‘American Pickers’: What Drives Mike Wolfe to Scour the USA for Show?

by John Jamison
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Besides the obvious motivation of profiting from flipping antiques, have you ever wondered what compels someone like Mike Wolfe to spend his days on “American Pickers” driving across the country in search of cool, old stuff?

Anyone who has spent time watching “American Pickers” knows that, with some of the locations Mike Wolfe visits, the show could easily do a crossover with A&E’s “Hoarders.” Some of the people Wolfe encounters have entire barns full of what most consider dusty, old garbage.

Okay, so the “Hoarders” comparison may have been a little unfair. Most of them are collectors who have been holding onto things of value. Oftentimes, these collections were passed down from generation to generation. Sometimes, people are passionate about whatever it is they’ve collected. For Mike Wolfe, that’s the million-dollar question.

The “American Pickers” star is fascinated by the stories of the people he encounters. He loves learning about how specific items came into one’s possession. And further, what motivated the person to find them in the first place.

“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.

“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,” Mike Wolfe told Southeastern Antiquing and Collecting Magazine in 2011.

‘American Pickers’ More of A Team Effort Than Represented On-Screen

Not taking anything away from Mike Wolfe’s passion for learning people’s stories and stumbling upon cool items. But since “American Pickers” became a hit show, his process has changed significantly.

Where Mike and Frank Fritz once drove around in their van, picking and tossing stuff into the back, there is now an entire fleet of vehicles on the job. That’s not to say Mike Wolfe doesn’t cruise around solo in his free time. But for the sake of the show, the picking process has become an enterprise.

For one, the Antique Archaeology van could never hope to hold the sheer amount of stuff Wolfe and the production team pick up. According to an interview Wolfe did with CBS Sunday Morning in 2020, 80% of the items found on “American Pickers” never make it to the final cut of an episode. So, in addition to the van, the crew operates a U-Haul, mobile homes, and other cars to deal with the volume and time required to find good material.

Outsider.com