10-year-old Colt Orman proves to be a picker extraordinaire
A rising star in the world of American pickers, 10-year-old Colt Orman knows a good deal when he sees one.
The Friendship Christian School fifth-grader and son of Lebanon's Stacy and David Orman Jr., who has made nothing but 'A's on his report card since day one, proves to be a boy of many interests.
He plays third base for the Lebanon Blue all-star baseball team, raises chickens and sells their eggs and makes concrete bird baths and flower pots. Over the past three or four years he has turned into an enthusiastic entrepreneur as a pretty fair buyer and seller of antiques.
During the last 12 months he's made close to $5,000 from purchasing and reselling vintage items. He got in the habit at the age of 6, he says, "after seeing Nana and Pa doing it."
"I think it was passed down," he says stating the obvious of the lessons learned from his grandparents Regina and David Orman. (The trio makes up the Possum Town Pickers.)
"I like meeting people and talking to them more than making money," said Colt, a youth with excellent manners and a master of negotiation who knows how to buy right and price right for a quick turnover.
"I kinda look what I bought it for and mark it up a little bit. I go on Craigslist and eBay and see what it sells for and maybe make it a little bit cheaper," he said of the items he sells from his granddad's barn near Lebanon.
Among his best transactions, Colt bought two 1943 Navy compasses for $50 and sold one of them for $300, and he purchased a 1939 Electrohome cook stove for $50 and sold it for $225.
Grandpa David recalled, "I told him. 'I don't think you can sell that.' He said, 'No, I like it,' and he bought it and made money."
Bargaining with 'American Pickers' Wolfe
The youngster also has done some dickering with Mike Wolfe of "American Pickers" TV fame. The negotiations took place about six months after Wolfe opened his Antique Archaeology store at Nashville's Marathon Village. As Colt and his grandparents studied the shop full of "rusty gold," Colt spotted two tail lights and a headlight off of a 1950s Chevy.
"They wanted $110 for all three. The lady at the register just happened to be on the phone with Mike, so she acted as the go between," recalled David. "Colt asked for the best price and got them for $90, and they threw in an Antique Archaeology ball cap."
Those three items went into Colt's vintage automotive collection, thus they are not for sale.
Bargaining must be hereditary
Colt's skill for wheeling and dealing comes through the genes on both sides of the family.
"She got me started back in the '70s," said David, referring to his wife Regina's hobby. "I thought it was 1910 junk back then. When you get started, it gets in your blood.
"Colt's great-grandfather was a 60-year picker. He passed away last year and had about nine barns full of stuff."
Grandmother Regina explained, "We started collecting for personal collections and it kinda started growing. We always had antiques sitting around when he started coming over as a baby. We tried to put them away, but his parents said, 'No, he's got to learn them.'"
Possum Town Pickers
Ten-year old Colt Orman and his grandparents David and Regina Orman make up the Possum Town Pickers. They deal in anything old with a special flair for farm tables, primitive and antique furniture, advertising items and glassware, and may be able to find that special piece you have been trying to find for years. Contact them via email at LDORCO@charter.net
"We did the picking on the sidelines until I retired two years ago," noted David, who was a construction project manager. "We built one barn and had to build another barn, and we moved a cabin built in 1834 here from West Tennessee.
"We started taking Colt shopping for antiques on the square when he was 6 or 7," David said.
"And to flea markets and yard sales," said Regina.
They also have taken him on numerous overnight trips into Kentucky and from Nashville to East Tennessee as they hunt for collectibles, advertising signs, glassware, primitive furniture and smaller items.
"My favorite place is Bell Buckle because they have lots of stores, and that's where I really got into it," Colt shares. "I always try to look in display cases, and I like small stuff, car items, any kind of oil cans. Anything looking old and in good shape. I like Coleman Lanterns and coolers."
Professional even in youth
The youngster has pretty much got his routine down and prefers to handle things himself. When he attends local auctions, he signs in, picks up a number and bids for himself. He keeps a list of everything purchases, how much he paid for each item and the date. And then he does his homework and decides on the selling price.
His getting out and about via his grandparents doing the motoring to and fro has already helped him make connections. Mike Taylor of Michael Taylor Estate Sales in Nashville has taken an interest in Colt, making him a preferred customer, which allows him discounts, and Mike, rather than other staffers, deals with Colt personally. Steve Fulps of Steve Fulps Estates Sales in Nashville has also built a business relationship with the young picker.
Another fan of Colt's is Lebanon's Teresa Lester, who recently started a local estate sale service, Lester Farms at Home.
"I know it's his passion, and he has big family support. I think he has that natural desire, and they have coached him along the way," Lester said. "He's good. He knows what he's looking at when he sees a vintage thermos or a part off a tractor that has some value left to it.
"I have bought two McCoy planters, a thermos and a box lot of vintage items from him. He knows negotiating as well. It's fun to talk to him."
One day a year or so back, Colt suggested to his grandparents that their barn could use a makeover. "Why don't we clean up that corner and sell some of those items?" he asked.
"He cleaned it up, and we called it Colt's Corner," said David, who gave his grandson that space to display his goods. "The only thing he lets me do is drive nails on the wall where he hangs 'em."
Indeed Colt's Corner proves a colorful eye-catcher, filled with antique tools, bottles, hand drills, old thermoses, small wooden boxes, saws, paperweights and other antiques. Old tools, neatly pegged to a wallboard, are priced from $5 to $30. A variety of old oil cans are marked from $5 to $20. A Coleman camping stove carries a $100 price tag.
And on an ancient roll-top desk (not for sale) perches a priceless photograph of Colt's late great-grandfather, Leonard Barker, who was a Chattanooga-area picker for decades.
The Ormans host a couple of barn sales a year; otherwise customers make appointments to check out their antiques. The trio goes on the prowl couple a days a week, but baseball games can cut into their travels along the antique trails.
Colt has ample working capital as he receives $10 for each "A" on his report card from both sets of grandparents. That translates into $120 every grading period.
"I like old car emblems and am always looking for Texaco items. I love old cans," said Colt, who has a whole room full of Colt memorabilia, a collection his grandparents began when he was born.
He also collects Texaco Gasoline memorabilia, Zippo lighters and has a knife collection of 40 to 50 pieces.
Not like other kids
Asked how his friends react to his business, he said, "They think it's pretty cool how much money I make, but they're not really into it."
"It's kinda hard to explain to a 9- or 10-year-old, 'I wanna go to yard sales and want antique pricing books for Christmas,'" said grandpa.
"It's a great pleasure to sit back and watch him negotiate with grown-ups and then they shake hands. He's very mature. He buys on instinct and has got a good eye. We get our reward out of it more just watching him," David said.
Colt says that he might enter the estate sale business when he grows up but he feels a stronger pull to become a veterinarian. He already sees in his mind's eye the interior décor if and when he operates an animal hospital.
"I'd probably put up a lot of old cans and all of my Texaco collection stuff," says the boy picker of Possum Town.
Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at email@example.com.