‘American Pickers’: Here was Mike Wolfe Strategy to Find Great Picks Before Becoming Famous

by Josh Lanier
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On average, Mike Wolfe says, American Pickers gets thousands of applications a week from collectors who are ready to sell. But before that, the star of the show said he spent his days driving around looking for collectors he could buy from. And over the years, he learned to spot a good pick before getting out of the car.

Wolfe told Southeastern Antiquing and Collecting Magazine in 2011 that he’s picked all over the country. But he’s made the most money on the East Coast. The reason: barns.

“I have picked all over the U.S.,” he said. “What you see me doing is what I’ve always been doing. I have picked the West Coast and the East Coast. I have made a living on the East Coast for the last 10 years, just because of the barns out there. It is not unusual to see three or four generations of stuff laying in there.”

Though Mike admits, sometimes they’ll find things in some of the strangest places.

But pulling up cold to someone’s door is a good way to get into trouble. Wolfe said a man pulled a pistol on him once when he just showed up unannounced looking to buy the guy’s things. Mike Wolfe said he asked the man how much he’d take for the pistol before high-tailing it out of there.

But this was before American Pickers. The wildly popular show is endless free advertising for Wolfe’s and former co-star Frank Fritz’s businesses. They don’t do much cold calling these days.

“It is easier now,” the American Picker star said. “We get 10,000 emails a week from people who want us to come pick their collections. Before the show, I ran ads in small towns. It worked, and I would go talk with the local chamber, with museums, and with people who had collections.”

‘American Pickers’ Star Has Met Incredible People

Collectors by their nature are an odd bunch. They have a fixation (read: potential obsession) with a particular item or items and they focus their time, energy, and money on those things. So meeting eccentrics and — for lack of a better term — interesting weirdos is just part of the job for the American Pickers. That’s one of the things Wolfe loves about what he does.

Some stand out more than others. One of those who Mike Wolfe said one he thinks about was a guy who called himself a “curator of life.”

“Since he was a boy of about seven, he preserved things and categorized them,” he told the magazine. “He went to a Boy Scout Jamboree in 1973, and he had all he collected there in a bag — T-shirts, pennants, patches. It was all in a bag, categorized like CSI. He had been doing this since he was a little kid. It was a great thing. It really pulled on my heartstrings, how he loved his stuff so much and couldn’t let it go.”

Outsider.com