American Pickers Returns to History Channel – by Reyne Haines

June 21st, 2010 by

America’s favorite new TV show launched its first episode of Season 2 on June 7th.  A staggering 4.3 million viewers tuned in to follow Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz on their next great picking adventure.

Mike & Frank are once again on the hunt for more – Rusty Gold – digging through barns, salvage yards, and a burned down storage facility in search of forgotten treasures.

The first episode we watch Mike get taken advantage of by Buddy the Booby Trap man.  Had he only listened to Frank!  I couldn’t help but whistle the theme to “Sanford and Son” while watching them climb around some the broken down bus filled to the brim with junque.  It would seem like they have to pick many a pile before striking gold.

Finally, they get a lead on a property with a few cars.  Over the years I have managed a few car collections, and have found a few great cars in barns myself.  It never ceases to amaze me how one day you pull a car in a garage, and then it is left to sit for 10-20 years.  At the end of the day, the 1950 Studebaker they managed to score was a well earned reward.

So it’s no mystery I like this show.  I love what it represents; two guys who have a passion for adventure, and who get excited every day with the thrill of the hunt.  That aside, I wanted to know more about these guys.  I wanted to really know how deep their passion runs for this stuff.

I emailed Frank a few weeks ago, alas his taping schedule has kept him tied up, and I don’t think he spends as much time on email I do – so I hit up Mike for an interview.  I have to say it’s really weird interviewing someone. It is usually me in the hot seat.  I thought about a lot of questions that have been asked to me over the years and then trashed the list and decided to “free style”.

Poor guy sounds exhausted when I first get on the phone with him.  He’s been on the road up to his ears in rotted hams and dust bunnies.  I really felt bad about taking some of his downtime away for my interview, but don’t you know as soon as we started talking about picking, he completely came back to life.

I learned we had a good bit in common.  He started Kindergarten at the age of 4, and so did I.  He was raised in a single family home, so was I.   He had a thing for bikes at the age of 4.  At 4 I was racing my bad-ass red tricycle around the house with my mother’s sunglasses on narrowly missing the wall as I took the corners at amazing speeds.

Seriously, Mike’s passion for collecting did start at the age of 4.  One day on his way to school he saw a few bikes in the trash at someone’s home. He ended up cutting school and took them all back to the garage at his home. This is where the similarities stop, because I didn’t start cutting school until like 10th grade.

His interest in vintage items didn’t end as a kid.   In later years, he wanted to decorate his home with vintage things, and to this day, he still has a passion for bicycles.   I must sadly admit I never kept that red trike, or the bubblegum pink Huffy I had.

I know earlier I said I decided against the standard reporter questionnaire, but I did want to know one thing.  Did he have a Fine Arts degree, or any formal schooling for the world of antiques?  I get asked that question a lot.  In case you are wondering, the answer is no – and I was betting that was going to be his answer as well.   Sure enough, he had learned from the school of hard knocks; trial and error; experience.  I personally think you learn more that way in this business.

The conversation came to a serious note at one point when we talked about picking.  He noted the level of thrill he gets from being first to pick things.  He expressed how he did not want to be the middle man, or have an item sold to him that had been sold a few times around.  There is a simple old school joke that explains it all; “There were two antique dealers on a deserted island…business was good!”

In the world of collecting, items are often picked, then sold to a dealer, then another dealer and maybe even a third dealer before finally going to a collector.  Wolfe has no interest in being on the receiving end of a phone call from a dealer offering their newly polished prize up for sale.

Mike & Frank have been in this business for quite some time.  With all they have seen, I had to know what would be the ultimate pick.  Mike, the ever passionate bike guy gave me not one, but two answers; First, was anything Harley Davidson, pre 1910.  Second would be a Blackhawk motorcycle.  Apparently this bike was made not far from his home and a complete model has never been found.

So any of you reading that happen to have one of these in your backyard and you want to be on TV, you know who to call.

In the meantime I’ll be watching to see if the antique Gods smile upon you and grant that wish.  However, may I note that I’m pretty sure the oil lamp you were looking at in the first episode of Season 2 is called an Aladdin lamp.  Perhaps you could have rubbed it and made a wish!

Happy Hunting guys!