‘American Pickers’: Mike Wolfe Was Told to Not Use the Word ‘Antique’ When First Pitching Show

by Josh Lanier
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American Pickers helped make antiques cool. It also introduced the word “picker” to our everyday vocabulary. But when Mike Wolfe was pitching the show, television executives said it wouldn’t work. They even told him to not use the word antiques because it would turn people away. He listened, but he still spent five years hawking the series before he found a network willing to take a chance on him.

Mike Wolfe explained some of his early struggles to sell American Pickers at a 2013 talk about his children’s book Kid Pickers at Barnes & Noble.

“I was pitching the show for so long,” he said. “I was pitching the show under the name Antique Archeology, the name of my business. A couple of television executives said to me early on in the process — they’re like, lose the word antique. Because if you have it on your reel, no one is even going to watch your reel.”

Wolfe obliged their request. He changed the title, but it didn’t help much. Networks continued to turn him away from meeting after meeting. They found new, worse reasons to reject American Pickers.

“I remember when I was pitching the show, and this one guy is like, ‘Well you’re never gonna find enough stuff to make a show.’ And I’m like ‘are you kidding me?’” Wolfe remembered. “‘There’s so much stuff out there.’ Because what the perception that people had of antiques prior to us was very elitist.”

Shows like Antiques Roadshow created that impression, he said. Wolfe wanted to speak the “universal language of junk” to reach the collector in all of us. He wanted to show the reality of life in the antique business.

Mike Wolfe Believes Pickers are Born Not Made

Mike Wolfe is a capitalist cleric, preaching the value of consumerism. He wants people to listen to their inner picker. He believes you should collect the things that you’re curious about — within your budget. Go after the “junk” that makes you happy.

He thinks we all have that same urge — a yen to gravitate toward some type of item that we wall off as we get older and more responsible. Wolfe said he wrote his children’s book because kids don’t have that same hesitance. They embrace what they love.

He wants more people to do the same.

“I think were all born as pickers because we all have that sense of curiosity and adventure, wanting to discover. But as we get older, we tend to lose some of that,” he said. “Because we have obligations, you know. We have mortgages, and we have children and car payments. And we have all these things going on in our lives. We still have that picker bug in us.”

The American Pickers executive producer added that people don’t need to be hoarders or obsessive. There are “so many layers to” being a picker, he added. You just need to follow your curiosity.

Outsider.com