People love their junk. But not as much  as they love watching other people buy and sell junk.

How else can you explain the sudden emergence of junk shows like Storage Wars, Oddities, Pawn Stars, American Pickers, and the new Barter Kings. The list is endless – with most of the shows arriving within the last three years.

The best of  junk TV tends to combine interesting characters with the excitement of finding something truly amazing and valuable.

It’s a TV genre that gives us all hope that, one day, our Archie comics in the attic will finance our retirement.

Here are some of the best junk shows out there:

STORAGE WARS (2010- ) – This A&E series set the template for “treasure hunt” shows, with hopeful folks buying abandoned lockers in the off-chance it contains something valuable. The characters – the jerk (Dave), the good ole boy (Darrell), the bickering couple (Jarrod and Brandi), and the eccentric coot (Barry) – make this series more than watchable. My fave episode had Dave buying a locker full of newspapers on a whim. The newspapers turned out to be from the day Elvis died, and worth an estimated $75,000. The show’s spinoff, Storage Wars – Texas, plays like a Bizarro World version of the same show. But with accents:

PAWN STARS (2009- ) – Follows the day-to-day adventures at the Harrison family pawn shop in Las Vegas. Old Man Harrison is in charge and always angry at his son Rick, grandson Correy and that dim-witted friend known simply as Chumlee.  The boys are pretty tough negotiators. Basically, everything worth $100 is worth $20 to them. Guess they didn’t get their own reality show by being pushovers. Pawn Stars is currently the second highest rated reality series – behind only Jersey Shore:

AMERICAN PICKERS (2010- ) – Easy-going guys Mike and Frank travel America searching for good junk to buy. The show does a great job in profiling some real eccentric characters (like that one odd sort who had built a home underground). Its spinoff, Canadian Pickers, seems to stick to the main roads a bit more – which isn’t as fun. I want my Canadian kooks!:

HARDCORE PAWN (2010- ) – This is the street-wise version of Pawn Stars. The shop/setting is located in a rough neighbourhood in Detroit, and the customers tend to be a  bit angry (Not to mention desperate, criminal and crazy). Not so much about selling stuff as following the characters – including owner Les Gold, who has one of the greasiest hairstyles on TV:

AMERICAN DIGGER (2012- ) – Not so much a junk show, but an adventure! Former wrestler Ric Savage leads a group to different parts of America in search of relics hiding just below the ground. Rings. Guns. A cannon? Who knew the backyard was so interesting? Some of this show feels a bit staged, with phony “last minute” finds, but it’s still pretty entertaining:

AUCTION HUNTERS (2010- ) – This series definitely comes off as questionable – with two actors (Allan Huff/’Ton’ Jones) doing their variation on Storage Wars. So are they playing themselves as junk dealers? Or are they junk dealers on the side? Guess we know why they find such cool stuff:

ODDITIES (2010- ) – Set in a strange shop in the East Village of Manhattan, Oddities lives up to its title as people come looking for all sorts of strange things (A pickled pig/A book bound in human skin/an autopsy table). Actually, the customers who walk into Obscura Antiques are also rather odd. The show offers up the answer to the eternal question “How much exactly is a pickled pig worth?” Not for the squeamish:

ANTIQUES ROADSHOW (1979- ) – The show that started it all! Well, not really. But it does have all the elements – nifty junk, oddball experts, and oblivious owners. And don’t forget the always hilarious “reveal” – when people try not to act excited at how rich they have just become. Multiple versions exist around the world, but I still appreciate the original British version: