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American Pickers is a popular reality television show that focuses on Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz as they travel to different corners of the country in search of treasure in unlikely places. They search the homes of hobbyists, collectors, hoarders, and those who inherited a mess of junk they don’t know what to do with.
The History Channel show has a large following, as people love to see what the team finds in their search. Oftentimes, the colorful characters the two run into are just as interesting as the items they find. American Pickers has made household names out of obscure characters such as Hobo Jack and Mole Man.
Just like any other reality show, though, there are quite a few behind-the-scenes aspects that the producers wouldn’t like the public to know. The show has experienced a lot of success, but that isn’t the whole story. Those who have firsthand experience of how the show operates have taken to the internet to “expose” the show for misleading their viewers. Accusations include multiple staged events and the cast “ripping off” some of their subjects.
Ahead, we’ll take a look at 15 Dark Secrets From American Pickers You Had No Idea About.
15. RIPPING PEOPLE OFF
One of the main pieces of criticism American Pickers faces is how they negotiate with some of their subjects. Obviously they want to get the best deal, but multiple posts on some forums tell the behind-the-scenes story of the true negotiations.
Some of the people who have had the pleasure of negotiating with Frank and Mike told their stories, and they’re far different from anything you’ve seen on television. It’s common for the crew to agree on prices, only to try to haggle them down when the cameras start rolling. They reportedly try to convince people that what they have is just junk, but in reality they want to get the most profit they can.
You can’t blame them too much for trying to get the most money out of an item, but these reports go against the personas Mike and Frank display on the show.
14. PRODUCERS ARE THE REAL PICKERS
Although the show makes viewers think that the onscreen American Pickers team is responsible for all of their finds, the reality is much different. Mike and Frank maintain that the show is completely real, but no one can dispute that they aren’t the only ones who go looking for potential treasure.
In most cases, producers are the ones who read through viewer submission and choose where to go. The cast may have a little say in the matter, but they aren’t the ones on the front-lines, figuring out the newest hot spots.
In fact, many people who have dealt with American Pickers claim that the producers work out the prices ahead of time as well. They agree on the price, then tell the seller to ask for more money so they can capture negotiations on camera.
13. LEGAL ISSUES
As we already covered, one of the major critiques of American Pickers is that they allegedly rip people off in the attempt for the largest profit. Related to this, Frank Fritz was taken to court for a similar matter.
Jerry Bruce of Greenville, SC, saw a polarimeter on one of the episodes of American Pickers. Bruce is an avid collector of historic farming tools, so he reached out to Frank Fritz to try to purchase the polarimeter.
They agreed on the price of $300, and Bruce paid what he owed. He even got a confirmation text from Fritz. After that, he never heard back from anyone associated with the show, and never got his polarimeter.
Luckily, Fritz never cashed the check either, but the text conversation was enough for Bruce to sue and win.
12. DANIELLE’S BURLESQUE CAREER
Danielle doesn’t limit herself to one career – she has many. Before starting with American Pickers, Danielle had a successful career as a burlesque dancer. In fact, she kept it up during filming of the show as well.
What’s more, Danielle owned her own boutique called 4 Miles 2 Memphis. She doesn’t view burlesque dancing as anything but an art form, and puts her money where her mouth is. She produced a documentary that focused on Tempest Storm, one of the most famous burlesque dancers in the history of the style.
Danielle also uses the resources of the show to “pick” in her free time. She has her sights set on vintage costumes for burlesque dancing, instead of the traditional picks of the rest of the team.
11. PLANTED ITEMS
Any reality show faces criticism that the show is largely staged, and American Pickers is no different. No one on the show will likely ever confirm this is the case, but multiple critics have claimed that American Pickers isn’t “real” at all.
Their suspicions have been augmented by multiple posts claiming firsthand experience with the show. According to these posts, American Pickers boosts the intrigue of their episodes by planting items for Mike and Frank to find.
If these allegations are true, it’s understandable why they plant items. If they didn’t, the show would waste weeks or even months filming episodes that don’t feature any valuable items. It stands to reason that the “diamond in the rough” nature of the show is a bit of a farce.
10. HOBO JACK THE AUTHOR
Hobo Jack is a recurring guest on American Pickers and a fan favorite. He’s not just your average hobo, though. Hobo Jack is an author with multiple published books under his belt.
Mike Wolfe has written a few books of his own, but it’s Hobo Jack’s publications that got more attention. Generally, Hobo Jack styles himself as an all-around artist.
Jack doesn’t limit himself to one form of expression. He’s released multiple albums under his own name as well. He has five albums as of now, and they’re available for purchase on his website. Because of his unique living circumstances, it can take a long time for Jack to fulfill orders, so it’s best to buy them soon if you want them in time for next Christmas.
9. DANIELLE’S TAX PROBLEMS
Since American Picker’s isn’t Danielle’s only source of income, she reportedly forgot to give the government their cut of her earnings. Danielle has been hit by multiple tax evasion notices while she was getting paid from the show.
In 2013, Danielle received her first notice of overdue taxes. According to the IRS, she owed almost $6,000. Apparently she left the invoice unpaid, as the IRS sent her four more notifications over the next few years as her debt continued to grow.
By 2015, Danielle had racked up a considerable amount of debt to the US government. It’s still unclear whether or not she’s paid up. Hopefully she doesn’t let it get much more out of hand, or her run on the show may be finished.
8. PREDETERMINED PRICES
Although many of the episodes feature on-screen haggling with customers and sellers, not many of the prices are ever in question. The producers determine the prices before the cameras even start rolling, giving buyers and sellers little wiggle-room for making a deal with Mike and Frank.
As we covered above, the producers even tell their subjects to ask for more money when selling items to the pickers. They try to enhance the drama this way, but the target price was never in question. Producers decide the prices, then give their subjects a script to use in their “haggling” scenes
Most of the time, the deals heavily favor the pickers themselves. That shouldn’t be a surprise, but the show’s representation of how these prices are determined is rather disingenuous.
7. MOLE MAN’S EXPLOITATION
While “Mole Man” Ron only appeared in one episode of the first season of American Pickers, he became an instant fan favorite and a staple in American Pickers lore. In the episode, the pickers searched through Mole Man’s tunnels in search of valuables.
Apparently, the show wasn’t the only outlet to see Mole Man as a star. Someone posted about a “huge yard sale” featuring Mole Man of American Pickers fame. They said the sale would feature multiple authentic Mole Man collectibles, including autographs, antiques, and much more.
As it turned out, the yard sale didn’t have anything to do with Mole Man. No one saw him attend the event, and everyone walked away feeling swindled. Although he wasn’t the only one selling, Mole Man’s expected appearance drove turnout, but nobody got to meet the American Pickers legend.
6. FRANK FRITZ ISN’T ABOUT THAT LIFE
Whether the show is real or staged, there’s no question whether or not Mike Wolfe is committed to picking as a lifestyle. He started slipping “junk” at an early age and never looked back.
Frank Fritz, on the other hand, wasn’t a professional picker before the show started. He got into the business when he started with American Pickers, but it isn’t a passion like it is with his partner.
While Mike has spun his American Pickers fame into multiple ventures, Frank seems content to let the show play-out and go on his way. He’s not passionate about picking, and has even stated that nothing he’s found has ever really impressed him.
When it comes down to it, Frank is just a part of the show for the money. He’s a collector, but isn’t as passionate as his partner.
5. THE SHOW MIGHT NOT BE ON FOR MUCH LONGER
A lot of people online claim to have had interactions with the American Pickers team. Much to the surprise of fans, these interactions usually paint Mike and Franks as irritable, and sometimes downright mean.
Whether these allegations are real or false, they argue that Mike and Frank don’t get along in real life. This argument might be one reason the show is likely ending after the next season.
Mike Wolfe confirmed that the show might be coming to an end in an interview with an Iowa news station. He said that he wanted to spend more time with his family, and that he’ll likely walk away after the next season.
He never sited any disagreement with his co-stars, but this wouldn’t be the first time a reality TV duo had off-screen troubles.
4. CRAZY FAN THEORIES ABOUT FRANK AND MIKE’S RELATIONSHIP
While it doesn’t make the most sense in the world, the internet ran with rumors that Frank and Mike were actually in a homosexual relationship together. Fans speculated that since the couple spends so much time together, it’s possible that they’re actually closer than some may think.
These rumors don’t have a ton of weight to them. Mike spoke of his wife multiple times throughout filming, even when she was just his girlfriend. Frank, on the other hand, is more private about his personal life.
This has lead some fans to speculate that Frank, if not Mike, is gay. It really doesn’t matter, but the internet was keen to know more about Frank’s life. As the show progressed, Frank opened up a bit more about his personal relationships, helping to stifle the rumors.
3. A SURPRISING NET WORTH
While the American Pickers stars maintain an “everyman” kind of vibe, the cast has a bit more money than you may expect. Mike is the richest of the crew by a wide margin, with his hands in multiple investments outside of American Pickers. Celebrity net worth sites estimate that Mike has $4 to $7 million to his name through the show and his store locations.
Both Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz receive $500,000 each season, and Fritz has accumulated a small fortune as well. He isn’t as invested in picking as Mike, but he still enjoys an estimated $4 million to his name.
Apparently the business of celebrity junk diving is a lucrative job. Even without the hit show, Mike Wolfe likely would have made his fortune through legitimate antique selling.
2. STAGED SCENES
Given the multiple staged aspects of American Pickers , it should come as no surprise that many of their scenes are orchestrated by the production team. The prices are set and the haggling scenes are staged, but those aren’t the only aspects of American Pickers that are predetermined.
The driving scenes raised eyebrows with many online skeptics. American Pickers makes it seem like Mike and Frank are driving across the country to find treasure in unlikely places. In reality, though, that’s not how they get there at all.
The driving scenes appear to be almost entirely staged, with B-roll footage filmed of their car driving on certain roads. The banter might not be scripted, but Mike and Frank in a car is a setup – not organic like the show suggests.
1. REAL OR FAKE?
Healthy skepticism is necessary whenever you’re watching a reality TV show. Most of them are at least 50% fake, because these shows can’t keep intrigue if they don’t set up a few scenes. Furthermore, the logistics of American Pickers requires some setup, as we’ve covered above.
For many American Pickers fans, though, it doesn’t matter if the show is real or fake. Even if they stage scenes and plant items, there’s no faking the history of some of these items. For die-hard fans, it’s more about the story of the items than it is about swindling hoarders.
Still, based on the firsthand reports American Pickers seems like it’s mostly staged. Whether this affects the enjoyment of the show is up to each viewer to decide.