‘American Pickers’: The Story of How Mike Wolfe Went From ‘Collecting’ His Favorite Item to Selling it On the Internet

by Megan Molseed
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For the creator of the hit series “American Pickers,” collecting has always been so mucjh more than a business.

“I can’t imagine walking through life without this passion,” Mike Wolfe said of his love of collecting.

While the “American Pickers” host and creator can find almost any item of value in almost any place, there is one particular item he enjoys collecting the most. And, it was this item that eventually led the “American Pickers” host to sell items online, and later, building his own television series.

“I was always a bicycle guy,” Wolfe told Rodney Miller and Jann Carl during an interview on “Small Town Big Deal Small Town Big Deal.”

Antique Archaeology always started from antique bicycles and motorcycles,” Wolfe explained.

Back then, the collector explained, he enjoyed selling many of his unique finds, which were almost always bikes, but it was an extremely involved task to do so.

Selling Wasn’t Easy Before “American Pickers” – and the Internet

“This is way before the internet,” Wolfe explained. “You’d take a picture and then you’d put it in the mail and then seven days later the guy would call you.”

Eventually, Wolfe expanded his collections to include much more than his favorite bikes.

As the collector began picking across the country, fellow collectors inspired the “American Pickers” host to begin looking for items beyond his own interests.

“They said ‘you don’t see other things in the barns,'” Wolfe laughed.

While he did find a lot of unique items beyond bikes during his picks, it was a simple explanation as to why he didn’t ever take them.

“I was like ‘yeah, I see stuff but I don’t really have interest in it,'” he said. “And they go, ‘well we do!’ Buy that stuff and sell it to us!'”

So, that’s what Mike Wolfe began to do.

Expanding the Searches

He started taking an extra close look during his picking journeys, keeping an eye out for more than just his bikes. He would find old mirrors, dressers, signs, anything he thought his fellow antiquers would enjoy.

“I didn’t really know what I was doing,” Wolfe laughed. “But I ould pay attention to what they had.”

It was around this time, that he found a spot in an antique mall where he could start selling what he found to other collectors.

Then, one of his regular customers started buying more and more items, and Mike Wolfe was intrigued.

“This one regular customer started buying more and more,” said the “American Pickers” host.

Eventually, Wolfe discovered that the customer was selling the items on the internet. Something Mike Wolfe had not yet tried.

“I didn’t even own a computer,” Wolfe joked.

After trading a bike for a computer, Wolfe soon learned some of the tricks to selling antiques online. And, it wasn’t long before he found out exactly how lucrative the business could be.

“I learned what can sell at a flea market, what I could sell in a retail setting, and what I could sell on the internet,” the television host explained.

Wolfe also noted that he quickly realized internet sales were his best bet for a profit margin.

“As a picker you have to sell wholesale price to the dealer in order for them to make a margin on it,” he explained. “So when eBay came out I was making full-book margin.”

The “American Pickers” host noted that it was then his entire business, and career changed completely.

“I went from a bicycle shop retail to a cell phone, a cargo van, and a website,” said Wolfe. “And I just hit the road!”

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