‘American Pickers’: The Childhood Moment That Inspired Mike Wolfe’s Love of Picking, Antiquing

by Clayton Edwards

Many people know Mike Wolfe as the star of American Pickers. They tune in every week to watch him dig through barns and storage spaces in search of rusty gold. However, his love for forgotten treasure doesn’t stop when the cameras aren’t rolling. In fact, Mike has invested in refurbishing old buildings. At the same time, he has two Antique Archeology stores where he sells some of the items that he finds on the show. Additionally, he owns an Air B&B space that gives visitors a look into his mind as well as his vast collection.

Salvaging gems from the rust and dust isn’t new for Mike Wolfe. Instead, he turned a lifelong passion into a career. In fact, Wolfe started picking at a very young age. It started as a way to get the things that his family couldn’t afford. Then, it became a hobby. After that, picking became his claim to fame.

Mike Wolfe appeared on CBS Sunday Morning back in February of 2020. During the interview, Wolfe opened up about the childhood experience that sparked his love for rusty gold.

Mike Wolfe on His First Pick

Mike Wolfe grew up in small-town Iowa. He was the oldest of three kids that his mother had to raise by herself. Mike’s father left when he was only two years old and never came back. As a result, his family didn’t have money for luxury items. Among those things they couldn’t afford was a bicycle for Mike.

One day, while walking to school, Mike Wolfe found a bicycle. At the same time, he found his lifelong love of picking.

“It was one of those big garbage days,” Mike Wolfe told CBS This Morning. “I was cutting through this yard and I remember seeing it. It was a girls’ bike.” Mike went on to say that he was amazed by the fact that someone would throw out a bike. After all, it was a treasure that he had wanted for a long time and someone had just tossed it out to be collected with the rest of the garbage.

Seeing that bicycle in the trash triggered a thought in Mike Wolfe’s mind that blossomed into a career. “I thought to myself,” Wolfe said, “if someone would throw out a bike, what else would they throw out?”

That, Mike Wolfe said, is why he started digging through trash. “Even if it wasn’t a big garbage day, I was always in the cans and stuff.”

This doesn’t just explain how Mike Wolfe started picking. It also explains why he lights up when he sees vintage bicycles and motorcycles during a pick. A part of him probably goes back to that day when he found his first nugget of rusty gold.