Somehow, the History Channel’s American Pickers charmed the world. Viewers saw hosts Frank Fritz and Mike Wolfe travel the United States, buying forgotten and stored-away Americana from collectors and hoarders alike… but viewers didn’t see everything.
Since 2010, the show packed over 260 episodes with amazing find after amazing find, but not everything filmed makes it into those hour-long episodes. Here are just 19 behind the scenes facts and personal-life dramatics that never saw a second on the airwaves.
American Pickers gives a unique glimpse into America’s past as hosts Mike Wolfe, left, and Frank Fritz, right, buy up old Americana scattered throughout the country. But a lot goes on behind the scenes that viewers never see…
1. Danielle Colby, co-star, and operator of the guys’ antique shop, landed in trouble with the IRS after failing to pay taxes on her side projects—burlesque dancing and boutique ownership. Remember kids, Uncle Sam gets his.
2. Many sellers who’ve appeared on Pickers report being made uncomfortable by the boy’s haggling. Apparently, some sellers agreed to a price for their wares off camera only for Mike and Frank to low ball them when the cameras rolled.
3. Thanks to her hustle as a burlesque dancer, Danielle also collects vintage clothes. Her collection includes, “a very rare costume from Lillie Langtry,” and “a banana skirt believed to have belonged to Josephine Baker” (Beyoncé had one, too)!
4. Animal activists jumped on Mike and Frank when they bought a taxidermied elephant head from The White Stripes singer Jack White, memorabilia from his album “Elephant.” Some things, critics argued, just shouldn’t be picked.
5. As a kid, Mike found a bike and sold it for $5. Afterward, he kept an eye out for junk with resale value, often digging through abandoned homes and alleyways. He even pestered farmers until they let him explore their barns.
6. Let’s face it: American Pickers is first and foremost about entertainment. But critics were disappointed to learn that show executives plant some of the Americana Mike and Frank allegedly stumble upon.
7. Antique collector Jerry Bruce, below, took the Pickers to court after he purchased a polarimeter from them for $300. The problem? The pickers never shipped him the merchandise. Jerry won a $1,000 settlement.
8. Mike worried that kids wouldn’t follow in his footsteps and start picking, refurbishing, and selling abandoned memorabilia. So he wrote a book called Kid Pickers: How to Turn Junk into Treasure.
9. Longtime friends Mike and Danielle met at a garage sale. “I was looking at a lamp and picked it up and put it down to see how much money I had,” Danielle said. “Mike scooped it up behind me. He said, ‘The time to buy it is when you see it.’”
10. Frank and Mike typically scoop up collectibles and heirlooms for low costs: $25 here, $60 there. But in 2017, they made their most expensive purchase ever when they spent $90,000 on 1930’s motorcycles.
11. The pickers often team up with Hobo Jack to hone in on some of their coolest finds, but despite the nickname, Jack’s no vagrant. He’s recorded five albums and published a handful of books. The dude’s an artist.
12. On the show, Danielle orchestrates the pickings and Mike and Frank do the buying. But behind the scenes, it’s really producers that read through seller submissions, select the interesting items, and work out the price ahead of time.
13. Frank Fritz is a collector, but not a passionate picker like his co-host Mike. In fact, some speculate that for him, the American Pickers gig is just that: a gig. He won’t be writing any kids books about it.
14. Mike and Frank appealed to fans outside the shows normal audience when they bought the original Yoda prototype—made by Mario Chiodo—for $6,250. Stunned and awed, Star Wars fans were.
15. Fans love the Mole Man, below, a sweaty guy with a 26-room underground lair: A fan held a yard sale and falsely advertised an appearance by the Mole Man. People swarmed the sale. Mole Man brings all the fans to the sales.
16. When American Pickers started gaining steam, even celebrities wanted a piece of the action. When Dolly Parton contacted the Pickers to purchase some of her stuff, she became friends with Danielle.
17. In a Louisiana barn, Danielle found a century-old, horse-drawn wagon that once showcased and sold Jell-O in upstate New York. Writing on the cart pushed Jell-O as “powdered ice cream.” The pickers paid $6,500 for it.
18. Were Mike and Frank having a secret love affair? Even though both have families, viewers speculated as much, since they spend so much time together and have such great chemistry. Danielle squashes the rumors every chance she gets.
19. When Mike and Frank hop into the van, they discuss their next stops and finds—they even have a little fun. Well, those conversations are less natural than you might think: writers plan what they’re going to say.
It’s the nature of show business that more goes on behind the scenes than we, the audience, knows. Did any of these secrets surprise you?
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