Since 2010, millions of viewers have tuned into “American Pickers,” to watch Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz search the country for hidden treasures. Wolfe and Fritz search through piles of trash and warehouses of forgotten items in hopes of finding antique gold. Of course, the two could never complete their mission without the help of Danielle Colby. However, there is much about the trio as well as the series that is never shown on TV. Find out the behind-the-scenes secrets of “American Pickers,” and what Danielle, Mike, and Frank are like off-camera.
Their Most Expensive Find
Mike and Frank know how to spot a valuable item and are willing to pay big bucks for things they want. Season 17 of “American Pickers” premiered in April 2017. The first episode chronicled their most expensive find, during a visit to Zane Leek in Oregon. The owner of the property’s late husband was a vehicle collector. Oregon Live reported during this pick, “Wolfe and Fritz come upon some very rare four-cylinder motorcycles, dating back to the 1930s.” The motorcycles cost Frank and Mike $90,000.
Hobo Jack Is Not What He Seems
There have been some interesting people shown on “American Pickers,” including Hobo Jack. Hobo Jack owns lots of random items, and Mike and Frank often search his property. However, there is more to Hobo Jack than meets the eye. He is actually a published author and musician. You can purchase his self-recorded music through his website.
Many Believe Producers Plant Items
Reality series have always gotten a bad rep as people say they are staged and not 100% real. “American Pickers” is no exception. Rumors have been spread that producers actually place items ahead of Mike and Frank’s arrival. Therefore, producers know the men will find picks and valuable filming time will not be wasted. However, Mike says the rumors aren’t true.
Mike Says The Show Is Authentic
Mike has gone on record as saying the show is very real and none of the rumors are true. There is only one part that may be seen as unauthentic. Now, when Mike and Frank decide they would like to pick somewhere, producers call property owners ahead of time. However, that is it. All the searching and negotiations you see on TV are real.
First Series Bought By History Without A Pilot Episode
Mike Wolfe knew he had TV gold on his hands. However, it took some time for him to convince that to network executives. However, once he tweaked his original ideas as well as got a personal meeting with channels, he was able to give a persuasive pitch. In an interview with Script, Mike said, “It was the first show that History ever bought without a pilot. They wanted it right away and bought ten episodes.”
Possible Series’ Title Names
Mike Wolfe had several years to contemplate a possible title for his series. However, when the series was picked up it was crunch time, and Mike had to decide. He made a list of what he believed were catchy show titles. Some of his possible titles included “Vintage Recycle,” “Flip This Junk,” and “Mr. Picker.” Ultimately, “American Pickers” was the best.
Mike Competed In Bike Racing
Since Mike was a child, he enjoyed picking. But, for many years he never believed that picking could be a full-time career. Therefore, he did other things to make money. In his 20s, he was a professional bike racer. He didn’t just race; he also owned two bike stores. He financed the opening of his stores through selling a vintage motorcycle to a collector.
Meeting People Is Frank’s Favorite Part
If you were asked, what do you think the best part of being a reality TV star is, you most likely would quickly say things like the fame or the money. However, that is not what Frank’s favorite part is. “The best part is meeting the people,” he said to Quad-City Times. “It’s not the stuff. Believe it or not, not everybody has cable. A lot of the people have never seen the show.”
Mike’s First Profitable Find
As a child, Mike was always fascinated by “vintage” items. However, he recalls one particular moment that he believed was the beginning of his picking career. When he was 6-years-old, he found an old bike in his neighbor’s trash. He fixed up the bike, and an older boy offered him $5 for it. He took that trade and from that day on Mike was addicted to picking.
His First House Was A Garage Sale Purchase
Mike has always frequented garage sales, as he knows they are one of the best places to find overlooked valuable items. In fact, the first house he ever bought was at a garage sale. In an interview with Fast Company, he said, “This guy was having a garage sale, and I ask him what he wanted for it [the house], and he goes, ‘I want 60K.’ I looked around and go, ‘You know what, I’ll take it.’ It wasn’t my dream home, it wasn’t the place I was going to die, but I saw an opportunity.”
“My City Has Pretty Much Turned Its Back On Me”
Frank Fritz believes he doesn’t ask much of others, however, there is one thing he would like, recognition from his hometown. In an interview with Quad-City Times, he said, “It feels like my city has pretty much turned its back on me. The Quad-Cities has a few people who have done something special. Look at (Living Lands & Waters’) Chad Pregracke. I went to his premiere at the Adler when his pilot episode aired (the show was not picked up). I was happy to promote him. I like to help people…But no one in Davenport ever asks.”
“He Used To Disguise Picks As Dates”
Mike Wolfe and Jodi Faeth dated several years before getting married in 2012. Although he tried to downplay his passion, Jodi knew early on that he was addicted to picking. “When I met him, he used to disguise picks as dates. He’d say, ‘We’re going to Wisconsin to a bed-and-breakfast,’” she told The New York Times. “We were really going to Wisconsin to meet Speedo Joe.” She supports Mike’s career choice 100%.
Their Most Profitable Flip
In 2010, the pickers visited a small amusement park in Forks Township, Pennsylvania that was hit hard by Tropical Storm Ivan in 2004. Unfortunately, the park never recovered from the storm. However, the owner of the park held onto all its possessions. While searching through the park’s items, Mike and Frank found some old sideshow banners. They paid $700 for the lot. Upon appraisal, they discovered just one banner was worth $5,000.
Mike Pitched The Show For Five, Long Years
After realizing he had an idea for a potentially great show, Mike began his search on how to pitch his show to network executives. For five longs years, he tirelessly pitched his series with no success. He talked to anyone in the industry who would be willing to talk to him. Luckily, one of those contacts gave him feedback and said he needed to change his format. Upon doing so, he pitched his show to the History Channel who quickly bought it in 2009.
He Turned Down Several Offers
Throughout those five years of searching for a home for his series, Mike had offers. However, the offers did not appeal to Mike. For example, he was approached by a man who worked at PBS. The man tried to mold the show into something Mike didn’t like. “I was excited someone was interested. He started editing some of it,” Mike said in an interview with Script. “But it wasn’t my vision, and when I was completely honest with him about that, he got really mad at me, saying, ‘What do you know… I’ve been in television for 25 years?’ I said, ‘Well, I know this isn’t what I want.’ I had to physically throw him out of my house. It was crazy… and then I was all by myself again.”
Mike Supports Operation Smile
Charlie, Mike’s daughter, was born with a cleft lip and palate. After easily being able to get the medical care necessary, Mike became an ambassador for Operation Smile. The mission of Operation Smile is to give every child suffering from cleft lip or cleft palate the exceptional medical care they deserve.
Prince Mongo’s Castle Used To Be A Nightclub
There have been some whacky characters on “American Pickers,” which includes Prince Mongo. Mike and Frank picked through Prince Mongo’s “castle.” The castle, which is actually called “Ashler Hall,” was once a nightclub owned and operated by Mongo. Unfortunately, the club was shut down in the early 90s due to over occupancy.
Prince Mongo Hopes To Be City Mayor
Prince Mongo, who claims he is a 333-year-old King of Zambodia, has political aspirations. Over the past several elections, Prince Mongo has run for city mayor. However, he has yet to win. His campaign was hurt a few years back when he tried to give away his castle. Unfortunately, the castle no longer belongs to Mongo, but rather a businessman by Kenny Medlin.
Wolfe’s Negotiating Skills Grew From Poverty
If you watch the show, you can see that both Frank and Mike know how to speak to people. They somehow can get people to sell their stuff for a relatively low price. However, Mike’s negotiation skills come from a dark past. He actually believes they are due to his poor childhood. His mother was unable to buy him many things, so he learned how to negotiate for lower prices and barter.
You Won’t Find Them At The Shop
During every episode, you see Mike, Frank, and Danielle meet at Mike’s shop, Antique Archeology. Although they are often seen working in the store on the series, if you visit, you most likely won’t see them. However, it is not to avoid fans. Mike says it is because he can no longer get work done there. Mike said to the New York Times, “I never thought about how busy the store would be. I was so naïve to all of this.”
Frank Suffers From Crohn’s Disease
After several rumors had surfaced about Frank’s weight loss, he announced on his Facebook page, in 2013, that he suffers from Crohn’s disease. He wrote, “A lot of you have been wondering about my health and my weight loss. I have an illness called Crohns Disease, which at times is difficult to deal with. Well, I have been feeling great! I started losing weight and ran with it! I have been exercising and eating good. (except for last week at the Iowa fair)…Thanks for all of your kind words of concern! I couldn’t do what I do without all of you!”
Why Wolfe Chose Frank For The Series
Mike and Frank go way back, to 8th grade to be exact. Once Mike started filming, he knew he could not be the only personality on the show. He immediately knew Frank was the perfect choice. “I would bring Frank because he was close, and he was fun to travel with,” Mike told DailyFinance. “When I started videotaping myself making the show, I honestly realized that I couldn’t sit and talk into a camera by myself, so Frank became a big part of the show because of the dialog between us and the relationship we have. That’s what’s great about it. We are both completely opposite people, but we love what we do.”
Mike’s Kids Have A 24-Year Age Difference
Mike’s first biological child, Charlie, was born in 2012. However, that same year, he also gained a stepson when he married Jodi Faeth. Jodi had her son, Kyle, from a previous relationship. Kyle is 24 years older than Charlie. Although it makes for an interesting dynamic, Mike wouldn’t want it any other way.
What Made Mike Pick Up The Camera
Mike has been picking most of his life. However, it never occurred to him to film his ventures until one afternoon with friends. He had recently returned from a pick on the East coast. His friends were amazed by all his new items and the stories he told about each one. It was at this time that one of his friends suggested he start filming his picks. “I’d put the camera on a tripod in the middle of a gravel road and started talking into the camera. [Laughs] It’s funny to look back on that, but I ended up with hours of tapes,” he told Acreage Life.
The Show’s Theme Song Is Also “Recycled”
Many of the items Mike and Frank pick get recycled or restored and are resold. Ironically, the theme song of the series is also recycled. The music is from a song by the Reckless Sons. The big-time music licensing company, Jingle Punks, sampled the music and turned it into the “American Pickers'” theme song.
Mike Wrote A Children’s Book
Mike has a long list of titles he can put on his resume, such as picker, business owner, dad, and real estate investor. One more he can include is an author. In 2013, the book which he co-authored, “Kid Pickers: How to Turn Junk into Treasure,” was released. The book helps teach children the secrets and tricks to succeed in picking. Although it is aimed towards children, it can help anyone who may be an amateur picker.
Mike Sleeps With A Notepad Next To His Bed
When conceptualizing any idea, Mike advises keeping a notepad next to your bed. During the five years that he pitched his show, he says this was very important. During an interview with Robin Robins, Mike said “I have some of the most amazing thoughts at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. If I fell back asleep I wouldn’t remember what it was.”
Frank Is A Mama’s Boy
Although Frank is portrayed as likable on the show, he is often times also shown as tough. Therefore, viewers might be surprised to discover that Frank was a mama’s boy. In an interview with Monsters & Critics, Danielle was asked what is the one thing viewers would be shocked to know about Frank. Her response: “He loved his momma like Elvis did. She was his everything to him.”
Danielle’s Passion Aside From Dance & Picking
Two widely known facts are that Danielle loves picking and dancing. However, she has a strong passion for other things as well. In an interview with Monsters & Critics, she said, “women’s studies intrigue me. I want to know everything and I love to read. I will read over socializing every time if I can get away with it.”
Best Advice Danielle Ever Gave
With such a widespread of knowledge in various subjects, Danielle can certainly offer expert advice in areas such as burlesque dancing or picking. However, when asked about the best advice she ever gave, it was something a little unexpected. “When in doubt, love,” she told Monsters & Critics. “Sometimes people just need to know that they’re not being judged and that they are loved and that they matter in order to see through the haze of nonsense that clouds all of our minds and makes us think that we are exclusively right and someone else is exclusively wrong. If you think about it, there’s very little right and wrong in the world.”
If Danielle Had Her Own Show
If Danielle had her own show, she would do things a little bit differently than “American Pickers.” In an interview with MLive, Colby said, “They [Mike & Frank] pick one trend and engross themselves completely. It’s really interesting but I would still tell the story from the perspective of the buyer and the pieces they collect. I still think that’s the most important thing – the story of the item and the person the item comes from.”
Mike’s 3 Best Tips For Picking
During an interview on Anderson Live, Mike revealed his top 3 tips for picking. First, he said to pick items you love that have a story. Furthermore, if you love it, most likely someone else will love it too. His second tip is to stay ahead of the trends. In order to do this, pay attention to mainstream media, as the media is what sets the tone. Finally, he said to check the value of your potential buy on the internet.
What Danielle Did Before Pickers
Danielle had always been a picker. However, she didn’t always do it on a professional level. Therefore, she found other ways to help pay the bills. “Before American Pickers I was a clothing designer for Gorilla Clothing,” she told ShareTV. “I don’t have any formal education in design. But when you have a couple kids and you have to provide for them, you do what you’re good at. I owned a shop and we made clothes, sold jewelry, and I also did energy healing. I still do all of that stuff for fun but not for my career.”
If Antique Archaeology Caught On Fire, What Would They Grab?
Antique Archaeology is where the trio keeps most of their finds. Therefore, there are some very important and expensive items in that store. ShareTV asked Danielle what is the one item everyone would grab if the store caught on fire. She said, “Mike would grab his 1911 Indian motorcycle he keeps in his office, Frankie would grab the cash register, and I would grab Mike.”
Mike’s Store Is More Than An Antique Shop
When Mike opened his stores, he hoped to make it more than just an antique shop. “We wanted to create an atmosphere where people can walk into the store and feel like their on a pick,” Wolfe said in an interview with Sitima Fowler. “It’s not so much an antique shop, but more of a vintage experience…We want them to go away with feeling inspired and feeling that some of the stuff we are finding on the show isn’t junk…What’s old is new here.”
Picking Can Be Dangerous
Although it seems like a simple activity, picking can be dangerous. Many times people are reluctant to let the guys pick through their stuff. One time, someone even opened the door with a gun. In an interview with the History Channel, Mike said, “I knocked on a guys door and he came to the door with a pistol. I mean, right in my nose, right in my face…The only thing I could think say to say was ‘Hey, is that gun for sale?'” The guy thought it was funny and put the gun down.
Mike & Fritz Are Often Rejected
Despite being famous, Mike and Fritz often hear “no” from people. Many people do not want two strangers searching their property. However, Frank believes there are other reasons people might tell them no. In an interview with the History Channel, Frank said, “A lot of people have never had money and they don’t need money…They don’t care about that stuff, they don’t care about your money. They never had it and they’re never going to have it.”
Why Mike Calls Frank ‘The Bearded Charmer’
One of Mike’s many names for Frank includes “The Bearded Charmer.” There is a story behind this name. “One time I was on a guy’s farm and he turned his dogs loose on me. They had me up against a wall. I was like ‘Listen, man just take the dogs away and I’ll get outta here,” Mike told the History Channel. The guy told him no and that he wasn’t going anywhere. Mike was stuck, until Frank came along. Frank calmed the guy down and got Mike free. From that point on, Mike called Frank “The Bearded Charmer.”
Fritz Worked As A Fire Inspector
Like Mike, Frank Fritz has been interested in picking since he was a child. However, also like Mike, he did not think picking could be a full-time career. Therefore, he worked as a firefighter and then fire inspector for 25 years. While working, however, he would still pick and search for vintage firehouse-related objects. One of the items he found, he bought for $15. He then sold it for $475. That was when he realized he might be able to make a living off of picking.
Mike’s Salary Per Season
Mike is not only a presenter of the series, but he is also the creator and executive producer. Through these positions, Mike earns a hefty salary of $500,000 per season. Along with the show, his two stores, his book and several other ventures, he has been able to amass a net worth of $5 million and it is expected to grow.
Frank Has A Large Fortune
Frank Fritz has always had a passion for finding antique items and turning them into profit. He has especially been interested in vintage transportation such as cars and motorcycles. Therefore, not only does he pick motorcycles, but he is also a collector. Like Mike, Frank also has a store which he sells his picks. Including his profits from picking and his store, and his antique collections, Frank has gained a net worth of $4 million.
Danielle Was On A Roller Derby Team
Even from her outward appearance, it is easy to tell that Danielle Colby is an eclectic woman. Her choice in hobbies certainly also reflect that. Colby used to be the team manager and member of the Big Mouth Mickies roller derby team. The team was actually very good and even won the local championship. Sadly, Colby had to drop from the sport due to injuries.
The Significance To Danielle’s Tattoos
Some people are rather careless with the selection of their tattoos and later regret them. However, Danielle’s tattoos are chosen with much thought in mind. She has said that each one represents a person, moment or a lesson she has learned in life. Despite each one being so meaningful, her favorites are the ones that were designed by her children.
Dolly Loves Danielle Colby
By 2014, the pickers had become a household name. They were so well known that even Dolly Parton knew who they were. Dolly actually reached out to the pickers as she was looking for vintage items for her new attraction, FireChaser Express. Of course, they gladly accepted the task. After they collected everything, Danielle personally drove from Iowa to Tennessee to drop off the items to Dolly.
Danielle Made A Documentary
In 2016, Danielle was able to combine her knowledge of what she had learned about camera work, on the TV series, with her passion for burlesque. She produced the documentary titled “Tempest Storm.” The documentary was the life story of the famed-burlesque dancer of the same name. The documentary was nominated for an award at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.
Danielle’s Dad Indirectly Gave Her Her Burlesque Name
Danielle does not hide her love for burlesque dancing. She is very open about her passion as it makes her feel empowered and happy. Her “alter-ego,” while on stage, is Dannie Diesel. In an interview with WQAD-TV, she said, “That was a name that my dad’s friend gave to me when I was three or four years old. I think I always identify with Dannie, because it has always been there.”
History Channel Crew Originally Refused To Film Danielle
Along with bringing on Frank into the series, Mike knew he wanted Danielle on the series as well. However, the film crew thought otherwise. “They [History Channel] came Sept 8th, they’re filming me and Frank, and asked who Danielle is,” Mike told Script. “They said, ‘We’re not filming her… we have no contract with her… History just wants you and Frank.’ I explained she is the one telling us where to go, and I think it would benefit all of us if they filmed her. They said no.” Luckily, they eventually changed their minds.
Danielle’s Parents Were Strict Jehovah’s Witnesses
With such an exotic look and interesting hobbies, it may be hard to believe that Danielle was actually brought up in a strict household. Both of her parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Unfortunately, her life choices have caused an irreparable separation from her parents. However, Danielle gets enough support from her friends.
Danielle Uses Her Body As A Memoriam
We have already discussed how Danielle’s tattoos all have a significance that is important to her. However, it is much deeper than that. “Every last one has special meaning,” she told Times Free Press. “A lot of them, unfortunately, are about death and love and people I’ve lost. A lot of my body is a memoriam of sorts. I just want to make sure to carry these people and moments with me the rest of my life. All of them are about my loved ones.”
Danielle Also Makes A Profit From Picking
Although you don’t see it much on “American Pickers,” Danielle is also a professional picker. She specializes in searching for vintage stage costumes. Monsters & Critics reported that she has an “extensive collection from all around the world, as early as the 1800’s,” which includes “a very rare costume from Lillie Langtry of the 1890’s, an original early Mata Hari stage costume from 1910-20, and a banana skirt believed to have belonged to Josephine Baker.” Pictured below is Danielle wearing one of the costumes she found.
Colby’s Favorite Places To Pick
Danielle doesn’t limit her picks to stage costumes, as she is interested in all things vintage. However, she has some places she likes to pick more than others. “My favorite part of the country to go picking is out east! It is so much fun, and you can find so many incredible items,” she told Monsters & Critics. “Outside of the United States, I love Paris. Picking in Paris is like nothing you’ve experienced in the states because the history is so much older and more power-packed, especially for the history of striptease and Burlesque, which I mentioned are great interests of mine.”
Danielle’s Unexpectedly Big Net Worth
Although it doesn’t seem like she may profit much from the series, Danielle has actually developed a substantial net worth. Along with working on the show, she also owns a retail shop which sells vintage items as well as some items she designed. She also runs a burlesque dance studio. Through these and several other ventures, she has amassed a net worth of $1.5 million.
Mike And Danielle Met At A Garage Sale
Like Frank and Mike, Danielle has always fancied vintage items. She would often visit garage sales to find “new” things. It was at a garage sale, over 15 years ago, that she met Mike. “I was looking at a lamp and picked it up and put it down to see how much money I had,” Colby told American Profile. “Mike scooped it up behind me. He said, ‘The time to buy it is when you see it.’”
Fame Destroyed Danielle’s Marriage
It is a story that we hear all too often in Hollywood. Fame and fortune leading to broken hearts. Sadly, this is what happened to Danielle. Danielle was previously married to someone she describes as a good man. However, she told WQAD-TV, that “fame and notoriety are not easy for him to deal with at all, so the relationship ended up not working out.”