‘American Pickers’: How Mike Wolfe Sold the Show After Being Turned Down for 5 Years

by Josh Lanier

Mike Wolfe said he tried to get a network to buy the idea of American Pickers for five years without success. The problem was that no one knew what a picker was or much less how they would make digging through people’s filthy barns and attics interesting.

But Wolfe was persistent, he told CBS Sunday Morning last year. And when the History Channel confronted him with the same question, Wolfe said he was ready.

“I said, ‘here’s the deal man, you’re the History Channel. Let’s educate (the audience.) Let’s tell them what a picker is.'”

Intrigued, the network bit on the pitch and gave him a test pilot. Twenty-two seasons later, that decision proved to be a lucrative one for him and the History Channel.

Wolfe explained that he drives 70,000 miles a year, crisscrossing the country rooting through piles of rusted metal and piles of junk looking for that piece of buried treasure. Those treasures end up on antique store shelves or in his own stores, Antique Archeology. He has locations in LeClaire, Iowa, and Nashville.

“When you walk into an antique shop, chances are 95 percent of the time is that dealer is not buying all of that stuff (from a broker),” Wolfe said. It’s coming from people like him. “We’re in the trenches. We’re on the front lines looking for these things for them.”

American Pickers has made Wolfe famous and a lot of money, but he said he still loves being on the road. But not just to find those rare gems. He said a big part of the show, and his favorite part of his part, is meeting the people. The interesting to eccentric men and women who have barns and buildings filled with old junk they’ve kept for years.

American Pickers Airs First Episode Without Frank

Since 2009, Mike Wolfe had a travel companion with him on those 70,000 miles. Frank Fritz, a longtime friend and colleague, joined Wolfe on these excursions to ride shotgun through it all. But last year, after suffering years of back pain, Fritz took a hiatus from the show to have back surgery.

It was only supposed to be a temporary break. But as the pandemic hit and put the American Pickers production on hold, the show distanced itself from Fritz. He told The Sun he wanted to return to the show but producers stopped taking his calls in October.

“The showrunner called me on my birthday on October 11 of last year, and he said ‘I’ll call you back tomorrow.’ But I haven’t heard from those people at all. They don’t contact me.”

Wolfe announced via Instagram that Fritz was no longer part of the show going forward.

The first new episode of American Pickers without Frank aired Monday night. Reviews from fans are mixed online as they adjust to the new set-up of the show.

“Sad that Mike and the History Channel decided to address the Frank situation they did,” one fan commented on the show’s Instagram. “Posting online what a disappointment. Mike you could have mentioned something on the show. Everyone wants Frank back. Even Frank wants to come back. It’s not the same without Frank. Wrong move.”