American Pickers is undoubtedly one of The History Channel’s greatest ever finds. From its humble beginnings in 2010, the reality TV show has become one of the most watched television programs of the present day. Fans are captivated by the adventures of Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz as they look to turn unloved trinkets into cash. Not everything is as clear-cut as the show would make it appear, though. Here are 20 untold truths that the cast and crew would prefer you never knew about.
20. Danielle Colby-Cushman was brought up as a Jehovah Witness
Danielle Colby-Cushman’s life in the limelight is a far cry from her very strict upbringing. Born and bred in Davenport, Iowa, Antique Archaeology’s office manager was, in fact, brought up in a household of Jehovah Witnesses. But despite the stringent house rules, Colby-Cushman has said that it was also a very loving home.
19. Mike Wolfe started picking at a young age
The art of picking has always been in Mike Wolfe’s blood. The show’s creator and host has been on the hunt for a bargain ever since he made his first pick at the tender age of six years old. The entrepreneurial basement rummager found an old bicycle on a scrap heap, and after sprucing it up, he managed to shift the rusty two-wheeler to another kid for $5. Well played, sir.
18. Frank Fritz lost a court judgement for an unsent antique
When antique collector Jerry Bruce saw a polarimeter – an old device used for testing the sugar levels in alcohol – on American Pickers, he contacted host Mike Fritz about purchasing the apparatus. Apparently, Fritz then agreed to sell Bruce the object for $300 – before the reserved seller decided to back out. Fritz lost the ensuing court case in 2014, with a judge awarding Bruce compensation of $1,000.
17. Hobo Jack has a literary background
Based on his name alone, you probably wouldn’t guess that this much-loved character is an accomplished author. In fact, though, old Jack has to date penned three books, all of which operate within the realms of fantasy. Discussing his literary style, in 2015 he told The Telegraph, “It almost falls into the category of The Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland, but it’s not a fairy tale.”
16. Mike Wolfe has written a book for children
Hobo Jack isn’t the only writer in town, either. Yes, it transpires that Mike Wolfe is an author, too, and he doesn’t want the pursuit of dusty loot to be limited to just adults. Released in 2013, Kid Pickers: How to Turn Junk into Treasure is a children’s guide on how to be the best picker. And really, who’s more qualified to give advice on the topic than the Big Bad Wolfe?
15. Do Wolfe and Fritz take a backseat?
While Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz appear to do all of the wheeling and dealing on the show, some believe that the people behind the scenes are the real masterminds responsible for their finds. Indeed, there have been a number of allegations claiming that it’s actually the show’s researchers who find many of the sellers and items – before the two hosts swoop in and take credit for their hard work.
14. The hosts travel in separate vehicles
Those doubters of the show’s “reality” claims also assert that, although the hosts are often seen driving together, Wolfe and Fritz actually travel in separate cars. Theorists allege that most of the duo’s car conversations are filmed before they set off on their quests for gold. It’s claimed that they then jump into separate vehicles before making their way towards their destinations along with a truck convoy containing all the necessary equipment.
13. American Pickers drove a wedge between Colby-Cushman and her ex-husband
Even though stardom has its perks, it can also cause a whole assortment of problems – something Colby-Cushman came to realize after the success of American Pickers. Having shot to prominence on the show, she claims that her newly found fame contributed to the disintegration of her previous marriage. Speaking to WQAD-TV in 2012, she said, “Fame and notoriety are not easy for him to deal with at all, so the relationship ended up not working out.”
12. The show wasn’t picked up for five years
It’s safe to say that American Pickers has been a roaring success up to this point. So much so, in fact, that you wouldn’t have thought there would’ve been any problems in getting it commissioned in the first place. However, what if we told you that the show was in something of a developmental hell for five years? Well, that’s exactly how Mike Wolfe’s brainchild started out before it was eventually picked up by The History Channel in 2010.
11. Others have tapped into the show’s success
Despite only appearing on one episode, Mole Man Ron certainly made quite the impression. Such was his impact, in fact, that others have tried jumping on the bandwagon. In 2011 an advertisement for a yard sale began circulating that claimed to feature an appearance from Mole Man – although to this day no one’s sure whether or not he had anything to do with it.
10. Colby-Cushman has enjoyed a burlesque career
When she’s not searching for treasure, Colby-Cushman has been known to take part in a far more racy activity: burlesque dancing. Having grown up in a devout household, she told River Cities’ Reader that she “went into that [first] evening thinking that burlesque was taboo and wrong and bad.” However, the inked-up beauty soon found herself enjoying it. Oh, and Mike’s “Dannie D” nickname for her? That’s the stage name she uses.
9. They’ve netted a cool $10 million between the three of them
Thanks to the program’s insane popularity, the three hosts’ finances are none too shabby. While Wolfe and Fritz each have an estimated net worth in the region of $4 million, it’s believed that Colby-Cushman has around $1.5 million to her name. Between them, then, the trio are worth a cool $10 million.
8. Colby-Cushman has had dubious dealings with the IRS
Given her considerable wealth, it’s perhaps surprising that a large question mark still hangs over Danielle Colby-Cushman’s tax affairs. In 2013 the IRS slapped her with a $6,000 bill for her unpaid taxes, and yet as of 2015, this sum still hadn’t been repaid. Moreover, this was despite Colby-Cushman having been sent multiple tax notices to remind her to clear the debt. Maybe she simply lost them amidst a sea of junk. After all, in her line of work, it’s quite plausible.
7. There’s no place like (an uncluttered) home
Mike Wolfe may enjoy the process of picking, but that doesn’t mean he’d like to live in the cluttered places in which he scavenges. Speaking to The New York Times in 2011, he said, “I love this stuff, but I would never live in a place that looks like the places we pick.” Maybe he’s just being a bit picky. Too obvious?
6. Prince Mongo wants to be Mayor Mongo
Remember Prince Mongo? The wacky guy who lives in a decrepit castle? Well, it turns out that his aspirations go much further than his kingdom of junk. The eccentric self-proclaimed “King of Zambodia” has been throwing his tatty hat into the political ring since 1991, during which time he’s made several bids to be made mayor of Memphis.
5. Colby-Cushman is a Jack of all trades
As if it weren’t enough being a reality TV star and working as a burlesque dancer, Danielle Colby-Cushman is also a successful clothing outlet owner. She runs a store called 4 Miles 2 Memphis, which specializes in vintage and retro clothes as well as handmade fashion accessories. Proprietor of the swanky boutique, Colby-Cushman also serves as one of its primary designers.
4. Picking the right theme song was an exercise in reuse
American Pickers’ opening theme song is the perfect introduction to the show – and even more so once you know that the tune is itself recycled. Yes, the track was created by taking a section of a song by Reckless Sons and repurposing it for the hit program. The track was produced by the head honcho of music licensing company Jingle Punks, who was hired to deliver a rock ‘n’ roll treat – and certainly delivered.
3. American Pickers could be leaving our screens soon
Over seven years since the show’s inception, it seems that for the first time its future is in question. In a 2016 interview with News 8, Mike Wolfe said, “I think I’m going to do one more season and I’m done” before adding, “I’ve got a four-and-a-half-year-old little girl who wants me at home.”
2. Several rumors have been circulating regarding Frank’s sexuality
Rather unfairly, some spectators have made unfounded claims that Frank Fritz is in fact gay. Why? Because he spends a lot of his time around co-star Mike Wolfe. Logical, right? Well no, not really, although it hasn’t stopped some sites from citing the bizarre rumor as if it were fact. Oh yeah, and he’s currently dating a woman, so the burden of proof lies with the perpetrators of this make-believe theory.
1. American tricksters?
As with many reality shows, there are murmurings that American Pickers is staged. In particular, people have questioned the viability of trekking across the country to make a small profit – often less than $100 at a time. However, there’s no concrete evidence to support the allegations. And Wolfe told Script, “I want people to know this show is not fake.” He added, “I’ve always tried to keep it as real as possible to what I actually did.” But will we ever know for sure? Probably not.