The original ‘American Picker’

mike wolfe, antique archaeology, leclaire, american pickers, vintage tee
Mike Wolfe of “American Pickers” fame poses inside his original antique shop in LeClaire, Iowa. (Mike Wolfe photo)

February 27, 2014 | By Jay Jones, Special to Tribune Newspapers

LECLAIRE, Iowa — Though some people think of pickers as mere dumpster divers, Mike Wolfe doesn’t mind. His childhood hobby spawned an adult obsession, one that he has parlayed into a popular antiques business and an even more popular TV show.

Millions of viewers tune in each week to watch Wolfe scour backyards and barns for “American Pickers,” a series he created in 2010. The show often returns to Wolfe’s roots in LeClaire, where his passion first turned profitable with the opening of Antique Archaeology. Located just off the main drag, the shop has driven the renaissance of this Mississippi River town 161 miles west of Chicago and just north of the Quad Cities.
Wolfe began picking as a kindergartner in Joliet, but his fixation with others’ junk flourished after his family’smove to Bettendorf, Iowa, when he was in the fourth grade.

“There was a junkyard down by the river in Bettendorf,” he recalled. “It was kind of a coming-of-age story like ‘Stand By Me.’ We would walk the railroad tracks all day, hang around in the junkyard, break windows in the cars and dig around in the glove boxes to find things.”

During his formative years in the 1970s, Wolfe said, “picker” was a derogatory term for “somebody who went through alleys digging through garbage and every once in a while came up with a gem.” Eventually, he discovered that people were willing to fork over money for his gems. The business was born.



9 thoughts on “Chicago Tribune: February 2014”

  1. ray cruit

    I think you are LIVING the AMERICAN DREAM… One piece at a time (to coin a phrase) Ray C. …..
    P. S. I wish I thought of it First. Thank You…

  2. Craig Tessendorff

    Your killing me Mike. I just watched the S8 episode in California with all the VW picks. Now I’m kicking myself because I didn’t watch the ending. I was too excited to run in to the computer and get active.

    I’m a 3rd generation Californian. My son is in San Diego at surf camp as I type this. When you picked up that massive surf board for 60.00, I started to break down.

    My first car was a 74 Super Beatle. I’m not overly proud of that model and year, but my heart is with the VW.

    Keep on truckin. I love the show.


  3. Martin

    Hi Mike,

    I am from Indonesia, Southeast Asia. I enjoy your show through History Channel.
    I never love junk before, i hate rusty think actually. But after i watch your enthusiasm.
    I just realize that if i had old stuff like in the show, remind me of my childhood and time is like stopping.

    I have chemical imbalance in my brain ( anxienty, depression) remebering the old time is really helping me not worried about future too much. Sometime we have to pause of live and remember the childhood. I do feel it’s good to be child again not worried so much about life.

    I love USA, i trying so hard to get to US and i hope i can see your shop someday. If possible i would like buy your pick just like in the show.

    Respect Brother,

    Martin Chandyka

  4. Frank Small

    Mike I never miss any of your shows, Please keep up the good work, And please say hello to the rest of the team for me,

  5. Elane Wo;;os

    We just bought a No. 9 Fire engine. Red with light and bell. Ladder rack and ladder are missing. I am curious to know if i antique or a repop. How can I tell the difference.. If anyone would know it would be you and Frank.. Please advise me if you have time. I would really appreciatee it.

    Thank you in advance.
    Elaine Willis

  6. Guillaume Lagouge

    Salut mike
    je regarde american pickers sur d17 et je dois dire que je suis sidéré de voir de magnifiques trouvailles, spécialement ce qui concerne les vieilles voitures americaines.
    continuez de nous faire rêver

  7. Jane Johnson

    Love your show . I never miss a show ever. People just dont realize how much fun digging thru barns and old buildings can be unless you have done it. I love it. I am just so afraid of spiders, so I never leave without my Raid. Keep on Picken and tell Frank I said Hey!

  8. andrea bright

    Hello Mike and Frank, My husband, Phil and i watch your show here in SOUTHAMPTON, UK. We don’t agree on much but we both love the show. Phil has a 1952 packard sedan, 3 Harley Davidsons, and a 1968 usa ford pick up, { he uses the pick up for work everyday}. I am a small collector, decorative eggs, china dogs, i love mirrors, old furniture, anything that catches my eye i buy!! Over here we have car boot sales and also we have mollys den, which is a warehouse where people rent areas to sell their stuff, you can pick up some really cool stuff there and the stock changes often. On a recent trip to scotland we discovered ‘ steptoes yard’, you would love it… we played uk pickers and spent too much!! We love all your little sayings and the fun between yourselfs and danielle. you are inspiring alot of people. Happy picking….Andrea.

  9. Ponsavanh

    Can’t get enough of “American Pickers”…Sold on it day one, have spent the weekends watching episode after episode. Mike, Frank and Danielle are down to earth, fun loving and entertaining! My husband and I love antiquing…the show is educational and positive. Thanks for sharing America’s history and taking us on the adventure with all of you!!

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