When producers of the hit History Channel antique hunter’s show “American Pickers” called Clay County Commissioner Wayne Watts, he was more than willing to let them visit his expansive three-acre collection in Lineville.
“They were here in February, but before that a producer from New York came down and did a video, then a couple of weeks later they called me back and told me they had accepted it and wanted me to be on the show,” he said.
Watts, 61, has collected antiques for more than 50 years after first beginning with pocket watches and small knives. On June 4 at 7 p.m., his collection will be brought to a national audience with the airing of this particular episode, but for those who don’t want to wait, they can view it on the History Channel website.
“As I got older, I saw stuff that was thrown by the wayside and I made a point of it to start collecting,” he said.
“American Pickers” debuted in 2010 and gained a major following as collectors Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz travel the country in search of hidden antiques owned by everyday people.
Known for their historical savvy, entertaining dynamic and bargaining techniques, the two collectors were able to purchase a few items from Watts, who then took them out to dinner following the video shoot.
“I sold Frank an old wooden mantle for $125 and sold Mike some parts from an old Coleman lantern for $1,100,” he said. “They also went to my house where I live, and shot part of the video. Mike is actually coming back with his family and is going to take a vacation here in Clay County.”
Historical value plays the deciding factor for Watts in his collectible purchasing, which made him an easy stopping place for the two famous collectors. Ranging from old barber poles to whiskey stills, Watts claims to have one of the best collections of antiques in the area.
“Probably about 90 percent of the things I have are parts of local history,” he said. “Even things like an old Clay County whiskey still. I’ve got everything from old cars to old signs and more.”
Watts’ motives for collecting antiques and pieces of local history reach far past money or local fame, he said, which is something that has the potential to attract more to the area than just television personalities.
“A collection like this, featured on this show, will bring people in and show the rest of the country how great we are,” he said. “This is an opportunity to let people outside the county know where Lineville is.”
Byron Clarke, 61, is a close friend of Watts and also an avid collector of antiques. When “American Pickers” came to Watts and inquired about other collectors in the area, he immediately referred them to Clarke.
Clarke said that as soon as the collectors showed up, they got straight down to business.
“Mike bought a couple of motorcycle wheels and some lights,” he said. “Of course, I sold Frank some signs because he likes those. I had a scooter that they looked at, but we couldn’t get together on the price.”
Despite barely breaking even in terms of the cash payout, Clarke said, the overall experience was well worth it. In addition to the money, Clarke and his wife were also able to see behind the scenes of one of their favorite television programs.
“I really enjoyed it,” he said. “My wife and I watch the show and if we can’t watch it, we record it. It was cool to meet those guys and the crew was very nice. It was a good experience and great to see how much goes into one of those episodes.”
Clarke said that he began collecting antique Coca-Colas around 20 years ago, which then evolved into collecting signs and memorabilia associated with gas and oil companies. Along with the service station antiques sold, Clarke also let go of an antique porcelain phone booth, which he then declined to specify the selling price of.
Reality television is constantly called in to question, Clarke said, but “American Pickers” is as genuine as it gets.
“A lot of people ask me about the show and wonder if it is really real,” he said. “It’s all real and they actually buy the products, pay you for them and take them with them. It is a good show and they are good people.”