Mike Wolfe’s journey to getting “American Pickers” on TV, let alone where it is today, was a bumpier road than one might expect. With no knowledge of the industry or the process of producing a show in the first place, Wolfe had to take help where he could get it. At one point, that help came in the form of a 23-year old kid from Iowa named Justin.
Mike Wolfe knew the world of picking. He had that much going for him, at least. But when he first entertained the idea of turning that knowledge into “American Pickers,” he only had one place to start—his website. Wolfe began to bring cameras along on his trips. He’d set them up in driveways, on the dashboard of his van, and even asked the people he was buying antiques from to hold the camera on a few occasions.
But what did Mike Wolfe know about editing video footage? Not much. That’s when he crossed paths with Justin. In a 2013 interview with Script magazine, Wolfe talked about how the 23-year old put together the first iteration of “American Pickers” content ever.
“I met this 23-year-old kid from Iowa, Justin, and I would give him my videos, and he’d edit them into three-minute short stories, and I would post them on my website,” Wolfe said.
Mike Wolfe Didn’t Want an Antiquated Approach to ‘American Pickers’
Not only did Justin edit the footage together, but he did it in a way that was sleek, cool, and fresh—not what one expects from a show about antiques. And that’s exactly what Mike Wolfe was going for with “American Pickers.”
“He was perfect for me because I was trying to make an antique show that was different than anything anyone had seen before, and he didn’t know anything about antiques. He’d never even seen an antique show. This kid had new, fresh eyes,” Mike continued in the interview.
Those fresh eyes resulted in tons of video content that acted as a sort of proof of concept for the show Mike eventually wanted to make. And after pitching just about every production company and network around, Wolfe ended up back at square one.
He had some interest from smaller companies that had no intentions of giving him creative control of the show. They liked what they saw from the videos on the Antique Archaeology website. But they weren’t interested in giving Wolfe the credit he felt he deserved. So he passed.
In the end, there was nothing wrong with the fresh approach to antiques. In fact, those videos went a long way toward getting the show made eventually. But what really sold the History channel was when the cameras turned around and featured Wolfe and Frank Fritz themselves. It was their personalities that finally convinced a major network to take a chance.