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American Pickers' Mike Wolfe Believes The Show Took 'Elitism' Out Of Antiquing

For 24 seasons, Mike Wolfe and his Antiques Archaeology team have scoured the nation's barns, garages, and junk piles for vintage signs, old vehicles, and Hollywood memorabilia. "American Pickers" often shows Wolfe climbing through cobweb-covered mounds to uncover a rare treasure, and the show's tone and visual impression is vastly different from the antiquing television shows that came before it. At a 2013 book signing in Paramus, New Jersey, to promote his book "Kid Pickers," Wolfe specifically called out another venerable antiquing series. 

"The perception people had of antiques prior to us was very elitist, you know, it was 'Antiques Roadshow,' and it was a Fabergé egg and a Mona Lisa painting and all of these incredible things." He pointed out that antiquers can't make a living buying and selling rare and expensive items; their business comes from trading in more common and affordable pieces, which are scattered all across the nation in various states of neglect and disrepair.

During the Q&A session (viewable on YouTube) at the Paramus Park Mall Barnes & Noble, Wolfe explained how picking antiques across America had given him a chance to hear interesting personal and historical stories from hundreds of Americans. "I think we teach history backwards," Wolfe said, explaining that his book was meant to help steer children to the stories waiting to be told in their own communities.

Mike Wolfe prides himself on making antiquing more accessible

In the Q&A, Mike Wolfe thanked his co-author Lily Sprengelmeyer for her perspective and ability to make antiquing interesting for children while also removing some of the pretentiousness that can make the hobby intimidating. He explained that he often advises people to worry less about the potential value of an object and focus more on their feelings about it. 

"Don't worry if it's an antique," he said. "Just buy something if you like it ... If it's important to you, then it's important to you. That's what I want kids to understand." Wolfe said that when he was pitching his show, some television executives even cautioned him against using the word "antique," which led him to choose "American Pickers" as the show's title.

He went on to tell stories of his own fascination with picking as a young man, including finding an old wheelchair in Colorado and dedicating days to trying (and failing) to break the Guinness world record for longest wheelchair wheelie. "Everywhere I went, I was wheelchair wheelieing," he recalled. "I was always weird."