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Why It Took 5 Years For Mike Wolfe To Sell American Pickers

Though the ratings for "American Pickers” have dwindled recently (due in large part to the controversial departure of longtime host Frank Fitz), there's no question that the show has been remarkably successful. The show follows host Mike Wolfe and his team as they travel across the United States searching for rare and unusual antiques, and the show gives new meaning to the phrase "one man's trash is another man's treasure."

"American Pickers" is as much about traveling as it is about antiquing, providing viewers with a brand new setting and piece of history each week — and the show's success proves just how appealing that concept is. Since it first launched in 2010, the show has aired an astounding 23 seasons, and as long as there are still antiques to hunt, it seems as though the show could last forever.

That said, some fans might be surprised to learn that the show was initially incredibly hard sell at first — and that it took Wolfe five years to get History to sign off on the project.

History wasn't convinced people would watch the show

During a 2020 interview with CBS News, Mike Wolfe revealed just how hard it actually was to pitch the show in the first place. "Nobody really knew what a 'picker' was," he explained. "I said, 'Here's the deal, man: you're the History Channel, let's educate them. Let's tell them what a picker is!'" According to Wolfe, History still wasn't convinced — so he decided to prove the concept by filming his expeditions across America on his own.

Wolfe was already traveling across the country finding antiques to sell, and would often share his interesting experiences with his friends. Eventually, his friends convinced him to start filming these excursions. "They said, 'You should buy a video camera,' so I did," Wolfe explained to Southeastern Antiquing and Collecting Magazine. "I put it on the dash and talked into it as I drove around. I made videos and posted them on my website. With those videos, I started pitching the concept, and I finally sold it to the History Channel. It was a five-year process." 

Despite the long journey to get "American Pickers" started, the series' longevity and remarkable success shows just how important that pitching process was — and it's interesting to consider how the show might never have happened if it weren't for those dashboard videos.