‘American Pickers’: Mike Wolfe Explained the ‘Value of Junk’

by Josh Lanier
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American Pickers star Mike Wolfe wrote about an experience where he met a woman who helped him articulate the “value of junk.”

In a 2015 blog post on his website, Wolfe wrote about meeting a woman from Portugal who originally saw older American-made goods as trash. She came from a country where old meant something much different than it does here.

“Lots of people believe in history and preservation. Lots of people love rusty, old stuff, but not all of them understand my love of AMERICAN MADE old stuff,” the American Pickers star shared. “Let’s face it, America is still in diapers. And our old stuff, in the grand scheme of things, just isn’t all that old.”

But, he continued, that she — like him — began to recognize that history isn’t about a certain length of time. More to the point, it is about all the cumulative achievements that have happened during that time. And how these things tell the history of our nation.

“‘When I first got here,’ she began, ‘I didn’t understand it. Where I come from, everything is so old, so I saw something here that was 100 years, 150 years. … I thought, well, it’s basically just junk. But now I’ve gotten to appreciate it. It’s not the time spent, it’s what’s accomplished in a little time, and for that, what happened in America is unique,’” he wrote.

And she took this philosophy to the extreme, apparently. As the American Pickers creator said she worked at The Car & Carriage Caravan Museum at Luray Caverns and was loath to part with her “junk.” He said she turned down nearly all of his offers to buy something that day. She went as far as to tell him no by writing it in the dust of an old truck fender.

He Loves Meeting Collectors on ‘American Pickers’

Mike Wolfe said he loves meeting people who understand that value means something more than money. And on American Pickers, he gets the chance to meet a range of people who collect items like him. But what makes the show special is that it focuses on learning what drives these people to collect. It’s not just about Wolfe’s haul.

“A judge I met in Florida has an incredible collection of petrobilia, signs, and gas pumps. A lot of people have beautiful collections that are clean and on display. This guy, his stuff was piled on top of each other,” Mike Wolfe told Southeastern Antiquing and Collecting Magazine in 2011.

“For me, I want to know why people go down this path, why they buy all high-quality stuff. For this guy, it was because he worked in a gas station when he was 13. Just that one experience changed his path. That’s what interests me. I go in, and people have one hundred or one thousand of one thing, and it’s the back story that is intriguing to me.”

Outsider.com