American Pickers has been one of the most successful reality television shows on cable since its debut in 2010. On the show, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz travel around the country to find interesting antiques and collectibles with the help of their employee, Danielle. As with any popular show, there are a lot of secrets and fun facts most fans aren’t aware of. Here are some surprising secrets about the show American Pickers.
An Expensive Purchase
As antique buyers, Mike and Frank are certainly used to having to open up their wallets and spend some money to make good purchases. However, some buys are definitely more expensive than others. Nowhere was this more evident than in season 17, when the premiere found Mike and Frank purchasing rare four-cylinder motorcycles for a total of $90,000!
Hobo Jack’s Other Profession
Longtime viewers of American Pickers will quickly recognize the man known as Hobo Jack. Of course, Hobo Jack is definitely not a hobo, as he not only sells frequently to the pickers, but he also works as a musician, having recorded and released some of his albums on his own. He is also a published author with three books to his name!
Funny First Meeting For Mike & Danielle
It’s not surprising that Mike and Danielle first met at a garage sale. What’s unexpected is the nature of their meeting. Danielle was thinking about buying a lamp, but she set it down momentarily to consider the purchase. Mike swooped in and bought it, telling her that when you first see something, it’s important to buy it without delay.
Are The Rumors True?
As with many other reality TV shows, rumors have circulated that perhaps American Pickers isn’t as “real” as it claims to be. Specifically, people have wondered whether producers plant antiques in Mike and Frank’s path to spice the show up a bit and prevent the pair from going on fruitless trips for no reason. However, Mike denies this.
Regarding the rumors of the show being fake, Mike said that the only thing that producers do is call people ahead of time to get permission to film them and their property, which is required by law. However, Mike maintains that everything on the show, from the antiques to the negotiations, is completely real and not scripted in any way.
The Story Of Her Life
Anyone who has seen Danielle on American Pickers has undoubtedly noticed all of her tattoos. She has over 30 of them and counting, and of course, each one has a particular meaning to her. Most of them represent lessons she has learned, as well as people that have impacted her throughout her life. She even had her kids design two of her tattoos!
A Winning Idea
When American Pickers debuted in 2010, the idea had been rolling around in Mike Wolfe’s brain for several years. However, when he approached TV channels with the idea, no one was interested in hearing his pitch. Finally, he got the History Channel to give him a shot, and executives were so impressed that they bought the show without a pilot, ordering ten episodes to begin with.
Getting To Meet Dolly
Dolly Parton has been a huge celebrity for decades now, and it was undoubtedly a huge moment for Danielle when she got to meet the music legend. In 2014, Dolly was looking for vintage firefighter items for an attraction at Dollywood. The guys found the perfect items and Danielle delivered them personally to Tennessee.
As with any other show, the name didn’t immediately come to the creators as they decided what to call it. When Mike signed the contract with the History Channel, he did retain the rights to name it, but coming up with one wasn’t easy. The options he thought of included everything from “Vintage America” to “Flip That Junk.” We all know what name he settled on, however.
A Love For Two Wheels
Anyone who has watched American Pickers knows that Mike is a motorcycle enthusiast. However, not many people know that his first love was bicycles. In fact, he used to race professionally for a time in his 20s before deciding to open a pair of bicycle shops in East Davenport and Eldridge, Iowa. He made the money to start the shops by selling a vintage 1934 Harley Davidson, showing that he had a knack for picking all along.
A Passion For People
Although Mike and Frank certainly both enjoy hunting for new and exciting items as part of the show, that’s not what Frank says is the best part of American Pickers. It’s not even the money, either. Instead, he maintains that his favorite part of the show is meeting people all around the U.S. He says that most of the people he meets have never even seen the show.
Turning A Profit
As mentioned earlier, Mike’s history of profitable deals goes back much farther than the history of American Pickers. In fact, he first flipped a used item for cash when he was just six years old! He found an old bicycle in the trash, cleaned it up, and was able to sell it to a neighborhood boy for a nice payment of $5!
What A Garage Sale Purchase
Of course, Mike’s purchases expanded quickly beyond discarded ten-speed bicycles. In fact, the first time Mike bought a house, he was at a garage sale, of all places! He visited the sale and asked the owner what he wanted for the house. The owner said $60,000, and a deal was made. “I saw an opportunity,” Mike later said.
Frank Fritz is a native of Davenport, which is one of four Iowa and Illinois cities that make up the Quad Cities. Although Frank has made very good for himself, he confessed in an interview with his hometown newspaper that he feels forgotten by the community. “I like to help people,” Frank confided. “But no one in Davenport ever asks.”
Pulling Double Duty
When Mike was dating future wife Jodi Faeth, she quickly found out just how far his obsession with picking went. They once went on what was supposed to be a romantic getaway and realized that while they were in Wisconsin, he had lined up a meeting with Speedo Joe to look at some items. She has made peace with his picking obsession, but gets annoyed when he sells things she wanted to keep for the house.
What A Deal
Although this particular deal wouldn’t be their biggest, Mike and Frank got their biggest percentage of pure profit when they bought some old sideshow banners from a Pennsylvania amusement park that was hit by Tropical Storm Ivan in 2004. They paid $700 for a set of banners and later found out that just one was worth $5,000 alone.
Five Long Years
The show American Pickers first hit airwaves in 2010, but Mike pitched the show for the first time five years earlier. He was told no repeatedly or worse yet, denied the chance to even get a meeting with producers. Eventually, he tweaked his idea slightly to a better viewing format and had his successful meeting with the History Channel.
Waiting For The Best Deal
Mike did get a few offers over those years, but he held out until he got a deal that was what he was looking for. In doing so, he showed the patience that has benefited him as a picker. PBS once offered him a deal, but he found out that the executive wanted to change the format of the show. When Mike opposed, the man got angry and Mike had to throw him out of the house!
Mike’s Philanthropic Efforts
Like many successful celebrities, Mike has charitable causes that are near and dear to him. One that hits close to home is Operation Smile, which offers free surgeries for children and young adults that are born with deformities such as cleft lips and cleft palates. His daughter Charlie was born with a similar condition.
The Story Of Prince Mongo
Fans of the show will undoubtedly remember Prince Mongo, who appeared in one episode. The eccentric Prince Mongo lives in a castle in Tennessee that he bought back in 1990. But what most people don’t know is that he first used the castle as a nightclub. It was successful, but over-occupancy became an issue and led to the club’s eventual demise.
Everybody Wants To Rule The World
You wouldn’t be surprised if somebody like Prince Mongo wanted to be a rock star or even some sort of director. But Prince Mongo’s real aspirations include a political career. His attempts to become the mayor of his city weren’t hurt by his claims to be a 333-year-old Zambodian king, but he did have some legal wranglings after attempting to give away his castle after it had already been sold to a businessman.
Mike Learned As A Child
Like many skilled individuals, Mike learned a lot of the talents that he leans on today as a child. In his case, that meant learning how to negotiate. As a child, he was poor and never had a lot of extra money for things, so he decided to barter with people to get better prices whenever possible. Little did he know that his talent would turn into a career one day.
Impossible To Get Work Done
Early on, Mike, Frank, and Danielle could be seen at Antique Archeology to clean up and prepare new finds for sale. However, as the show became popular, fans started to make pilgrimages to the shop, making it impossible for the pickers to get any work done. “I never thought about how busy the story would be,” said Mike, who referred to the oversight as “naive.”
Frank On His Weight Loss
In 2013, Frank Fritz had been visibly losing weight and decided to address the speculation of the show’s fans on Facebook. He pointed out that he suffers from Crohn’s disease, but that the silver lining was that he felt much better after he started exercising and eating better. He did mention that he had a hard time avoiding the treats at the Iowa State Fair, however.
Friends For Years
Although Mike says that he and Frank are opposites in many ways, they have nonetheless been friends since the 8th grade. Early on, Mike realized that he didn’t feel comfortable just talking to the camera and being the sole focal point of the show. He realized that adding Frank would make it much easier, as the two could naturally converse on camera. In addition, Frank is “fun to travel with,” Mike said.
Mike has devoted himself to his family with the same dedication that has made his business a great success. Mike had his first child with wife Jodi Faeth in 2012, but earlier that year he had already become a stepfather to Jodi’s son from a previous relationship. Kyle and Mike’s daughter Charlie are 24 years apart.
A Helpful Suggestion
Many great ideas start with a simple suggestion from a friend. This was the case with American Pickers. Mike never used to film his trips, but his friends were frequently fascinated with the stories of how he obtained his finds and suggested that he film them. The idea led to Mike filming himself using a simple tripod setup, which eventually transitioned into the idea for the show.
A Repurposed Song
Given that American Pickers is very much about finding new uses for used items or finding a home for unwanted things, it’s only appropriate that the theme song for the show itself was repurposed. Originally, the theme was made in a different form by the band Reckless Sons, but it was repurposed by the Jingle Punks into the theme song fans know and love now.
Inspiring The Children
In addition to filming the show and traveling around the country picking, Mike has also taken the time to publish a book. The book, “Kid Pickers: How to Turn Junk into Treasure,” was released in 2013 in the hopes that Mike could teach kids about picking and ensure that future generations continue the tradition.
Fritz’s First Career
Fritz has long had an interest in picking, but unlike Mike, he had a different career before American Pickers began. He worked as a firefighter for years, eventually transitioning into a career as a fire safety inspector with the knowledge that he had obtained. He got into picking seriously when he found a firehouse trinket that he bought for $15 and sold for $475.
Rolling In The Dough
Although Mike still makes money picking, it’s a pittance compared to what he makes as executive producer and star of American Pickers the show. He is reportedly paid $500,000 per season for his contributions. In addition, he has gotten into real estate speculation. He has built a reported net worth of over $5 million as a result.
Frank’s Doing Well
Mike isn’t the only one who has build a stable financial future for himself. Frank also has a high net worth of $4 million. He wasn’t always a professional picker, but his love of vintage cars and motorcycles became a specialty of sorts. Frank does keep a lot of the motorcycles he buys, otherwise he’d probably be worth even more!
The First Lady Of American Pickers
Danielle Colby provides the female presence of American Pickers. Before the show, she did a lot of adventurous things, including performing in dance and roller derby, of all things. Her team was the Big Mouth Mickies, and she not only skated as one of the players, but served as team manager. Eventually, she got banged up from playing the rough sport and had to move on.
Danielle’s Other Projects
Danielle, like the pickers, is multi-talented beyond the role that we see her perform on the show. In 2016, she executive produced a documentary about burlesque dancer Tempest Storm. The documentary was very well received and even earned an award nomination at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.
Danielle’s Dancing Past
Danielle was a burlesque dancer for years and eventually opened her own burlesque dance studio. For her stage name, she used Dannie Diesel, which was a nickname that one of her dad’s friends called her when she was just a few years old. The nickname stuck and it popped in her head when she had to think of a stage name for burlesque dancing.
A Rocky Start
There was a lack of communication when American Pickers began, as Mike always planned on having Danielle in the show as the person giving them tips on where to go. However, History Channel did not realize this and said they couldn’t film her because they had no contract with her. Mike tried to convince them otherwise and although the channel originally said “no,” they obviously reversed course on that decision.
A Strict Childhood
When you look at Danielle, a woman who loves burlesque dancing, roller derby, and tattoos, you probably wouldn’t guess that she grew up in a rather strict household, but that’s the truth. Her parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses and not thrilled with her choice to begin studying burlesque dancing. This understandably caused issues between them.
A Daily Reminder
Although many of Danielle’s tattoos are happy reminders of those she cares about or lesson’s she’s learned, some are a little bit sad, too. That’s because she has a number of tattoos memorializing loved ones that she has lost over the years. “I just want to make sure to carry these people and moments with me the rest of my life,” Danielle said.
Danielle’s Picking Talents
Although she isn’t shown picking on TV much, Danielle knows how to find a good deal. In particular, she specializes in vintage stage costumes, just as Frank specializes in vintage motorcycles. She has a huge collection of stage costumes that date back to the 1800s, including a banana skirt that was worn by famed dancer Josephine Baker.
Danielle Loves The East Coast
Every picker has their favorite places to find great things, and for Danielle, it’s hard to top the east coast. “It is so much fun and you can find so many incredible items,” she said. She also enjoys going to Paris, where you can find a lot of older items related to burlesque dancing and stage performing that are hard to find in the U.S.
Quite A Success Story
From a humble start as a burlesque dancer to owning a studio and eventually working with the pickers themselves, Danielle Colby has found a lot of success in her career. She not only appears on the show, but she also designs clothing and runs her own retail store. She has built up a reported net worth of $1.5 million!
Fame Became A Strain
Danielle found out early on that fame can have its drawbacks. When she talked in an interview about her ill-fated marriage, she cited the pressures of fame as one of the major factors for the split. She said her husband was a good man and a devoted father, but their opposing views on the fame that the show provided put them at odds with one another.