Since 2010, “American Pickers,” Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz have been traveling the U.S. in search of valuable antique and collectible items. With their trusted helper, Danielle Colby, Fritz, and Wolfe turn what many people see as old junk into profit. However, there is much more to the “American Pickers” than what you see on camera. Keep reading to find out the secrets behind the series and what the cast is really like when the cameras aren’t filming.
The Most Expensive Find
Season 17 debuted in April 2017. The series’ opening episode also included the pickers most expensive find. In the episode, Mike and Frank visit Linda and Zane Leek in Oregon. Linda’s late husband was a vehicle collector. According to Oregon Live, “Wolfe and Fritz come upon some very rare four-cylinder motorcycles, dating back to the 1930s.” The pick cost a total of $90,000.
Hobo Jack Is An Author
Hobo Jack’s belongings are often frequented by the pickers. However, Hobo Jack is anything but a hobo. He is actually a published author and has written three books, including “Amazing Adventures of the Tramp Prince.” He also considers himself a musician and has self-recorded and released a few albums. You can order all his merchandise through his website; however, as he handles everything himself, it may take many weeks to receive your order.
Are Items Planted?
With any reality series, many have claimed that the show is fake. People who have had first-hand encounters with the film crew say that producers plant items for Mike and Frank to find. Otherwise, the crews would waste time filming countless hours of the men just picking with no success. However, Mike says otherwise.
Mike Says The Show Is Real
Mike has rebutted all of those arguments that claim the show is fake. He does admit that producers sometimes call people ahead of time to make them aware that the show is coming to film on their property. However, Mike says everything else you see on the show is real. They actually uncover unknown objects, and all the negotiations are also real. Nothing is staged.
First Series Bought Without A Pilot
Mike Wolfe knew he had the perfect idea for a show. However, he couldn’t get any channel to produce it. It took him several years, but once he was able to get into a meeting with some network executives of the History channel, he gave the pitch of his life. Executives were quickly impressed. “It was the first show that History ever bought without a pilot,” Mike said to Script. “They wanted it right away and bought ten episodes.”
The Series Was Almost Called Something Else
Mike Wolfe was always the brains behind “American Pickers.” Although when he signed a contract to film the show, he did not get all the creative power he wanted, he was still able to pick the series names. In this photo, we see a list of names that Mike contemplated. Some of the names include “Mr. Picker,” “Vintage Recycle,” and “Flip This Junk.” Mike definitely chose the right name.
Mike Was A Competitive Bike Racer
Although Mike always enjoyed flipping antique items, picking was not his initial career path. In his early 20s, he was a professional bicycle racer. He also owned two bike stores in the 1990s in Iowa: The Village Bike Shop in East Davenport and a store in Eldridge, Iowa. He was able to open the stores through money he made after selling a 1934 Harley Davidson motorcycle to a collector.
Frank Says The Best Part Of The Show Is Meeting People
What’s the best part of the show? To Frank, it’s not the fame or the money, but the opportunity to meet so many people across the country. In an interview with Quad-City Times, he said, “The best part is meeting the people. It’s not the stuff. Believe it or not, not everybody has cable. A lot of the people have never seen the show.”
Mike’s First Profitable Flip
Mike began searching for valuable items amongst random items. He has said he first officially became a picker when he was only six years old. He found an old bicycle in his neighbor’s trash. He knew it could be worth something. He cleaned it up and sold it to another boy from $5. From that day forward, Mike was hooked on picking.
Wolfe Bought His First House At A Garage Sale
Mike Wolfe has always known a good deal when he sees one. He is such a good picker that he even bought his first house at a garage sale. “This guy was having a garage sale, and I ask him what he wanted for it [the house], and he goes, ‘I want 60K.’ I looked around and go, ‘You know what, I’ll take it,’” he said to Fast Company in an interview. “It wasn’t my dream home, it wasn’t the place I was going to die, but I saw an opportunity.”
“My City Has Pretty Much Turned Its Back On Me”
Frank Fritz considers himself a simple man that doesn’t ask for much. However, he would have loved to get some recognition from his hometown. “It feels like my city has pretty much turned its back on me,” he said in an interview with Quad-City Times. “The Quad-Cities has a few people who have done something special. Look at (Living Lands & Waters’) Chad Pregracke. I went to his premiere at the Adler when his pilot episode aired (the show was not picked up). I was happy to promote him. I like to help people…But no one in Davenport ever asks.”
“He Used To Disguise Picks As Dates”
In 2012, Mike Wolfe married Jodi Faeth. Jodi learned about Mike’s picking addiction early in the relationship. “When I met him, he used to disguise picks as dates,” she told The New York Times. “He’d say, ‘We’re going to Wisconsin to a bed-and-breakfast.’ We were really going to Wisconsin to meet Speedo Joe.” She has no issue with his picking habits. However, she does get frustrated when he sells pieces she chose for their home.
Most Profitable Flip
In 2010, Mike and Frank visited Bushkill Park in Forks Township, Pennsylvania. The amusement park was hit badly by Tropical Storm Ivan in 2004 and never fully recovered. However, the owners of the park kept much of the park’s items. Upon searching, Mike and Frank found some old sideshow banners. They paid $700 for the lot. After getting the banners appraised, they learned just one banner was worth $5,000.
Mike Pitched The Show For 5 Years
Mike started pitching his idea for a show in 2004. Although he was signed onto a production company, none of the networks wanted to buy the series. Despite being told no so many times, he still worked at it. He reached out to every network executive that would speak to him. He eventually learned it was the format that was holding him back. Through the help of one of his contacts, he tweaked his idea. After five years of pitching the series, it was bought by the History Channel in 2009.
Waited For The Best Offer
During those five years of pitching the show, Mike had offers. However, he turned them down. He was once approached by someone at PBS. However, the man began changing the format of the show into something Mike did not like. During an interview with Script, Mike said, “I was excited someone was interested. He started editing some of it. But it wasn’t my vision, and when I was completely honest with him about that, he got really mad at me, saying, ‘What do you know… I’ve been in television for 25 years?’ I said, ‘Well, I know this isn’t what I want.’ I had to physically throw him out of my house. It was crazy… and then I was all by myself again.”
Mike Is A Big Supporter Of Operation Smile
Mike’s daughter, Charlie, was born with a cleft lip and palate. Mike and his wife sought medical care to correct it. After which, Mike became an ambassador of Operation Smile. According to their website, Operation Smile is an “international medical charity that has provided hundreds of thousands of free surgeries for children and young adults in developing countries who are born with cleft lip, cleft palate or other facial deformities.”
Prince Mongo’s Castle Was Actually A Nightclub
Although he only appeared on one episode of “American Pickers,” Prince Mongo is hard to forget. The eccentric man lives in a Tennessee castle called “Ashler Hall.” The building was made by a developer in 1896. It was bought by Prince Mongo, whose real name is Robert Hodges, in 1990. Hodges turned the building into a successful nightclub, but it was shut down for over-occupancy.
Prince Mongo Hopes To Be A Politician
Although Prince Mongo’s former nightclub is now his crumbling home, he still has big aspirations. Despite claiming to be a 333-year-old King of Zambodia, he has still chosen to run for city mayor on several occasions. His campaign was hurt a few years back, even more, when he tried to give away his castle, as the castle was no longer his to give away because it had already been bought by businessman Kenny Medlin.
How Wolfe Learned To Neogtiate
Wolfe certainly knows his way around a negotiation. His smart, smooth-talking tactics are some to admire. But, how did he learn to negotiate so well? He says it is due to his rough childhood. His family was poor and often times his mother could not afford many things. So, he learned how to barter things, which included his first motorcycle which he traded a pair of stereo speakers for.
You Will Rarely Find Them At The Shop
At the end of every episode, Mike, Frank, and Danielle reconvene at Antique Archeology to recount all their new finds. Fans now flock to the shop hoping to get a glimpse at the pickers. Many are disappointed to discover that the trio is not there. Wolfe says it is because he can no longer get work done there, as the store has become a tourist attraction. “I never thought about how busy the store would be,” he said in an interview with The New York Times. “I was so naïve to all of this.”
Frank Suffers From An Illness
In 2013, Frank Fritz announced via his Facebook page that he suffers from Crohn’s disease. In his announcement post, he wrote, “A lot of you have been wondering about my health and my weight loss. I have an illness called Crohns Disease, which at times is difficult to deal with. Well, I have been feeling great! I started losing weight and ran with it! I have been exercising and eating good. (except for last week at the Iowa fair)…Thanks for all of your kind words of concern! I couldn’t do what I do without all of you!”
Why Wolfe Chose Fritz As His Picking Partner
Frank and Mike have known each other since the 8th grade. Therefore, when Mike realized he needed another personality for the series, his choice was obvious. In an interview with DailyFinance, Mike said, “I would bring Frank because he was close, and he was fun to travel with. When I started videotaping myself making the show, I honestly realized that I couldn’t sit and talk into a camera by myself, so Frank became a big part of the show because of the dialog between us and the relationship we have. That’s what’s great about it. We are both completely opposite people, but we love what we do.”
Mike’s Kids Are 24 Years Apart
Mike married Jodi Faeth in 2012. Their first daughter, Charlie, was born in January of the same year. Although this was Mike first biological child, it wasn’t his first child. Mike and Jodi had been dating for over 10 years before they decided to get married. Therefore, by the time the did decide to tie the knot, he had already become a second father to Jodi’s first child from a previous relationship, Kyle. Kyle and Charlie have a 24 year age difference.
What Made Mike Start Filming
Mike Wolfe didn’t always film his picks. However, one time after returning from a large pick on the East coast, all of his friends asked him about how he found all the stuff. They were all so blown away by the stories that one of his friends suggested he start filming his picks. He did just that. In an interview with Acreage Life, he said “I’d put the camera on a tripod in the middle of a gravel road and started talking into the camera. [Laughs] It’s funny to look back on that, but I ended up with hours of tapes.
The Show’s Theme Song Was Also “Picked”
Like most theme songs of any series, the “American Pickers” theme song is very catchy. However, like the series focus, the theme song was also “picked” and has been recycled. The music was taken from the song by the Reckless Sons and repurposed for the series. It was created by the world-renown music licensing company Jingle Punks.
Mike Is A Published Author
Mike is a jack of all trades. Not only is he a picker and business owner, but he is also an author. In 2013, his book “Kid Pickers: How to Turn Junk into Treasure” was released. The book helps kids learn the tricks of the trade of picking. Mike hopes that by publishing the book, the industry of picking will continue with future generations.
Fritz Was A Fire Inspector
Although Frank Fritz always enjoyed picking, he was not always a professional picker. For 25 years, he worked in the fire safety industry. He first worked as a firefighter and eventually became a fire safety inspector. During those years, he would pick up little firehouse-related trinkets. One of those trinkets he bought for $15, and he sold it for $475. After that profit, he realized he could potentially pick for a living.
Mike’s Salary Per Season
Mike is not only the presenter, but he is also the executive producer of “American Pickers.” For each season of the show, Mike is reportedly paid $500,000. Along with the show, Mike also owns several real estate properties as well as owns two antique stores. With the combination of all of his ventures, his net worth is approximately $5 million and rising.
Frank Has A Large Net Worth
Frank Fritz hasn’t always been a professional picker. However, he has been fascinated with old items his whole life. He is extremely interested in vintage transportation such as cars and motorcycles. Through his picking, he has amassed a large number of motorcycles. However, he does sell most of the items he finds. Through his picking as well as his paycheck from the series, Frank Fritz has gained a net worth of $4 million.
Danielle Is A Roller Derby Champion
Danielle Colby is a very eclectic woman. Not only does she work with the Pickers, but she also has several interesting hobbies, such as dance and roller derby. She was a member of the Big Mouth Mickies roller derby team and even acted as the team manager. Unfortunately, she had to retire from the sport due to injuries.
Meaning Behind Danielle’s Tattoos
One of Danielle’s most prominent features is all of her tattoos. She has over 30 coloring her body. Each image on her body represents a person, a moment, or a lesson in her life. She says there a lot of the tattoos that have represented the lessons she has learned throughout her life. Two of her tattoos were actually designed by her children. These two are her favorites.
Dolly Love’s Danielle
In 2014, Dolly Parton reached out to the “American Pickers.” She was looking for vintage firefighter-themed items for her new attraction, FireChaser Express, in Dollywood. The guys gladly accepted the job. After finding everything Dolly needed, Danielle personally delivered all the items to her. She drove all the way from Iowa to Tennesee. Dolly was thrilled with the items they found.
Danielle Is A Documentarian
In 2016, Danielle took her passion for burlesque dancing to the big screen. She acted as executive producer of the documentary “Tempest Storm.” The documentary was about the famed burlesque dancer of the same name (pictured below). The documentary focused on her career as well as her relationship with her family. The film was nominated for an award at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.
Danielle’s Dad Gave Her Her Burlesque Name… Kind Of
It is known that Danielle has a passion for burlesque dancing. Not only is she the head of her own troupe but she also owns a burlesque dance studio. Her stage name while performing is Dannie Diesel. “That was a name that my dad’s friend gave to me when I was three or four years old,” she explained to WQAD-TV. “I think I always identify with Dannie, because it has always been there.”
Film Crew Originally Refused To Film Danielle
Once the History Channel bought the series, Mike immediately reached out to Danielle. He knew he had to have her on the show. She agreed. However, the film crew was not happy about. In an interview with Script, Mike said, “They (History Channel) came Sept 8th, they’re filming me and Frank, and asked who Danielle is. They said, ‘We’re not filming her… we have no contract with her… History just wants you and Frank.’ I explained she is the one telling us where to go, and I think it would benefit all of us if they filmed her. They said no.”
Danielle’s Parents Were Jehovah’s Witnesses
Due to her exotic looking and risque career choice as a burlesque dancer, you may be surprised to find out that Danielle grew up in a strict household with Jehovah’s Witness parents. Despite causing an irreparable separation, Danielle continues to study the art of burlesque. Although her parents may not support her, she gets plenty of support from others like Mike and Frank.
Danielle Considers Her Body A Memoriam
Danielle’s most prominent feature is her tattoos. In an interview with Times Free Press, Danielle said “Every last one has special meaning. A lot of them, unfortunately, are about death and love and people I’ve lost. A lot of my body is a memoriam of sorts. I just want to make sure to carry these people and moments with me the rest of my life. All of them are about my loved ones.”
Danielle Is Also A Picker
You may not see it much on TV, but Danielle is also a picker. Through her own knowledge as well as the things she has learned through Mike and Frank, she has made a large profit off of things she has found herself. She specializes in vintage stage costumes. During an interview with Monsters & Critics, she said she owns an “extensive collection from all around the world, as early as the 1800’s,” which includes “a very rare costume from Lillie Langtry of the 1890’s, an original early Mata Hari stage costume from 1910-20, and a banana skirt believed to have belonged to Josephine Baker.” Pictured below is Danielle wearing one of the many costumes in her collection.
Danielle’s Favorite Places To Pick
Mike and Frank aren’t the only pickers. Danielle also enjoys searching for rare, valuable items. In an interview with Monsters & Critics, she discussed her favorite places to pick. “My favorite part of the country to go picking is out east! It is so much fun and you can find so many incredible items,” she said. “Outside of the United States, I love Paris. Picking in Paris is like nothing you’ve experienced in the states because the history is so much older and more power-packed, especially for the history of striptease and Burlesque, which I mentioned are great interests of mine.”
Danielle Colby’s Unexpected Net Worth
On “American Pickers,” Danielle is seen as the woman who searches the internet to find the perfect location for Mike and Frank to pick. However, she does much more than that. She owns a retail store, designs clothing, as well as a dance studio. Through all her business ventures as well as her paycheck from “American Pickers,” Colby has earned a net worth of $1.5 million.
Danielle & Mike Met At A Garage Sale
Although Danielle Colby doesn’t pick on the show, she has always had an interest in vintage items. She actually met Wolfe through their passion for finding unique items. Over 15 years ago, Wolfe and Colby were at the same garage sale. Colby told American Profile, “I was looking at a lamp and picked it up and put it down to see how much money I had,” Mike scooped it up behind me. He said, ‘The time to buy it is when you see it.’”
Fame Killed Danielle’s Marriage
Danielle Colby had previously been married. However, due to her fame from “American Pickers,” her marriage ended in divorce. During an interview with WQAD-TV, she explained how she was happily married to a good man who was also a great father. However, she said, “fame and notoriety are not easy for him to deal with at all, so the relationship ended up not working out.”