What’s Real And What’s Fake On American Pickers? The Truth Will Have You Reeling
Lovers of antiques can’t get enough of American Pickers. Starring Mike Wolfe, Frank Fritz, and Danielle Colby, viewers happily binge watch as the crew attempts to buy any old goods they can get their hands on. However, there’s quite a lot that goes on behind the scenes that they don’t tell you — and some of these secrets are guaranteed to give your head a spin.
1. The Final Prices Aren’t Exactly ‘Final’
Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz seem like stand-up individuals while they’re on American Pickers. When they negotiate prices with a seller, they seem to genuinely want what’s best for both parties. But apparently that’s not what happens once the camera stops rolling. Mike and Frank are said to be a lot more civil with the sellers on screen than they are off of it.
After the director yells “cut”, the antique collectors apparently try to haggle with the sellers even further, trying to get a lower price. Whether or not these extra bargaining attempts are done with class is unclear — but if it’s not happening on camera, it’s probably not that pretty.
2. The Producers Find All The Locations
American Pickers shows viewers that there’s some pretty valuable treasure out there, as long as one knows where to look. Mike and Frank have long impressed their fan base by finding lucrative hotspots with an astonishingly high success rate. But a closer look might tell us a slightly different story.
In fact, it’s the producers of American Pickers who know exactly where to look. The producers are the ones tracking down these long lost items, and getting in touch with the owners to see if they want to be a part of the show. After all is said and done, Mike and Frank are really just there for the ride.
3. Valuable Items Get Planted On The Show
Not only do producers track down the locations, but they tamper with these places as well. If there’s a location that looks the part, but doesn’t have any big ticket items, the producers will sometimes stage valuable items for them to be “sold” on camera. Does this mean that these deals are basically fake?
Well, not completely. It’s very likely that these are legitimate transactions, but that doesn’t mean that the seller is the real owner of the item. At the end of the day, the producers want to make interesting episodes with top-notch items. And that doesn’t always happen naturally.
4. The Prices Are Predetermined
If you were skeptical about trusting American Pickers before, this tidbit won’t help matters at all. In addition to finding the locations and often staging valuable items, the producers apparently negotiate the prices behind the scenes as well. But wait, aren’t Mike and Frank the master negotiators? Isn’t that a big part of the show?
Well, as talented as the show’s two stars are, apparently the producers aren’t so willing to leave things up to chance. The “deals” we see Mike and Frank engaging in are merely formalities based on original negotiations that were already put in place by the showrunners. But Mike and Frank aren’t complaining at all, because these fixed deals generally favor them pretty heavily.
5. Danielle Colby Works As A Burlesque Dancer
Not everyone knows that American Pickers fan favorite Danielle Colby has an interesting side gig: working as a burlesque dancer. When the cameras stop rolling and the evening arrives, Danielle takes the stage at a local nightclub and becomes “Dannie Diesel”, where people get to see a lot more of her than TV viewers do.
“The interesting thing is I grew up a Jehovah’s Witness and I had a very, very strict upbringing,” Danielle recalled about her journey into burlesque dancing. “So burlesque wasn’t something that was really around for me. I couldn’t be around it. It was new and taboo.” However, she went on to say that her new hobby has helped her become more comfortable in her own skin.
6. Danielle Colby Got Into Trouble With The Taxman
As popular as the show is, it only makes sense that they’d have fat paychecks. But that doesn’t mean that they all know how to handle their money. Danielle Colby, as it turns out, evaded paying her taxes for a substantial amount of time.
Whether or not she did it knowingly or not is unclear, but regardless, she found herself in $6,000 worth of debt to the IRS in 2013. However, once the cavalry came down hard on her, it seems that she paid off the money she owed. No matter how much money one makes, no one gets a free pass from the taxman!
7. Frank Isn’t Such An Antique Enthusiast
Mike and Frank have a great one-two punch on the show, but they have one big characteristic that separates them. Mike loves antiques, and finding undiscovered treasures clearly excites him beyond belief. Frank, however, isn’t all about that life, contrary to what we see on screen.
On American Pickers, Frank is portrayed to be just as obsessed with collecting antiques as Mike is. But this simply isn’t the case. In fact, Frank is a lot more interested in the money that comes from the sales. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make a buck. But Frank’s actual reasoning behind it — and his passion for picking — gets rather embellished for the viewers at home.
8. American Pickers Might Be Gone Sooner Than You Think
With a stable fan base that helped sustain the show for 21 seasons, it’s shocking to think that American Pickers would ever get cancelled. But apparently there are a handful of issues rippling under the surface that could derail its existence pretty quickly. So what exactly is going on?
Well, for one, rumors have surfaced that Mike and Frank don’t actually like each other that much. Apparently their relationship is strictly professional, with not much of a personal spark to keep things interesting. Mike even hinted in a recent interview that the show may end soon — but he only said that it’s because he wants to spend more time with his family.
9. Unless Of Course, Mike And Frank Are Closer Than We Thought
There have been many funny rumors surrounding the relationship between American Pickers stars Mike and Frank. While some have speculated that they don’t get along, others have a different theory. Many people believe that Mike and Frank are actually involved in a romantic relationship that no one knows about.
Even though Mike is married, and frequently speaks about his wife, these theorists believe he has a different kind of spark in his eye when he looks at Frank. However, these are mere rumors, and they’ll stay that way until anything is actually confirmed. Still, it’s pretty amazing the kind of ideas that fans will come up with!
10. Their Net Worth Is Higher Than You Think
Mike and Frank are the lead stars of a popular network show, so it makes sense that they’d be quite loaded by now. However, it’s easy to forget how rich they are, because they’re portrayed on the show to be “Average Joes”. But when you hear how much they actually make, it might be hard to keep identifying with their lives.
For each season, Mike and Frank each make half a million dollars (after 21 seasons, we’ll let you do the math). Mike, who’s heavily immersed in the investment scene, has an estimated overall net worth of $5 million. Frank is not far behind with a net worth of $4 million. Not bad for a couple of supposedly scruffy “blue-collar” types.
11. Mike Has Been Hustling Since He Was A Kid
Even though much of American Pickers is staged, Mike is still a bona fide master at buying antiques and selling them for profit. He’s a master at it because he’s been doing it his entire life, slinging ancient goods like they were winning lottery tickets.
When Mike was a kid, he found a dirty old bike, and managed to sell it for five dollars. Not long after, he bought an old motorcycle from an unsuspecting farmer for $50. He ended up selling that same motorcycle for a whopping $5,000. Mike sure loves antiques, but he seems to love money just as much.
12. Mike Donates To A Charity That’s Personal To Him
Mike’s fortune isn’t something that he takes for granted. His daughter, Charlie, was born with a birth defect — a cleft lip and palate. Being comfortable financially allowed Mike to pay for the necessary surgeries to rid his daughter of these defects that would make life that much more challenging for her.
Mike understood that there were people out there with similar physical defects, but with no money to pay for it. So he decided to pay his fortune forward. He soon became an ambassador for Operation Smile, an organization that offers free surgeries to kids who suffer from the same condition that his daughter did.
13. The Cool History Behind The Show’s Theme Song
The American Pickers opening theme song struck a tasty chord with their audience, but the reason why may surprise you. It was written by composer Jared Gutstadt, who had already created a successful opening theme song for the similar reality show Pawn Stars. But that’s where things get even more interesting.
The young composer was asked to create a sound that contained elements of The Band, a popular classic rock band from the late ’60s. Considering The Band’s lyrics are more about American history than most others, it’s appropriate that they were the inspiration behind a show that sells old American historical artifacts!
14. Mike Is Expanding His Opportunities Elsewhere
Just because Mike has achieved fame and fortune with American Pickers, don’t think for one second that he’s stopping there. In fact, Mike has capitalized on his success in a way that never gets shown on the show. He turned into a fully-fledged entrepreneur behind the scenes, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Outside of his various investments, Mike opened up his very own retail store, called Antique Archaeology, which currently has two locations. He also turned heads when he pitched a sitcom to major TV networks, which would be “a workplace comedy set in an antiques and collectibles shop”. Amazingly enough, CBS bought the pilot. Is this another indication that American Pickers may be coming to a close?
15. It’s Not Just Americans Who Are Pickers
After 21 successful seasons of American Pickers, it made sense for other countries to get on board. It wasn’t long before Canada and Australia tried to cash in on the same concept, making reality shows called Canadian Pickers and Aussie Pickers, respectively. However, these attempts didn’t work out quite as well as they’d hoped.
Canadian Pickers managed to last four seasons, while Aussie Pickers only scraped by for one season. Perhaps Americans are simply a lot more interested in old artifacts — or maybe they just watch more television. Regardless, it’s always cute when other countries try to imitate an American show, and fail miserably.
16. Finding Kids To Follow In Their Footsteps
Although Mike has been an antique lover since he could walk, he understands that he’s in the minority. Not many children grow up wishing to become antique collectors, but Mike wants to change all that. In order to make his own passion seem “cooler” to the younger generation, he did something pretty bold.
Mike put pen to paper and wrote a book called Kid Pickers: How to Turn Junk into Treasure. His hope is that this book will inspire a generation of youngsters looking to make their next big sale. Maybe it’ll do just that — but even if it doesn’t, writing this novel is yet another impressive accomplishment Mike has done over the years.
17. How Mike And Danielle First Met
Mike and Danielle’s chemistry on screen is so good mainly because they’ve known each other for years. However, the manner in which they met wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Right away, Danielle learned something about her future co-star that she’d never forget.
They were both in an antique store, minding their own business, when Danielle saw a lamp she liked: “I was looking at a lamp and picked it up and put it down to see how much money I had,” she jokingly recalled. “Mike scooped it up behind me. He said, ‘The time to buy it is when you see it.’” As harsh as it sounds, Mike was already teaching her the tricky ropes of antique collecting.
18. Shelling Out The Big Bucks
Mike and Frank have been able to negotiate outstanding sales throughout their career, and it’s mainly because they’re unwilling to pay more than absolutely necessary. However, as they’ve gotten quite rich over the years, the two collectors have loosened the reins a little bit.
Every now and then, they’ll see an item that’s too good to pass up — and they sometimes end up spending ridiculous amounts. In 2017, they bought an antique motorcycle for $90,000, their most expensive purchase yet. This motorbike was from 1930, so clearly it had an appeal — but you could sure say they really jumped the gun on that one.
19. Dolly Parton Came Forward
Dolly Parton is an American treasure, so it’s no surprise that she’s actually a big fan of the show. In fact, the “9 to 5” country singer enjoys American Pickers so much that she got in touch with the creators. But then she had a request that took everyone by surprise.
Dolly wanted to know if they’d be interested in buying some of her own stuff. A music legend like Dolly would easily have thousands of dollars worth of merchandise in her home, so the producers were thrilled. However, the luckiest one of all was Danielle Colby — because she and Dolly ended up becoming close friends!
20. Danielle’s Own Side Hustle
We’ve already talked about Danielle’s job as a burlesque dancer. But now she’s managed to combine her two passions into one. Similar to her co-stars, Danielle loves to collect vintage items. She specializes in flamboyant outfits or costumes that were worn by actresses and dancers long ago.
Danielle has been killing it in that department, recently discovering “a very rare costume from Lillie Langtry of the 1890s”, along with “a banana skirt believed to have belonged to Josephine Baker”. Her style and interests might not be for everyone, but at least she’s true to herself, which is why she continues to have such a loyal fan base.
21. Frank’s Run-In With The Law
As high as we raise our TV idols up, they always find ways to remind us of their imperfections. This is probably for the best, considering they’re human like the rest of us. However, that doesn’t mean their actions shouldn’t receive consequences.
Frank, an automobile enthusiast, unfortunately got into big trouble in July of 2017 while driving his truck on the Interstate 80 — in the opposite direction of traffic. The police immediately pulled him over, and they found some illicit substances in his car. Thankfully, no one was hurt; but after Frank pleaded guilty, he was given court fees, probation, and his license was revoked as well.
22. Hobo Jack Is Actually A Professional Author
Diehard fans of American Pickers are familiar with Hobo Jack, a recurring guest on the show. It’s no secret how they depict him on television — simply take a look at his name! But apparently he’s not such a hobo in real life.
Indeed, Hobo Jack is actually a well-seasoned author who’s published multiple books throughout his career. Not only that, but his books have achieved massive success commercially. So why does he get portrayed as such a bum on the show? It seems like the showrunners needed him to fit into a particular image, and now we’re learning that image was a false one.
23. They Found Aerosmith’s Van
Fans of classic rock received quite the treat in episode 13, season 19. Mike and Frank had somehow managed to track down a relic of rock n’ roll history: the early touring bus of arena rock legends Aerosmith. Led by vocalist Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry, Aerosmith were one of the greatest bands of their era, and continued to churn out chart-topping hits into the new millennium.
However, it was guitarist Ray Tabano who confirmed that the van they found was legitimate. Tabano said that Aerosmith drove this hunk of junk Harvester Metro van back when they were broke in Boston at the beginning of their career, looking for gigs. Eventually the old vehicle was sold to American Pickers for a whopping $25,000!
24. Rockstar Dan Auerbach Came For A Visit Too
American Pickers managed to acquire another relic of rock n’ roll history: the 1958 Gretsch 6120 electric guitar of Chet Atkins. Atkins, also known as “Mr. Guitar”, was a Nashville pioneer of legendary status, making his guitar enormously valuable. It even grabbed the attention of one of the show’s most famous fans, Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach.
Eventually, Auerbach was so stunned by the Atkins guitar he saw on screen that he physically flew all the way to Mike and Frank’s store, and bought the vintage guitar from them! He paid a substantial sum of $10,000, giving the antique collectors a relatively small profit compared to what they originally paid for it.
25. William Shatner Requested To Have A Millstone
William Shatner also made himself part of the American Pickers history. The Star Trek actor was interested in finding a special ornament to put on his lawn. For whatever reason, Shatner wanted a millstone in his garden — and he knew exactly the right people to ask.
A millstone is an old, circular stone artifact which was once used to grind grain. Shatner contacted the show to see if they had anything for him, and they obliged happily. They were luckily able to find one, but the price was steep. Shatner ended up shelling out $2,500, which may not seem like a lot for a famous actor — but it is if you’re paying for a lawn ornament.