|By Eric C. Rodenberg
BURBANK, Calif. — Look out American Pickers, there’s a new kid on the block.
And he’s quick, clever and not above using his considerable charm in closing a sale.
“At estate sales, I’m short enough – and no one pays attention to me – and I can work my way through the crowd to get up in front and buy a lot of the good stuff,” 8-year-old Connor McCrory said.
Then, Connor “The Picking Prodigy” turns around and sells his finds at The Glendale Flea Market, The Topanga Canyon Flea Market and eBay.
He makes good money, but like any media-wary picker, he does not discuss dollar figures. “I go to garage and estate sales weekly to buy and sell antiques,” Connor said. “I love to dig through garages and houses full of a lot of stuff because I know what is valuable.”
Connor shows a “natural proclivity” for picking. He was born with a congenital heart disease, and is unable to participate in sports. So, at 4-years-old, he latched onto collecting vintage Lionel trains.
“I saw this Lionel, and I just had to have it,” Connor said. “The dealer had $150 on it, but I got him down to $50 because I’m so cute. (Editors Note: Conner was advised that “cuteness does not last forever, but to use it to his advantage as long as he can).
While other 4- and 5-year-olds were watching cartoons, Connor was glued to Auction Hunters, American Pickers and Storage Wars. To further his education, he has spent numerous hours surfing eBay, Ruby Lane and other antiques and collectibles sites, comparing prices, learning collecting niches and seeing what was available.
“After that, I talked my mom into letting me sell at flea markets and selling online,” he said. “Of course, I need her help because I can’t spell big words.”
At the ripe, old picking age of 6, Connor encountered Barry Weiss, “The Collector” from the television show Storage Wars in a Los Angeles restaurant. Walking up to Weiss while he was eating, Connor announced he was going to buy storage lockers when he got older. “You are the youngest picker that I ever met, who is for real,” Weiss retorted. Then the 61-year-old Weiss dispensed some wisdom on a signed note, “Conner, please stay in school and out of the Storage Lockers!”
That advice failed to deter Connor. Within a year he was picking with Allen Haff from another television show, Spike network’s Auction Hunter. Haff, impressed with the young picker’s knowledge, filmed two days of picking with Connor as his apprentice. The network has yet to air the film.
But, Connor has little desire to quit school; that’s where he spreads his enthusiasm for antiques and collectibles. During lunch, he can often be found talking with Linda Acuff, principal at Emerson Elementary School in Burbank.
“He’s such an inspiring little kid,” Acuff said. “Together we craft ideas for his buying and selling.”
Connor, at the principal’s suggestion, recently “cataloged” his collection. He’s also teaching the principal how to buy vintage Art Deco diamond rings and what to look for in Bakelite jewelry. “Often, he will bring his friends with him,” Acuff said. “He just appeals to all the children in his age group. He is very compassionate and sensitive to others. But, they’re all fascinated that he knows so much. He’s very passionate about collecting, and he’s such a little entrepreneur.”
Adept at listening, Connor also picks the brains of much older collectors. Recently at a vintage art pottery show, Connor was seen discussing the various patterns and merits of Roseville and Weller pottery with one of the more acclaimed dealers.
“I have a lot of Roseville,” Connor said. “I have a Rookwood piece. And, I have a $2,000 Barbie from the 1960s … you always look for the Barbie patents on their butts, they’re very tiny … hard to see. You’ve got to have good eyes.”
Although Connor has grown up in an era in which pickers have nearly become a staple in reality television entertainment, the third-grader has little desire to become “a star.” When asked about his future, Connor immediately replied, “I will open an antique store … probably, when I’m 20 or 25.”
By then, Connor McCrory – while disproving the old trope “there is no new blood in the market” – will have a good jump on breaking full-time into the antiques and collectibles industry.