From Long Island to London, Mark Meyer has bought and sold countless amounts of jewelry, coins, tools and other things older than he is -- which means anything from before Aug. 12, 1986. An old pro at the auction game at just 25, he's co-owner of Nifty Thrifty collectibles and antiques in West Babylon and a star of the new Travel Channel series, "Baggage Battles," premiering Wednesday with back-to-back episodes at 10 and 10:30 p.m.
The brash and baseball-capped Meyer, who grew up in Lindenhurst, is the youthful hotshot on the show, competing at auctions against pencil-mustached Billy Leroy, of Manhattan's Billy's Antiques & Props, and older, hippie-chic California couple Laurence and Sally Martin, of Studio Antiques in El Segundo.
"You're gonna notice Billy's quite cheap," Meyer says of his co-star. "I'm not. I don't want to travel 500 miles to spend $500. I throw around a few thousand, and I come out pretty well."
On the show, the four trek to England, Florida and elsewhere to bid on, among other things, the grab-bag mysteries of lost and unclaimed luggage. Tucked amid the underwear and socks in a suitcase he won for $75, Meyer, in episode two, pockets a 1901 Elgin pocket watch worth eight times that. Leroy, with a similarly low-priced grip, finds a set of old coins we see him sell for $1,000.
Meyer got his start with flea markets and garage sales when he was 14. A 2004 Lindenhurst High School grad who says he played on the Bulldogs' division-champ volleyball team his junior year and attended Nassau Community College, Hofstra and SUNY Old Westbury, earning a finance degree, he never wanted to work for anyone but himself.
"The most successful people I know are business owners, and so I never sent out a single resumé after college," he says. "I registered my business name, scouted some local offices and decided there was enough profit margin to compete" in the antiques and collectibles business. "Along the way, I met some great business partners" -- married couple Margaret and Sidney "Bobby" Baxter -- "who opened up a store with me about a year ago."
And now he's found himself not just selling collectibles, but, oddly, creating them.
"At this auction in Indianapolis, they put it out weeks in advance that we'd be filming, so instead of 200 people showing up, we had like 1,000. They marked off seats with scraps of paper with our names on them, and afterward, this woman peels mine off the seat and has me autograph it. My butt has been sitting on this piece of paper all day! She didn't care. She said, 'I'm going to sell it on eBay!' "