours of footage with Wilkes.
Since his warehouses are within walking distance of each other, he was able to take the television stars on a stroll around Winnsboro to show them the courthouse and town clock among other things.
He said Fritz and Wolfe bought a good deal of items from him though the negotiation process, a picker trademark, made Wilkes a bit angry in spots.
“I knew what the items were worth and had been collecting longer than they had,” he said.
However, Wilkes said he did give his fellow pickers some good deals because he understood they needed to profit from their undertaking.
One item he was hesitant to part with was a hand crafted, Victorian style doll house that was six feet tall and included stained glass windows.
“It was one of the best pieces of folk art I have ever seen,” Wilkes said.
In the end, he and Wolfe were $50 apart on the price and they did paper rock scissors to settle the matter.
He hopes that segment made it onto the television show which will air today at 9 p.m. on the History Channel.
“It was an enjoyable but tiring 13-hour day,” Wilkes said.
He has collected for 50 years and has so many boxes of stuff that his not sure what is in all of them. He plans to open some boxes at the 25-mile yard sale to share some hidden treasures with locals.
“Mike and Frank are pickers for real. It’s not a myth,” Wilkes said. “I asked them questions about the Metrolina Flea Market in Charlotte and places in Virginia where I had worked, too.”
They knew things they could not have known had they not originally been pickers grinding out a living before they found television fame and sponsors.
Wilkes is proud Winnsboro was picked for something positive and hopes his treasures can help put the town on the map in new ways in the years to come.