Since 2010, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz have been rummaging through people’s trash in the hope of finding expensive gems. Their show, American Pickers, takes viewers on a hunt for antiques. Let’s look into some of their priciest and most interesting picks.
Original Yoda Prototype – $6,250
American Pickers might as well follow the old quote, “Do or do not. There is no try.” Yoda’s wisdom not only filtered into their antique bargaining lifestyle but also into the procurement of Yoda himself. They got a call from a woman looking to move original movie memorabilia.Within the mess, they found original Yoda prototypes. Before purchasing, they confirmed their authenticity with the man that made them, Mario Chiodo. Realizing it was his work, the Pickers paid $6,250 for their own Yoda.
Zundapp RS 7450 Motorcycle And Sidecar – $10,500
During a trip to Europe, Mike and Frank found a vehicle straight out of World War II. The German-designed Zundapp RS 750 might look like a beaten piece of junk, but is a relic from an older time. The bike and sidecar cost them $10,500, but they would quickly earn it back. After paying $1,000 to ship it to America, the Pickers made a nice profit off the bike. They flipped it to a vintage motorcycle shop in Georgia for $18,000.
Lionel Train Set – $8,000
Mike and Fritz try to do everything they can to get the best value for their finds. Unfortunately, they do not always come out on top. During season 7, Fritz thought he came across an original Lionel Train set in mint condition. He shelled out $8,000 for the locomotive. When the boys took it to an auction hoping to flip it for a nice price, they found out that the train had replacement parts. They could only sell it for $3,400.
An Elephant Head – $9,500
After opening an office in Nashville, Tennessee, the Pickers decided to a little business with one of Nashville’s most famed residents. Jack White is best known for his work with The White Stripes, with whom he recorded an album titled Elephant. The Pickers sold White a taxidermy elephant head for $6,000 in addition to $6,000 worth of White’s personal antiques. They originally bought the head for $9,500. White was happy to take the elephant off their hands.
1935 Auburn Phaeton 653 – $26,500
Not many things from 1935 still look shiny and new. Although the Auburn Phaeton 653 found by the Pickers did not look so hot when they bought, it is still a valuable car. They bought the car for $26,500 after tearing apart a barn looking for loot. Mike and Fritz paid another $1,000 to ship it and $10,000 to repair it. The car is currently valued at $45,000, meaning they got a $7,500 deal on it after everything was all said and done.
1958 Gretsch Chet Atkins 6120 Guitar – $9,500
By opening a store in Nashville, Wolfe and Fritz put themselves in the heart of music madness. In addition to Jack White, they also did business with another Nashville ax man. When Dan Auerbach, Black Keys guitarist (and Jack White enemy), heard about their Chet Atkins guitar, he had to have it. The pickers found it and some amps for $9,500 and flipped the guitar and one amp to Auerbach for $10,000. They didn’t make much but felt good helping a local rocker.
Last Supper Circus Banner – $2,000
When they are not buying old cars and motorcycles, the guys frequently will pick up old circus banners. Most circus banners show off bearded women and fire breathers. On one occasion, they found a special Last Supper-themed circus banner. The Last Supper circus included animatronic figures similar to Chuck-E-Cheese to reenact Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper masterpiece. Mike decided he had to add it to his collection and paid $2,000 for the old sign.
Motorcycle Collection – $62,000
Mike and Frank were in the middle of a New England road trip when they decided to stop at Paper City Brewing in Springfield, Massachusetts. Jay Hebert, a co-owner of the brewery, had a huge collection of bikes which the Pickers wanted to sift through. They eventually found five of their favorites, some Harley-Davidsons, and some Indian bikes. Indian bikes were produced in Springfield. They laid out $62,000 for the vintage collection. The Heberts used the money to improve their brewery.
Dodge A 100 Hot Rod Truck – $12,500
Sometimes the coolest vehicles they find are not suitable for both Mike and Frank. When they stumbled into a bright orange Dodge A100 Hot Rod truck, Mike was forced to sit out from the test drive. Due to the low roof, only the measurably smaller Frank could sit in the driver’s seat. The truck had been sitting in a collectors garage, and the pickers wanted to give it a new home. It only cost them $12,500 to call it their own.
Von Dutch XAVW Motorcycle
Some picks are too good to offer to the public. When Mike came across a custom-made Von Dutch XAVW, he knew that he needed to add it to his personal collection. The bike is a combination of Harley-Davidson and Volkswagen parts. Mike laid out $21,000 for it and is thrilled to call it his own. The bike is so rare that is has been placed on display in the National Motorcycle Museum in addition to Antique Archeology’s Nashville store.
Polarimeter – $1,000
When dealing with antiques, it is not surprising to see a lawsuit here and there. Fritz found himself in the middle of a lawsuit over a misunderstanding with one customer. When a South Carolina man spotted an antique polarimeter during an episode, he reached out in the hope of purchasing the item. The man sent Fritz $300 for it, but he never received the item. Further, Fritz didn’t even show up for court. The judge eventually forced Fritz to pay the man a $1,000 judgment.
1948 Airstream Trailer – $8,000
Although the brand name might be lost on many, the Airstream trailer is one of the most recognizable in the world. With its distinctively round shape and polished aluminum, Airstream trailers have been around since the 30s. The Pickers scooped up an Airstream trailer for $8,000 but had to add an additional $3,000 in repairs to it. They no longer possess the trailer since they sold it for $5,000 and an antique Indian motorcycle. It seems like they came away with a good deal.
Leather License Plate – $1,000
Cars today have standardized metal license plates depending on your state of registration. As cars became a popular part of society, the government needed to establish a way to track each automobile. At first, they just told people to write their license number on their vehicle and didn’t specify how: painted on, a wooden plaque, engraved in leather. Mike bought a leather license plate for $1,000 when he realized it was the only leather plate ever issued for an Oldsmobile.
1914 Merz Cycle Car – $35,000
When the car hit the market in 1914, it retailed for $450 ($10,864 factoring in inflation). Fritz and Wolfe came across a collector with a Merz Cycle Car in his collection. According to the collector, it was one of only two remaining in the world. How could they not go after such a rare artifact? Even though the car was missing some parts, the man offered to sell it for $37,500. The Pickers haggled him down a few thousand and paid $35,000 for it.
Sideshow Banners – $5,000
To start season three, Fritz and Mike traveled to Bushkill Park in Easton, Pennsylvania, a small and largely abandoned amusement park. The park open in 1902 and the guys hoped to find some interesting goodies inside. They toured around the park with Neal Fennel, known to the locals as Balloons the Clown. At one point, they came across some old sideshow banners from the park. They paid $700 for the banners, but eventually found out they were worth $5,000-$6,000. They returned and paid full price for the lot.
Vincent Motorcycle – $10,000
Like many of the picks that Fritz and Mike come away with, the Vincent motorcycle they found was very rare due to a very low supply. Vincent Motorcycles only operated between 1928 and 1955 due to heavy financial losses. However, they were incredibly well made, and they hoped to bring one into their collection. The bike cost them $10,000 to take home. They would eventually take home $2,000 in profit after selling it for $12,000 to the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa.
Indian Motorcycles – $40,000
Getting a good deal is just part of the business for Mike and Fritz. Although the price tag was high on two Indian motorcycles, they had no problem laying out big bucks for a great deal on great bikes. They found a four-cylinder Indian bike called “The Aristocrat” and a Chief model from one dealer. Between the $30,000 price tag for The Aristocrat, the $10,000 for the Chief, and the additional $4,500 in repairs, they still came out on top. The bikes are valued together at $58,000.
Tether Toy Car – $1,100
People in the 20s and 30s had some peculiar interests in cars. One of their brilliant ideas came in the form of a tether car. Tether cars, although small in size, have a real engine inside. They are tethered to a pole and drive in circles at high speeds. On some occasions, they can go upwards of 150 miles per hour. Mike scooped one up with some additional car bodies for $1,1000. Now he can try to build the perfect car to go max speed.
Henderson Cyclecar – $12,000
During the 1910s and 1920s, cyclecars were a nice lightweight and affordable option for buying a car. As mass producers like Ford became giants, public interest waned. Naturally, if it went out of style decades earlier, the Pickers were interested in acquiring one. They bought a Henderson cyclecar for $12,000. The car looks awesome and tiny compared to even today’s compact cars. They went on to sell the car for $14,500, making sure to profit off of this old-school find.
Vespa Sign – $450
As they scour the world looking for hidden gems, Mike seems to always be on the lookout for Vespa memorabilia. On one trip down to Florida, Mike came across something that tickled his fancy. Unfortunately, it was not a Vespa bike itself, but he did find an old Vespa dealer’s sign. The sign dated back to the 1980s and he needed to add it to his growing Vespa collection. He haggled the price down to $450 then sold the sign for double what he paid.
Harley-Davidson Knucklehead – $20,000
When they find a good deal on an absurdly rare pick, there’s a good chance that the Pickers will keep the items for themselves instead of selling them off. When they got wind of a 1937 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead motorcycle, they had to see how much it would take to buy it. Mike haggled heavily with the owner in the hope of getting a good price. He eventually did, paying $20,000 for a bike worth more than that. He turned down $25,000 offer once.
Back Taxes – $12,000
Outside of Fritz and Mike, the biggest star is their office manager Danielle Colby. She has been friends with Mike for years before the show. Danielle had to shell out tons of cash, however, not for some incredible item, but for years of unpaid taxes. She never paid retail sales taxes on many of the items that she flipped. In 2014, she was served a notice of an $11,973.42 tax lien based on unpaid taxes assessed in 2013. Perhaps she should start paying up.
Handmade Model T
In the episode titled “Hot Rod Hero,” the Pickers found a man in possession of a beautiful, fully wood Model T. The car was whittled by hand by the owner’s father. It took him seven years to build it and incredibly it still works. Due to the owner’s obligations, he was unable to find the time to get it into a museum. Instead of purchasing the car, the guys decided to help him get the car into a museum so everyone could marvel at its beauty.
1910 Royal Pioneer Motorcycle – $55,000
It might not be the most that the Pickers spent in one place, but it is certainly the most they spent on one item. Due to a massive fire, Royal Pioneer only made fewer than 500 of their luxury motorcycles. The fire put them out of business, but put antique collectors in the business of finding them. Wolfe had no issue paying the $55,000 price tag for the bike. He got a great deal since another Royal Pioneer was sold for $92,000.
Millstone For William Shatner – $2,500
In season 3 of American Pickers, the guys got sent on a job that went beyond the stars. Star Trek star William Shatner commissioned Mike and Frank to find a genuine millstone for his garden, as well as decorate an entire room in his home. Once they tossed the puns aside, they found a lot of millstones for Captain Kirk. The owner would not budge off of his offer of $2,500 for the stone, claiming they generally sell for over $3,500.
Original Jell-O Wagon – $6,500
Founded in LeRoy, New York, Jell-O still brings a smile to people’s faces. The Jell-O wagon was a huge source of advertising for the company. Danielle found the wagon in a Louisiana barn. The Pickers paid $6,500 for it before selling it to the Jell-O Museum.
1954 Nash-Healy (2) – $46,000
From 1951-1954, Nash Motors produced an elegant two-seat sports car. Mike and Frank got their hands on two of these 1954 beauties from an old AMC dealership in North Carolina. The first one, a red model fitted with a Cadillac engine cost them $21,000. They both took some haggling, and they eventually settled on $25,000 for the grey model. Both seemed like a great deal. According to Hagerty Price Guide, the cars are valued at $36,800 a piece, leaving the Pickers with quite the deal.
Dollywood Accessories – Various Prices
For Dolly Parton’s amusement park, Dollywood, she realized she needed some authentic accessories to dress up her newest ride, the 40s themed FireChaser Express. Dolly and her park designers reached out to American Pickers to help them fill in the blanks. They found vintage fire extinguishers, gasoline pumps, and gas signs which fit perfectly with the ride. Danielle Colby and Lauren Wray visited the park to see the final vision, meeting Dolly along the way.
Checker Board Rick Nieslen Guitar – $0
In one of the Pickers greatest bargains, they took home one of Rick Nielsen’s guitars, the lead guitar player for Cheap Trick, without paying a dime for it. Nielsen opened up his warehouse of rock goodies to Wolfe and Fritz. They zoned in on a white and black checkerboard pattern guitar. Nielsen continuously turned down their offers, including an offer of over $2,500. In the end, he donated it to their store as long as he could play it whenever he visited them.
$90,000 Worth Of Motorcycles
The Pickers have shelled out plenty of cash throughout the show. At the start of season 17, they put down their largest purchase to date. In the episode perfectly titled, “The $90,000 Question,” the guys found three incredibly rare four-cylinder Ace motorcycles with a car collector. Even with the high price tag, they decided that they had to have them. They left their trip to the Pacific Northwest $90,000 poorer, but after opening a line of credit, they came home happy campers.