This fascinating elegy to the lost art of garage sale picking is a poignant reminder that ebay and Antiques Roadshow, not to mention the increased flow of auction information, have made pickers like Rick Orr a thing of the past. The Riverfront Times‘s Robert Pela has a ball with it:
There’s a big plaster duck in the driveway of Rick Orr’s mobile home in Phoenix, Arizona. If you know Rick Orr, you know this can’t possibly be just any plaster duck; it’s almost certainly one of the world’s rarest plaster ducks, probably worth tens of thousands of dollars and crafted by some dead guy no one’s ever heard of but whose work is deeply coveted. And given the duck’s placement, about halfway between the door of Orr’s house and the bumper of his big, beat-up Ford van, you — if you know Rick Orr — would have to assume the duck is about to be delivered by Rick to some rich guy who’s waiting anxiously for the duck’s arrival. Someone who will peel several large bills from a thick roll and hand them to Rick Orr.
And you’d be right about everything but that last part. The duck is inestimably rare, and it is on its way to the home of a Phoenix gazillionaire. But the rich guy won’t be paying thousands of dollars to Rick Orr — who’s spent his whole adult life schlepping rare artifacts from other people’s driveways to the homes of wealthy collectors; whose lifelong knack for finding fine art in dusty attics is so renowned, it’s the subject of a new documentary film — for the plaster duck. He’ll be paying Orr a couple of bucks for fixing the duck’s beak. Because Orr, who has made his living for nearly 40 years hunting for treasure among other people’s trash, currently makes money as a handyman for the rich people to whom he used to sell million-dollar paintings.
We won’t ruin the rest of the story for you. click through and read every last word, including Orr’s own frees-spending, heedless ways and the too-good-to-be-true Picasso story.