The collectibles spin-off show I’ve been waiting for is here: American Restoration.
You may have heard about it, sometimes promoted or promised under other names such as Rick’s Restorations and Rusty Nuts (I prefer the title Rusty Nuts, but with the success of American Pickers, I guess the corporate guys figured American Restoration was more bankable). This latest show to join the History Channel’s Monday night lineup for collectors follows the work of Rick’s Restorations, the Las Vegas business owned by Rick Dale.
You’ll remember Dale’s appearances on Pawn Stars; he’s the guy who’s restored such things as old gas pumps and soda machines.
Dale and his staff focus mainly on the classic restoration of vintage and antique mechanical Americana. I think I may have just made that category of collectibles up, so if you don’t know what I mean, it’s vintage appliances, motorcycles, radios, pedal cars, railroad memorabilia, candy dispensers, pinball machines, jukeboxes, barber chairs, bicycles, and all sorts of things made in the American Rust Belt — you know, back when we made stuff in the USA.
(Not that their work is limited to made in the USA only; but you will see a lot of what America once manufactured, both for retail as well as to sell items at retail, i.e. advertising, service tools, and salesmen’s stuff.)
Rick and his staff are a colorful bunch of personalities (something I’ve admitted I love about Pawn Stars), however it’s clear that they not only know what they are doing, technically speaking, but they know the importance of what they do: they are reclaiming the history of objects, both in terms of an owner’s personal nostalgia and the workmanship of yesteryear.
While it is made quite clear that what Dale and his team mainly do is classic restorations, restoring antique and vintage items to their former glory keeping the item’s integrity by keeping the item as original as possible using parts specific to the object, viewers of Pawn Stars will recall that Dale himself has pointed out that some items can and should be modified or customized to make them more usable.
The example that leaps most vividly to my mind was a Coke machine which Dale made more useful by modifying the old machine to dispense modern bottles. I recall being surprised because I’m so used to being told not to ruin a patina, let alone update such vintage things, especially if you want to resell the item. But when Dale explained, I totally understood it. This is exactly the sort of thing I want to learn more about, and why I’ve been looking forward to the show!
Along with seeing so many old things once made by hand &/or manufactured with pride, Dale does a nice job of informing us about the item, its purpose, and who made it. (You know I’m a sucker for such context!)
Dale also tells you the cost of what he and his team have done, as well as the retail value it now has; especially useful if you are considering or justifying the restoration of something you own.
But perhaps the biggest thrills (and bulk of the show) revolve around the actual restoration process of antiques and vintage collectibles.
If you aren’t the handy DIY restorative type, you’ll gain a better understanding of just how much work and man hours go into classic restoration. Because the majority of the items are metal, there’s the removal of rust and old paint (do you use sand blasting, walnut blasting or sodium pressure washing?), general body work, painting, recreating or replacing graphics and logos — and that’s not even getting to the mechanical parts!
This is what Rick Dale calls the “grunt work.” But there’s still the time and money spent searching for authentic missing parts. (And what can’t be found might have to be recreated too.) Whew!
The amount of work shown in American Restoration may not inspire you to restore your own antiques and collectibles, but it will help you as a collector of mechanical Americana. You’ll learn more about the collectibles you covet and how to appraise their condition; you learn to understand the price tags on restored collectibles and antiques as well as appreciate the fees charged by professional restoration companies.
If nothing else, collectors will enjoy seeing such classic and iconic Americana.