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Who is Ian Dowling?

Happy Paddy's Day everyone! 🍀
We sat down with Irish Pickers star Ian Dowling and listened to his fascinating stories that he learned during his travels as the greatest picker in Ireland! With the help from his fantastic team, consisting of his childhood friend Butzy, Ali Foy (the manager) and Vintage Vinnie. But among the four of them is the best of them all, Vinnie’s pet pup Max!

So, who is Ian Dowling?

The face of Irish Pickers, Dowling has been collecting interesting objects for as long as he can remember. He’s always enjoyed the thrill of trading, even from a young age. He told Freesat how he used to purchase sweets from the local sweet shop, then sell them to his classmates for a profit with his partner in crime, Butzy! They’d always get up to no good at school and were often forced to sit at the front of the class in an effort to get them to concentrate on their schoolwork. Humble and full of gripping stories, Dowling claims he's never worked a day in his life because he absolutely loves what he does for a living. 

Ian Dowling with Butzy

What makes Ian stand out from other pickers?

He cares about what he collects, and everything he finds must have a great story behind it, so that when he does sell it on to somebody, they can take a piece of history with them. They say a picture can tell a thousand words, but a real object, something as physical as the letters from the Apollo Theatre in Dublin (pictured below), can fill a novel, and this is something Ian lives by. These stories give Ian the opportunity to connect a piece with a new home, and that feeling of knowing it is being used as a conversation piece for others really drives him in his career. He also gets to make a profit from it!

Apollo Theatre in Dublin letters

What's his most memorable find?

Definitely the Mask of Kevin Barry, due to its sentimental value and family history. Ian mentioned the mask appears to be smiling at us, and likes to think that this is how it ended for Kevin.

Kevin Barry death mask

But don't just take our word for it, find out what Ian had to say about the trade in his own words!

‘It’s kind of like a kid with a new toy. I’ll have something, and like, selling is just an excuse for me to buy something as well. I love all of this type of stuff, so if I wasn’t selling it I would always be buying and I’d probably end up a real hoarder! But the fact that I sell it, I can enjoy something like this for a while then I might get bored of it and let somebody else enjoy it.

‘I have a lot of stuff, yeah, a lot of stuff,’ he joked.

He keeps everything in a giant warehouse, which he describes as ‘a big building with lock-ups inside it, so the big thing for me is that every little piece has taken time to find, negotiate, bring back, and I want to make sure that everything is safe, that I can sleep at night knowing it’s not going to be cleaned out. The lock-ups are really good because there’s 24 hour security, so they’re really as safe as they can be.’

‘I don’t want to get into retail, with people coming in doing what I do, being annoying and haggling and stuff! ‘That’s why I love online, you can put stuff up and people can buy it there if they want it, and that’s the system that works best for me.’ 

Has he ever been ripped off? 

‘The goats, it’s really embarrassing! I still can’t get over it, it’s a wound that doesn’t heal!’

‘This sounds really silly right, but he told me that they’d been made by Salvador Dali, and straight away I believed this guy, he was nearly 70 and I just believed that he believed it, and that was enough for me to take a chance, because normally I would never touch something like this but that’s what happens, and I got hustled!

Salvador Dali goat sculpture

When asked if he had an advisor to help him with this particular pick, he told us ‘I actually looked into it and found out that Salvador Dali had a thing about goats,  I won’t tell you what he used to do with goats (we’re not sure we want to know!), but I figured this guy must be telling the truth, and as well as this it was a Carrera marble which came from Portugal, so I thought, Salvador Dali had been to Portugal in the 70s like this man said so I thought Jesus, maybe he’s telling the truth.’

"I had every auction house over to look at them, and they all verified that it wasn’t actually Salvador Dali, and I was left with these two marble goats that I didn’t know what the hell to do with…"

He told us of course that ‘had it really been Salvador Dali, I would have been able to retire, so it was definitely worth the risk.’ We think so too 👀💵

 → Check out Ian Dowling's top 5 hidden gems