‘American Pickers’ Stars Once Found a Vintage Tattoo Machine

by Clayton Edwards
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We’re going to take another trip down American Pickers memory lane. Today, we’re throwing it back to season 13. Back then, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz were still traveling the country together. It seemed like there was no limit to places they would go to hunt for rusty gold. They hit barns, storage sheds, attics, garages, and just about everything in between. However, in the episode, “Great Minds Ink Alike,” they wandered into a tattoo shop.

The American Pickers crew weren’t there to get some new ink done, though. They were hot on the trail of a whole box of tattoo machines. For many people, tattoos are just ink on skin. However, others get into the history and culture surrounding the art form. The tattoo machines that Mike and Frank found are pieces of that history. At the same time, they would be nearly priceless to those who are immersed in the culture.

Mike and Frank aren’t involved in the tattoo culture. However, they know gold when they see it. Mike really hit the nail on the head when he said the real money would come from the stories behind the machines. With that in mind, they sent photos over to Dani back at the shop. She was able to tell her American Pickers co-stars exactly what they were looking at. She was even able to add a little of the background on the machines.  You might be shocked at how much some of these vintage tattoo machines were worth when the episode was recorded. Chances are, they’re worth more today.

‘American Pickers’ Find Pieces of Tattooing History

The value in the tattoo machines comes from the stories behind them. The men who made those machines are a huge part of the story. So, Dani kept that in mind while filling in her American Pickers co-stars. The first two items, she said, were built by Bill Moore. He owned the Chicago Tattoo Supply House and was huge in the tattoo industry. His machines, Dani said, go for over $1,000.

She also notes that some of the tattoo machines the American Pickers found were made by Bill Jones. His “Jonesy,” brand machines go for around $1,100-$1,300. Then, she mentions a Zeis machine. Milton Zeis was an early pioneer in the tattooing community and his machines sell for around $1,200. At this point, the prices are blowing Mike’s mind. However, it was just the tip of the tattooed iceberg.

Dani told her American Pickers co-stars that one of the machines dates back to the twenties or thirties. The Percy Waters-built machine is worth a staggering $3,500.

In the end, Frank made the deal. He offered the collector and tattoo artist $9,000 for all of the machines and a touchup on his tattoo.

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