“Swap Shop” is a reality TV treasure-hunting series set in rural Tennessee, which is based on the popular radio show called “World Famous Swap Shop” (WFSS). In a similar manner to series such as “Pawn Stars” and “American Pickers”, Netflix’s “Swap Shop” follows nine couples who listen into the radio show every morning, waiting for the next big deal they can grab cheaply and flip for a profit.
“Swap Shop” radio show
“World Famous Swap Shop” has quite a long history. It started in 1957, and the present name was coined in 1970. The show airs every Monday through Saturday morning, kicking-off with the famous opening line ‘The ‘phone lines are now open, and we’re ready to get swapping’. The premise is rather simple – people call in to offer something up for sale, describe what it is, how much they want for the item, and how to get in touch with them.
In October 2018, Debbie Beal, the owner of WRGS radio station which broadcasts WFSS, was contacted by Hit + Run Productions about making a TV show based around it. ‘They had a lot of ideas, and wanted to know if we wanted to be a part of it. At first I was skeptical because ‘I don’t want you making fun of all my people’. But, they assured me that would not be the case. I think it’s going to be a cute show.’, Debbie said in an interview she gave for the magazine “Review”.
She was asked to run a radio ad to ask listeners of the show to contact the production company. A lot of people answered the ad, and eventually the final selection of nine couples was made. The cast includes people from all over East Tennessee, such as the historian and antique collector Rodney Ferrel, based in Surgoinsville, and Mike Ringley and Jennifer Seals also participate, having previously operated an antique shop.
On the other hand, the two voices who were sadly not called in by the production company are the hosts of “World Famous Swap Show” themselves, Jay Phillips and Tom Davis. Their eventual appearance on the show is still not off the table, though, as the two surely have valuable insights into the world of antique treasure hunting.
Fans of “Swap Shop” based outside of Tennessee can check out the original radio show on the official WRGS website, where they can also find all of the deals advertised on the show.
Amber Davis’ death
The first season of “Swap Show” was released on Netflix on 9 November 2021. One of the starring couples of the debut season was Richard and Amber Davis, who ran a comic book store in Knoxville, Tennessee, called Nirvana Comics. They founded the store in 2017, and it has since grown to be the biggest and most popular comic book store in their city, dealing in both newly released titles, and rare, antique finds.
After the show’s production began, Amber tragically passed away in December 2020. Since when her husband Richard has continued running the store, with the help of the store manager, Garin.
According to an Instagram post by Richard, Amber was admitted to the UT Medical Center in Knoxville, in early December 2020, to undergo kidney transplant surgery. Even though the cause of her death has not been disclosed, it’s believed that she succumbed to complications following surgery. On 15 October the following year, Garin uploaded another Instagram post, in honor of what would have been Amber’s 39th birthday. ‘This clip in the “Swap Shop” trailer really hit when it dropped this week. Today is Amber’s birthday. Seeing her alive and well in the shop she loved, dice in hand for D&D, her little white Mina dog by her side brought so many emotions’, he wrote in a heartfelt post.
Nirvana Comics today
After Amber’s tragic passing, Richard and Garin continued running Nirvana Comics, and were later joined by fellow comic book enthusiasts Grant and Jasmine Mitchell, who now co-run the store with them. While Richard’s spent his whole life in Tennessee, Garin originally comes from Roanoke, Virginia, and relocated to Knoxville to attend a local community college. The two share a strong passion for comic books, pop culture and superheroes, however, what makes their comic book shop stand out, is their commitment to treat all customers with respect, and give back to the community whenever possible.
While they may appear to be polar opposites when it comes to conducting business, their differing personalities provide a necessary balance in all of their business endeavors.
Aside from running Nirvana Comics, Garin is also the host of “The Printed Panel” podcast, while Richard has created his own comic book series, entitled “Cult of Dracula”.
In late January 2022, they made headlines by opening a fundraiser to give away free copies of “Maus”. Written and illustrated by Art Speigelman in 1991, “Maus” is a Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel, which tells the story of the Holocaust through animal allegory. After the book was unanimously banned from schools in McMinn county, Tennessee for ‘containing swear words’ and ‘unnecessary depictions of violence and suicide’, the staff of Nirvana Comics started a GoFundMe project to raise funds to buy copies of the graphic novel, and distribute them to students across East Tennesse for free. ‘I’m sure that this school board and parents were very well-intentioned trying to protect their children, but I think they have achieved the exact opposite result, because I don’t think they’re protecting their children by shielding them from books like “Maus”.
They’re actually harming them because they’re growing up expecting the world to be something that it isn’t’, said Richard in a public statement about the fundraiser.
They managed to surpass their goal in only four days, raising almost $70,000. The project really took off when the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” star, Wil Wheaton shared the story on Twitter. By the end, Nirvana Comics had raised over $100,000 for the cause, and are planning to distribute more than 20,000 free copies of the book, along with study guides for parents and children.
In February 2022, Nirvana Comics celebrated Black History Month by showcasing black creators, characters and artists in the comic book industry.
Considering what happened with Amber, staff of Nirvana Comics decided not to return for season two of “Swap Shop”.
“Swap Shop” season two
The second season of “Swap Shop” was released on Netflix on 16 February 2022, featuring n new cast, along with some familiar faces from season one.
One of the first pairs we get to see return are Dale and his business partner Scott, who own Kykers Xtreme Automotive car repair shop. We follow them as they try to snag a barn-kept 1970 Plymouth GTX, complete with a 440 power plant, which can go for up to $75,000 if returned to pristine condition. In one of the funniest scenes of the season, the two arrive late at the scene, to find that the Plymouth had already been purchased, but, instead of giving up, they chase down the buyer, and eventual purchase the car.
Also returning from season one are the owners of Pickers Paradise, Jen and Doug, who are rushing to get a deal at an estate sale, at which they’re greeted by JD and Bobby, another pair of seasoned pickers, and have to compete for the most valuable items.
The possible third season hasn’t even been filmed yet, and Netflix still hasn’t officially renewed the show.
While fans of the series are expecting to see more after two short seasons consisting of only six episodes each, there may not be a lot to hold on to, as Netflix is notorious for chopping down even its most successful shows, in favor of series.
Where is “Swap Shop” filmed?
Both seasons of “Swap Shop” take place in East Tennessee, within the reach of WRGD Radio airwaves. It perfectly highlights how their “World Famous Swap Shop” became an integral part of the local culture.
The radio station itself is located at 211 Buren Road in Rogersville, Hawkins County, however, we’re yet to see pickers from this town featured in the Netflix series. The majority of the businesses seen featured in the show are based in Knoxville, including Nirvana Comics and Monterrey Mexican. Businesses from other parts of Tennesse are West Main Antiques and Vintage from Johnson City, Kyker’s Xtreme Automotive located in Greenville, and JD’s Realty and Auction from Clinton.
Aside from these, a number of local barns and farms have been a vital part of production of the show.
It’s also speculated that the crew may have filmed some scenes in other states, but these rumors were never confirmed by the production team.
History of antique picking
Showcased on numerous popular reality TV shows which aired in recent years, antique collecting is the art of gathering items of aesthetic, historical and monetary value. The first records of antique picking date back to the 16th century, at the time when private collections of rarities flourished in Europe. The 18th century saw a significant development in the field of archeology, which heightened public interest in collecting and preserving historical rarities.
American pickers became seriously active during that period, collecting old books, manuscripts, memoirs, as well as everyday items. As part of the Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1876, finely crafted household articles and furniture attracted many collectors. By the 20th century, most collectors started specializing in one kind of antique objects, collecting items such as postal stamps, jewelry, coins, needlework, and many more.
Oftentimes, the value of an antique item is determined by its rarity, but the price is also influenced by the item’s overall aesthetic, the buyers’ nostalgia, and the value an item holds to them personally, ie, how much are they willing to pay. Therefore, pickers often try to get a hold of objects associated with a certain stylistic current that is going through a revival of interest.
Antique dealers use a variety of sources to find their items, such as auctions, flea markets and garage sales.
Other reality shows on Netflix
For fans of offbeat realty shows like “Swap Shop”, there is a bunch of series with a similar ‘vibe’ currently streaming on Netflix. One of the most quirky reality series has to be “Blow Away”, a soothing glass blowing competition show that centers on this mesmerizing art form, which has largely been ignored by mainstream culture.
“The Great British Bake Off” is another (more or less) peaceful competition show, featuring a group of amateur bakers as they face off in a series of challenges, attempting to impress the judges with their baked goods. Originally airing on Channel 4 since 2010, all 12 seasons of the show found their way to streaming platforms, where they’ve attracted a brand-new fanbase, especially during recent lockdowns.
Netflix’s original competition series – “The Big Flower Fight” – is similar to “The Great British Bake Off”, except with floral arrangements instead of cakes and pastries. Hosted by comedians Natasia Demetrious and Vic Reeves, with Kristen Griffith-Vanderyacht as the judge, the series has built a small but loyal fanbase, and was branded as ‘emotional comfort food’ by TV critics.
When the first season of the cult-classic reality series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” saw its release in 2019, it made a lot of traction online, with the host’s signature phrase ‘this sparks joy’. The show follows Marie as she helps her clients tidy up their living spaces, and provide them with helpful tips on how to keep the house clean and tidy at all times.