Since 2010, “American Pickers” has followed antique and collectible pickers Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz across America as they buy all sorts of items for clients, for resale, or for their own personal collection to display in their Antique Archaeology stores. For 22 seasons, these guys have searched for national treasures and rare artifacts inside boxes and piles full of miscellaneous items located in barns and rooms inside strangers' homes. But even though their show is categorized as a reality series, not everything is what it appears to be. So, here’s what’s real and what’s fiction on “American Pickers."
Negotiations Are Different in Real Life
Some critics have questioned whether “American Pickers” is actually reality TV or if it’s just made up. This isn’t the first time a reality show’s authenticity has come into question. But Mike Wolfe assures his fans that everything they see on the show is real... for the most part. The purchases seen onscreen are legit, but the negotiations that take place off-screen are very different from what viewers see. They just make it seem good in front of the camera to keep things entertaining.
They Talk Down the Price
In 2017, the pickers were in negotiation with the owner of a vintage Aces 1930s motorcycle along with a lot of other collectible motorcycles. And although the men are loaded with cash in their bank accounts, they like to negotiate for the thriftiest price possible. So, even though the seller was asking for $90,000 for the motorcycles, the pickers were able to talk him down to $85,000. $5,000 less might not seem like a big deal but it’s not chop liver either.
Most of the Picking is Done for Them
The show makes it seem as though Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz does all the picking onscreen, but that’s not really the case at all. It’s actually the show’s producers that do most of the picking for them, and the revelation doesn’t end there. It turns out that the sellers often ask for a higher price while the cameras are rolling and Wolf and Fritz will only pretend to talk them down. But the price has already been negotiated before the show even starts.
Some Items are Planted
The show wouldn’t be a hit if the guys couldn’t find cool stuff as they rummage through piles of clutter. But Viewers might be disappointed to learn that producers will plant a couple of interesting items from time to time to allow the pickers to find things that they can talk about. This not only provides content but also adds drama. And regardless of whether it’s ethical or not to claim it’s reality television when some of the stuff is fake, you can’t argue with the results of the show’s success.
The Two Pickers Aren’t a Couple
There have been rumors for several seasons that pickers Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz are actually in a romantic relationship. This is likely the result of the fact that the men are such good friends on and offscreen and spend a lot of time traveling across the United States. But while Fritz likes to keep his romantic life private, Wolfe has actually been married to Jodi Faeth since 2012 and they have a child named Charlie Faeth Wolfe.
The Truth Behind Mike’s Income
Mike Wolfe is pretty much set if the show were to go off the air. In addition to owning his vintage antique shop, Antique Archaeology, he also has a clothing business called Two Lanes. And if that weren’t impressive enough, he also owns an old car manufacturing plant which he had renovated into a coffee shop, a brewery, a photo studio and a candy store. So, he has plenty of income coming from different business ventures.
Frank Wants an Ordinary Life
Frank Fritz might appear to like the glamour and fame that comes from working on a popular reality show, but in an interview with the Columbus Dispatch, Fritz said: “I don’t have any plans for other retail… When the show’s over, I will get rid of my stuff… I’ll go back to just being Frank, still living in my town. I haven’t bought a big house, no fancy cars. I still drive my ’86 Ford Ranger, still live in the same house I’ve lived in for 26 years.”
The Pickers Make a Lot of Money
Frank Fritz may claim he wants a simple life when the show is over, but according to exactnetworth.com, he has an estimated net worth of about $6 million. And his partner Mike Wolfe has an estimated net worth of about $7 million. And given how successful these men are, their net worth will undoubtedly continue to grow as their business expands and the popularity of the show skyrockets. So, it looks like Fritz’s simple life will have to wait.
Frank Sued an Auctioneer
The show makes it seem like any agreement the pickers make with collectors and auctioneer has a happy ending, but that’s not always the case. In one episode, Fritz bought a polarimeter from an auctioneer named Jerry Bruce in Greenville, South Carolina. The device was designed to measure the sugar content in alcohol. The only problem is that Bruce never sent Fritz the device despite getting a check. In all fairness, Bruce never cashed the check, but this didn’t stop Fritz from suing the auctioneer. Unfortunately, for Fritz, the judge ruled in favor of Bruce.
Frank Was Driving Under the Influence
In 2018, several Iowa drivers called 911 to report that a driver in a silver pickup truck was swerving and driving in the wrong direction on Interstate 80. When the police finally apprehended the driver, they learned that it was Frank Fritz from “American Pickers” and that he was drunk as a skunk. This resulted in him going to rehab and serving a year of probation. He also had to pay his own court expenses.
Wolfe Started Picking at a Young Age
If Mike Wolfe seems like a pro at ‘picking,’ it’s probably because he has been doing this since he was a kid. It turns out that Wolfe used to find abandoned bicycles that he later sold for $5. Then he came up with the idea of buy a bunch of rusty bikes from farmers that he would later repair and sell to customers at a higher price than he originally paid. This became the start of what would one become a lucrative career and reality show.
Danielle Colby’s in Debt
Working on a reality show might give fans the impression that these stars are loaded, but Danielle Colby, who appears on “American Pickers” has suffered some financial setbacks over the years. In 2013, she got a letter from the Internal Revenue Service claiming she owned thousands of dollars in back taxes from sales related to her vintage picks. And by 2015, the IRS sent her four more letters reminding her of her debt.
Danielle and Mike’s Friendship
Danielle Colby and Mike Wolfe didn’t actually meet on the show. They’ve known each other for a long time and the way they met was very interesting. It turns out that Colby was browsing at an antique shop when she saw a lamp she wanted. Unfortunately, she put it down for a moment to see if she had enough money to buy it. And that’s when Wolfe swooped in, took the lamp and bought it, which left Colby very disappointed. But the two of them never shared how this antagonistic moment blossomed into friendship.
Danielle Keeps Some Stuff to Herself
Although the show focuses primarily on Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, they aren’t the only ones picking precious items out. Danielle Colby is also on the lookout for potential items of interest to grab. And while she admits that the show’s hosts know a lot more about antiques and how much they cost, she’s not slacker either. She actually helps them run the shop off camera and also owns a boutique called 4 Miles 2 Memphis.
Hobo Jack is a reality star and writer who has been featured on the series and has become a favorite among fans. And thanks to his ability to play a guitar and sing, the star whose real name is Jack J. Sophir eventually released an album. But don’t let the name ‘Hobo’ fool you. Sophir’s net worth is $2 million. He also studied art in college, and his mom is a well-known artist in Missouri.
International Spin-Offs Aren’t as Successful
“American Pickers” is currently in its 22nd season and a total ratings’ hit, so producers decided to spin the show off in other countries. Unfortunately, they didn’t fare as well as the long-running series. “Canadian Pickers” lasted four seasons before being cancelled and “Australian Pickers” lasted two seasons before meeting its end. Fortunately, viewers in the UK, Spain, Romania, and Israel are able to enjoy the original series which airs in those respective countries.
Michael Set Up a Kid Picker’s Flea Market
Michael Wolfe became an amateur picker at a young age. This hobby eventually blossomed into a career and he wanted to inspire other kids to follow in his footsteps. To that end, he set up a Kid Pickers’ flea market in LeClaire, Iowa, so that kids will collect valuable items and try to get adults to purchase them. So, in addition to preparing the next generation of pickers, he also wants to teach kids not to be so quick to dispose of things that can be fixed or repurposed and sold.
They Attracted Star Wars Fans to the Show
In season 16, the pickers met a man who used to work for Lucasfilm, the company that produced the “Star Wars” film franchise. And much to their surprise, this former employee had some rare and obviously valuable Yoda statue prototypes. Michael Wolfe and Frank Fritz knew how popular “Star Wars” was and continues to be, so they could definitely earn a lot of money selling them. In addition, the episode resonated with “Star Wars” fans and introduced new viewers to the show.
In the season 12 premiere episode titled “Alien vs. Picker,” audiences were introduced to the eccentric Prince Mongo of Memphis who had a property full of junk. But he refused to quote prices to either of the show’s pickers. Instead, he commanded the men to buy things in his lot. He was also a minor local political personality in Memphis who claimed to answer to an other-worldly power. During the course of the episodes, the guys also learned that he was eager to run for mayor.
Michael’s Daughter Has a Cleft Lip
Michael Wolfe’s daughter was born with a cleft lip and palate, a birth condition that causes an opening or split in the roof of the mouth and lip. This often occurs as part of a genetic disorder, a syndrome or can occur randomly. This can make it difficult for a child to speak or to eat and can lead to speech impediments as well. Fortunately, surgery can fix this condition and leave very little scarring on the face. But Wolfe wanted to help kids living with this condition out, so he made sure he brought attention to “Operation Smile” which offers kids with this condition free surgery around the world.
Danielle is a Burlesque Dancer
Fans of the show know that Danielle Colby loves anything related to burlesque dancing. In fact, she specializes in vintage burlesque costumes and also attended a burlesque performance that starred comedian Margaret Cho. But some people might be surprised to learn that Colby is a burlesque dancer herself. She says that the dancing was a huge help when she was going through a rough patch in life and it shaped her into the person that she is today.
They Met the Mole Man
During the show’s first season, the pickers met a guy named Rob who preferred to go by the name Mole Man. It was one of the most bizarre episodes because the men had to walk through 26 underground tunnels located in the Mole Man’s property to search for valuable items. And some of the tunnels were so tight and claustrophobic that the entire episode seemed like it was part of a horror movie. And although the Mole Man was only in one episode, he left quite an impression in the fans’ minds.
The Mole Man Fraud
In the wake of the Mole Man Ron’s popular episode, an entrepreneur tried to milk off of it by creating a huge yard sale that would contain various authentic Mole Man collectibles. This included items like antiques, autographs among other things. And he claimed that the Mole Man would make an appearance, too. The only problem was that the guy lied and those who went to the yard sale were disappointed to find that there were no Mole Man collectibles and the Mole Man never appeared.
One Man’s Trash
Mike Wolfe pushed the show’s popularity even further when he made a cameo appearance as himself on season 15 of “NCIS,” a show about a team of agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Services’ Major Case Response Team that solves intense criminal cases. The episode was titled “One Man’s Trash” which fit the bill considering what Wolfe does for a living. But Frank Fritz and Danielle Colby did not appear on the show.
They Allegedly Rip People Off
According to posts on some forums, the show tries to rip people off by agreeing on a price off camera and then having the pickers try and talk down the price while negotiating in front of the cameras. But that’s not the only way they deceive guests on the show. In an effort to get them to agree to a lower price, the pickers will attempt to convince the people that what they have is nothing more than useless junk. But these are unsubstantiated claims most likely from guests who were not happy with the price they negotiated.
They Have to Make a Profit
Michael Wolfe and Frank Fritz is quite good at haggling prices every episode and so is Danielle Colby. But regardless of whether the haggling takes place on or off-screen, there’s one rule that the show must always follow: they have to turn a profit. This makes a lot of sense as there’s no point in spending money to buy a bunch of junk from other people to sell at a higher cost to others. And there’s another golden rule that the pickers must follow or they’ll risk going to jail.
They Need Permission to Enter
The pickers may not be vampires but they still need permission from the homeowners before entering their property. But this is handled by the production crew, who gets approval prior to filming. Without the approval, they are not legally allowed to trespass on a property and rummage through other people’s personal items, no matter what state the junk pile in the garage is in or if the junk is out in the front yard.
The $12,500 Hot Rod Truck
The pickers have landed some pretty lucrative buys over the course of the show’s impressive run. One of the most memorable ones was a Dodge A100 hot rod truck that was sitting in a collector’s garage. So, after getting permission, Frank Fritz spoke with the owner who was elated to part with it for a cost. And Fritz ended up paying $12,500 for it. This might have seemed like an excessive amount of cash to spend on an old truck but Fritz was happy with the arrangement.
When the “American Pickers” stumbled on an original Jell-O wagon in Western New York where Jell-O was first made, they knew right away that they wanted it. The wagon even came with its original parts and original paint, which was too good to be true. So, the guys (or possibly the producers) did some haggling, and they ended up forking over $6,500 for the wagon that looked like it came from another time.
They Overpaid for a Train Set
Although the producers and the pickers have plenty of experience haggling, their dealings don’t always result in a profit. This was something they learned the hard way in season seven, when Frank Fritz paid $8,000 on a Lionel Train set that was seemingly in mint condition. Spoiler alert! It wasn’t! When Fritz attempted to sell it at an auction, he discovered that the train set had replaced parts. So, they only made $3,400. That’s a $4,600 profit loss.
The Rundown Airstream Wasn’t Profitable
As if the train set debacle wasn’t embarrassing enough, the pickers also suffered another loss when they spent $8,000 on a rundown 1948 Airstream travel trailer. They ended up trading it for a measly $5,000 and an antique motorcycle, which wasn’t as good of a trade as it seemed because the pickers also spent $3,000 on repairing the travel trailer. So, in the end they spent more than they earned, making it one of the worst deals ever.
The $10,000 Vincent Motor
Frank Fritz spent $10,000 on a Vincent Motorcycle, which is a pretty rare find due to the vehicle’s short production life. At the time, Fritz was very impressed by the motorcycle he now owned. But while he could have done a lot more to make a profit from it, he simply sold the motorcycle to the National Motorcycle Museum for $12,000. That’s only a $2,000 profit, which is pretty lame given how much money he spent on it originally.
The $10,500 Motorcycle and Sidecar
Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz decided to cross the proverbial pond and visit Europe in search of new items. And they found some interesting stuff indeed including a Zundapp RS 750 motorcycle with sidecar. The pickers ended up paying $10,500 for the motorcycle and another $1,000 to get it shipped to the United States. But the guys have always known that sometimes you have to lose money in order to make money and they were right. They ended up selling the motorcycle for $18,000.
The $20,000 Harley-Davidson
The pickers paid a visit to a man’s barn that was home to a 1937 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead motorcycle. But the negotiation for the price was obviously quite tense or so it appeared. Given what’s been revealed about the show, the tension was likely all staged for the cameras. Regardless, Michael Wolfe ended up spending $20,000 for it. And despite someone offering him $25,000 for it, Wolfe said no, most likely because the profit was insufficient for all the trouble he had to go through to get the bike.
During season three, the pickers visited Bushkill Park, an amusement park in Easton, Pennsylvania, and one of the oldest parks still operating in the country. But it’s not all open. There are some sections of the park that are shut down and abandoned. So, the pickers went looking for treasure and found sideshow banners which they paid $700 for. And when they had them appraised, they learned that they were worth up to $6,000. So, the pickers went back to Bushkill Park and bought all the other sideshow banners.
Antique Archaeology Has Only a Few Antiques
Despite the fact that Michael Wolfe’s Antique Archaeology shop has the name antique in it, the reality is a bit more disappointing. For starters, neither of the shop’s location is as big as they appear to be on the show. Another thing fans might be bummed to learn about is that the store only sells a handful of antiques. Everything else is just merchandise like t-shirts and mugs as well as clothing items from Wolfe’s brand Two Lanes.
They Don’t Mess With the History
The bigger the story, the bigger the lie, right? Every item featured on the show has an interesting history. And given that fans know that the producers sometimes place certain items for the pickers to find, it stands to reason that some viewers would suspect that the history behind these items is fake. But the producers assure viewers that they have never made up any stories regarding the history of an item.
Frank Wasn’t Always a Professional Picker
Frank Fritz has often come off as someone who doesn’t have much of a passion for being a picker, at least according to some fans. But the reason behind his attitude towards this line of work may have something to do with the fact that he was never a professional picker before the reality show started. He sort of learned as he went along and got good at it over the years. But his disinterest is definitely not the reason why he’s not on the show.
The Show May Be Ending Soon
Although the show has had an impressive run, it won’t last forever. In fact, it seems as though Mike Wolfe has been wanting to move on from the series since 2016 when he stated he was willing to do one more season before focusing solely on being a dad to his little girl. But the show is continuing to produce new episodes as of 2021. But it’s doing so without one of the pickers.
Frank Fritz is No Longer on the Show
Frank Fritz vanished from the popular series and the official reason behind it was that he was recovering from back surgery and dealing with issues from his Crohn's disease. He also entered an alcohol rehabilitation center. But when the tabloid The Sun interviewed the star, he said: "I would like to come back to the show. I was doing it for 11 years. I'm 100 percent recovered now and I'm ready to roll and go back on the show." But this never happened.
The Show Changed Directions
According to Frank Fritz, the show focused directly on Mike Wolfe. "the show is tilted towards him 1,000 percent. I can't even bend that far down to show you how much,” Fritz told The Sun. He also claimed that he had not been contacted by any of the showrunners since October 2020 and hadn’t spoken to Wolfe in two years, according to Newsweek.
Michael Will Miss Frank
"I have known Frank for as long as I can remember, he's been like a brother to me. The journey that Frank, Dani and I started back in 2009, like all of life, has come with its highs and lows, blessings and challenges, but it has also been the most rewarding. I will miss Frank, just like all of you, and I pray for the very best and all good things for him on the next part of his journey," Michael Wolfe posted on Instagram. But Frank didn’t buy the double speak.
Frank Called Michael Out
Frank Fritz had a lot to say in response to Michael Wolfe’s Instagram post, and this indicated that they were no longer friends. "Mike's statement was bulls—t, somebody wrote it out for him," Fritz told The Sun. We were never friends in grade school," the 55-year-old claimed. "I don't believe in 10 years he's said five nice things to me, you know? Unless he was cutting somebody else down and we were both laughing."
Michael Never Reached Out to Frank
"Mike didn't call me himself, never, like I said – we haven't spoken for two years," Frank Fritz claimed. "That is the 100% truth and I don't like people that lie to people. I'm not a liar just for the fact that my brain can't remember if I lied or not. I don't lie to people, even if it hurts. If it hurts your feelings, I'm sorry. If you don't like me anymore, that's your problem."
Frank Doesn’t Like Lying to Fans
Frank Fritz continued to rant about Michael Wolfe’s behavior towards him which seemingly led to the end of their partnership. "That is true and I'm not going to sit here and f-----g lie to people," he claimed. "And if he doesn't like it, then maybe he should have f-----g called me. Maybe he should have called and said, ‘Hey, how’s your back doing?' He knows I hurt my back, everyone in the whole network knew I hurt my back, but did one person – just one – call and see how I was? No. So how does that make you feel? It makes you feel like you're just a number. It was like, 'Oh, you hurt your back? Well, life goes on, you know. F—k you.'" But what did Danielle Colby have to say about this?
On the Road Again
After Frank Fritz’s jab at Michael Wolfe, Danielle Colby shared a candid selfie of herself and Wolfe with the caption: "Out on the road again with my best friend and my big brother whose I support fully and stand behind. Thank you for the last decade of advocacy towards myself and others on set. @mikewolfeamericanpicker I'm proud of how you have handled the last 12 years and look forward to many more years of rolling around this big blue marble together."
Danielle is Saddened by Fritz’s Departure
"I'm truly saddened for the loss of Frank on the show," Danielle Colby shared on her post. "I'm incredibly sad for his struggles. I have personally watched everything over the last decade. I have many thoughts but won't speak them as they are only my thoughts, not gospel. I wish things could have been different but we must be accountable for our actions when we cause instability or pain and suffering to others." And she wasn’t done.
Frank Caused Himself So Much Pain
Colby continued: "Frank caused so much pain for himself that it has been hard to watch," Colby continued. "I truly hope Frank receives all the help he needs to become well after years of being unwell. It is not my place to speak ill of someone who needs help so I will keep my comments uplifting. I'm sending love to everyone." And while she initially tried to stir clear of the drama, there was one circumstance that forced her to speak up on the matter.
Danielle Doesn’t Want to Speak to the Tabloids
"The only reason I'm speaking to this right now is because everybody is speculating on my words and my words are being taken out of context in tabloid rags because they can't interview me because I will not interview with a tabloid rag," wrote Colby. "So if you wanna know how I feel. Here's exactly how I feel. I hope everybody gets well. I hope everybody continues to love each other even through the hard s—t," she explained.
Frank’s Personality Didn’t Fit Into the Show
In another Instagram post, Danielle Colby made what many fans of the show assumed was a reference to Frank Fritz. "Sometimes your personality just won't fit into their world or narrative in a positive way no matter how hard you try or how much you want to belong or be with them or 'be a part', of their circle, sometimes you just have to be ok with being apart from them," she wrote. But although he’s no longer on the show, fans continue to hold him in their hearts and in their thoughts while they enjoy the next chapter of “American Pickers.”