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The Surprising Job Mike Wolfe Had Before Starting American Pickers

"American Pickers" is proof that one person's trash can be another person's treasure. History's long-running reality series has a simple premise: antique experts travel America to meet up with collectors and rummage through pawnshops, car boot sales and barns in search of rare artifacts that sell for big bucks. With the series now in its 23rd season, it's safe to say that "American Pickers" has been a successful venture for its stars Mike Wolfe, Frank Fritz and Danielle Colby, despite the fact the show has been rocked with some serious behind the scenes drama in recent times.

Given that "American Pickers" has been on the air for over a decade, it's hard to picture that the show's stars were ever doing anything else. However, they all had careers prior to the reality series taking off and turning them into household names. Mike Wolfe, for example, was still known for selling things before he became a TV star — unfortunately, his previous venture ended somewhat tragically.

Mike Wolfe sold bicycles before American Pickers

Once upon a time, Mike Wolfe was a sales rep who decided to take a major gamble on his passion for bicycling. While out on the job one day, he stumbled across a store that was up for sale, which inspired him to put all of his resources into acquiring the property so he could open his own bike shop. "I traded my old bicycles and everything I had — everything — to get it," Wolfe recalled in an interview with Bicycling. The decision paid off too, as the business experienced exponential growth within the first few months. "I did $150 the first day and took the store from 75 bikes a year to 500 bikes a year the first year."

Unfortunately, the store had to close following an unfortunate accident. "There was a fire in the apartment above me, and it all collapsed down into my store," Wolfe revealed, adding that it took him an extraordinarily long time — three years, in fact — for him to receive any insurance money.

According to Wolfe, the bicycle store was his "lifelong dream" and the fire made him broke and tired. However, the advent of eBay and online stores turned his fortunes around. "I had a going-out-of-business sale, got a cargo van, a cell phone and a website and started Antique Archaeology," Wolfe said. "I hit the road in 2000 buying and selling stuff, and have been on the road ever since."