‘American Pickers’ Star Mike Wolfe Forked Over a Boat Load for an Old Sign, Fans Left Stunned

by Josh Lanier
(Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)

American Pickers fans can’t believe how much money Mike Wolfe shelled out for a weathered sign. The History Channel dug deep in his wallet on a recent pick for a yellowed Chevrolet sign.

Mike Wolfe and brother Robbie were in Maryland on the most recent episode of the hit show. They met up with a car fanatic named Jim, who let them look through his father’s collection of old memorabilia. Mike fell in love with a 1950s Chevy sign hanging in the rafter, but Jim wasn’t going to let it go for cheap.

Years of cigarette smoke had turned it yellow, but it was still quite the find, Wolfe said later. He offered $1,000 to open negotiations, but Jim wanted double that. After some haggling, the American Pickers star walked away with the sign, but he was $1,600 poorer.

The reason the sign was so expensive, Wolfe said, was because “plastic is the new porcelain.” A few years ago, Wolfe likely could have grabbed it for a lot cheaper. But plastic signs from the 1950s have aged up to become a rarity.

“They’re hard to get because it was dealership only, and they always broke,” Jim said. “If you sneezed on the thing it would break.”

The sign will most likely end up in Wolfe’s Nashville Antique Archeology shop, where most of the show’s picks reside.

Where Does American Picker Star Get His Money?

Mike Wolfe has made a fortune over the years, but most people would be surprised to learn that most of his money doesn’t come from American Pickers or from the items he picks. It comes from his clothes.

In fact, Wolfe said the vast majority of his income comes from there.

“Ninety percent of our sales are clothing, so all of a sudden I’m in the clothing business,” Wolfe told Fast Company. “I’m looking at what we’re making for spring. I’m looking at hard goods, soft goods, how those goods are presented in my store; the function, the flow, the lighting, how it’s focused, where it’s at, how close is it to the cash register. I’m constantly having meetings with my team to know what’s selling and what’s not, and I just learned recently that our number-one-selling shirt doesn’t have our logo on it.”

Wolfe sells merchandise on his website and at his two stores in Iowa and Tennessee. But he told Fash Company that he hopes to one day expand to retail stores.

“Now we’re looking at brand licensing and merchandising,” he explained. “Take it to Kohl’s, take it to JCPenny’s. My stores do millions of dollars a year in sales in merchandise, but not what they would do on a Black Friday at a big-box store.”

He’s also become a mini-mogul in real estate. He has spent the last several years buying old, dilapidated properties and restoring them for new tenants. He has locations throughout the Midwest.