TODAY | November 24, 2012
>>> restaurant chain cracker barrel has been a favorite of american road trippers for decades with its down home southern cooking and stores filled with an assortment of knickknacks. ever wonder how they find all those little treasures? kerry sanders decided to find out.
>> reporter: in rural tennessee , where holding on to old time values is treasure, larry singleton 's treasure is finding value in a piece of the old times.
>> this is one i just picked up here recently. i don't think i've ever seen one. it was for roy acuff 's own flour.
>> reporter: larry is unlike most collectors. not because his living room looks like a museum.
>> it's a 1930s coca-cola sign.
>> reporter: rather because he gets paid to collect american memorabilia.
>> i believe i really do have the best job in the world.
>> reporter: larry inherited this job from his parents, who were hired by a man with a dream. 43 years ago, dan evans wanted to turn a gas station into a general store . it would be called cracker barrel .
>> got the hamburger platter right here.
>> reporter: today, with 620 stores in 42 states, this restaurant chain from tennessee fills each location with pieces of americana.
>> i'm sure i'm not alone. most people probably think that stuff is a replica. it's real?
>> yeah, it's all authentic. since the beginning, cracker barrel started, they said we're going to use the original pieces. since 1969 , we've got out and hunted and dug and got into buildings to continue to use authentic pieces.
>> reporter: if his home is a museum, well, then, cracker barrel 's warehouse --
>> old cream cans. metal cream cans.
>> reporter: is an archive of american history . where relics are restored, bar coded, and then categorized. each collectible is carefully staged in a mock store before a new cracker barrel opens. how do they pay for all this? with success. if you'd invested a thousand dollars in this company's stock in the earrl larly '80s, today that stock would be worth close to a million dollars. each store has two constants. the memorabilia is not for sale and no one can ever figure out what that thing is hanging from the ceiling.
>> it's a hand washer that they used to wash clothes in a wash tub.
>> reporter: and now you know. for "today," kerry sanders , nbc news, lebanon, tennessee .