Whether you love reality television, history, or hidden treasures, chances are American Pickers is the show for you. After all, it’s one of television’s biggest successes for a reason; it has incredibly broad appeal. It turns out almost anyone can find something they love about a couple of antiquers who enjoy turning one person’s junk into another person’s gold. We all seem to love that transformation.
In fact, American Pickers became an overnight sensation when it first debuted in the Fall of 2010 to 3.1 million people. That number grew immensely during its first year on the air causing it to go down in history as the highest-rated unscripted series on cable. Now, in 2018, it’s still one of History Channel’s biggest audience drawers. In short, it’s a smash-hit!
But this achievement isn’t just due to luck or the engaging personalities of the show’s antique-loving stars, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, it’s also because of the creative and ethical restrictions put on it by the producers and the network.
These rules ensure that American Pickers is a highly specific, cohesive product that remains captivating to its vast audience and doesn’t step on anybody’s toes. Additionally, since there’s also an actual store that the antiques from the show get sold at, there need to be certain guidelines in place that guarantee that the pickers turn a profit. What are some of these restrictions? Well, some might just surprise you.
Without further ado, here are 20 Restrictions The Cast Of American Pickers Must Obey.
20 They Absolutely Have To Make A Profit
Not long after American Pickers first aired, the stars of the show, Mike Wolfe, and Frank Fritz sat down with ABC News in order to describe what a “picker” actually is. In the interview, Frank describes a “Picker” as, “someone who finds good stuff among the rust.” Usually this “good stuff” is thought of as junk, but to a keen eye, it could very well be a treasure.
Experts like Mike and Frank track this stuff down, knowing that they can buy it for cheap, clean it up, and sell it for a profit. This is the entire business model for both the show and “pickers” across the globe.
Therefore, these are rules that every picker has to follow in order to be successful, even on a hit-show such as American Pickers.
19 They Can’t Trespass
As American Pickers’ Mike Wolfe said, it’s required by law that the producers call ahead to gain permission from the individual landlords in order to film on their property. If they didn’t, they’d be in a whack-load of trouble. In fact, they’d be subject to arrest. Worst case scenario, they get a weapon pointed in their face.
According to Mike, this is one of the only things about American Pickers that is constructed ahead of time.
He said this in response to some of the accusations that American Pickers is fake. Mike assures the fans that this is just about the only thing that is faked, due to the legitimate law in place to protect citizens.
18 They Can’t Lie About A Sale
Though the stars of American Pickers have most certainly been accused of lying about a sale on their show, it’s actually not beneficial for them to do so. Both Mike and Frank are running active businesses that just so happened to be filmed for the show.
While it’s true that in some cases deals are organized and sorted out before filming even begins, both Mike and Frank have to make actual deals in order to keep their separate antique businesses going. This is only done to make the process go faster and to ensure that the seller actually wants to part ways with the items.
17 They Can’t Fake Expertise
If Mike and Frank fake expertise on the show they would be setting themselves up for utter disaster. This could take form in two different ways. Firstly, if they did pretend to know something about a product while haggling someone to sell, they could be seen as manipulating that person, something they’ve been trying to avoid since the show first aired.
Additionally, they have to be very sure of what they’re buying, otherwise, they’re risking a loss in profit.
In other words, they can’t buy something just because they think someone will like it.
They have to be certain. The only way of doing that is if they know exactly what their forking over the dough for.
They also take pride in knowing their history and sharing it with their viewers. If they don’t know it, they like to learn from those who do.
16 They Can’t Force A Sale
It’s just bad faith to bully someone into selling something they just don’t want to sell. American Pickers is about relationships and “the relationships that people have to their items”. Or, at least, this is what Mike Wolfe said during a Fox News interview. Therefore, it’s totally understandable that the pickers wouldn’t be allowed to force a sale to happen.
Especially when the show first went to air, there was some criticism surrounding Mike and Frank getting elderly people to part ways with their treasures. The fact is, American Pickers looks for people who are already interested in selling, and all Mike and Frank need to do is make them the right offer.
In contrast, things work a lot better if the seller is happy to negotiate or barters down themselves.
15 They Can’t Grave-Rob
Due to America’s grave-robbing laws, the antiquers on American Pickers cannot take any artifact or valuable from a person’s grave. If they did so they could face both civil and criminal charges. Family members of the deceased can also recoup the value of the stolen property in order to punish the thieves.
Most states treat grave-robbery as its own offense, although others incorporate it into other robbery statutes.
This can be difficult for archaeologists, and for antiques to a lesser extent, who are trying to dig-up finds for the world to see and enjoy. In any scenario, it’s not particularly ethical to do so and therefore makes perfect sense why the American Pickers wouldn’t be allowed to do it.
14 They Can’t Purchase Anything With A Criminal History
It kind of goes without saying that the Frank Fritz and Mike Wolfe can’t purchase anything that’s been stolen or has a current history of crime attached to it. It is illega, after all. If they did, History Channel would be liable.
This is one of the reasons why the pickers spend so much time looking at identification numbers as well as labels.
On top of this, they have to make sure they’re following the laws themselves. In 2014, American Pickers’ office manager, Danielle Colby, was served a notice of an $11,973.42 tax lien based on unpaid taxes on the items that they flipped through the Antique Archeology Store. Now that’s bad for business.
13 They Can’t Viciously Compete For Profit
According to Mike Wolfe, the show wouldn’t be nearly as engaging if it were just him driving around on his own. This is why he brought on his old friend from elementary school, Frank Fritz. The two of them hanging out and arguing about antiques is one of the reasons the show really sticks.
However, an important rule that the two pickers follow is that they don’t compete for profit. Sure, there’s some healthy competition between them, but it’s not about who makes more. Otherwise, some animosity and conflict could grow.
In fact, both Mike and Frank run separate businesses. All of the purchases that Mike makes on the show get sold at his shop, Antique Archaeology. Frank, on the other hand, sells his items exclusively through his website.
12 They Can’t Spend A Lot On Repairs
Almost every item that Mike and Frank Fritz find on American Pickers has to be cleaned up or even repaired to some degree. However, these repairs have to be cost prohibitive.
They can’t break the bank if they’re going to flip it and make a sale. That’s simply the business model they have to abide by.
The pickers essentially have to do the math in their head on the spot in order to determine if the repairs will be worth it at the end of the day.
If the seller isn’t budging on price, and Mike or Frank know they have to spend a certain amount on repairs after they purchase it, there’s no way that it will make them money.
11 They Must Be Certain There Are Buyers
When you watch American Pickers you’ll often hear Mike and Frank talk about the demand for each of the items they purchase. This is because they have to sell the products they buy on the show, and there’s no way they will if there’s no demand for said products.
This is why you’ll see a lot of cars, motorcycles, and items with famous brand names from the past.
Collectors line-up to purchase these types of items and are usually willing to pay top dollar for them.
If the products don’t have a notable history, they have to be so bizarre and unique in order to whet the appetite of any prospective buyer.
10 They Can’t Buy Modern Things
Though this restriction kind of goes without saying, it is worth noting that Mike and Frank don’t purchase anything that’s too current. It’s simply not what they’re looking for. In fact, there have been episodes where they’ve found something they’ve liked but been turned off by the manufacturing date.
This is because the show is all about antiquities. Therefore you’ll seldom see the pickers purchase anything that’s made past the 1970s/1980s. It has to be classified as an antique or they’d be breaking from their brand. They wouldn’t even be antiquing.
Having said that, items don’t need to be completely retired. The pair loves coming across antique items that are still in use today since these items have “withstood the test of time.”
9 They Avoid Fine Antiques
The premise of the show is two guys that “turn one man’s clutter into another man’s cash.” When you watch the show that certainly seems to be the case.
The moto on Mike Wolfe’s Antique Archeology website, as well as in The American Pickers’ book, is that they want “rusty gold.” They enjoy the process of digging through junk and finding the treasure that waits within. This usually involves some amount of clean-up, and occasionally even repairing a few parts. This sets them apart from other shows that focus on more usable antiquities such as fine dinnerware and furniture.
American Pickers leans toward the bizarre and the unique collectibles.
Generally, these are things they need to rummage for.
8 They Must Find Authentic Americana
It’s certainly no surprise that one of the guidelines of American Pickers is that the show is all about American-made treasures from the past. It is called American Pickers, after all.
One of the fascinating aspects of the show is just how much American history is tied into every item they find. It’s one of the reasons why so many people watch it. The show allows them to gain some knowledge about things they may not have ever had the chance to learn about in school. After all, most institutions don’t care to pass on the history of Coca-Cola signs or Pez Dispensers.
Mike Wolfe has stated that not only does he love teaching people about American history, but he also loves learning about it himself.
7 They Can’t Buy Emotionally
This tends to be a general rule for “pickers”: if they buy emotionally, they will often lose money as the seller will force them up in price. This is something Mike and Frank readily admit on the show quite often. In fact, it’s always interesting to see how they contain themselves when they find something that makes their heart beat faster.
They key here is for them to step back and calculate their potential profit margins objectively, as well as hiding their interest to some extent.
This is why you will see Mike and Frank step away from an item for a couple minutes if they see the buyer ready to fight over the price.
6 They Can’t Spend On Items With Loads Of Replacement Parts
During an episode in season 7, Frank believed he came across an original Lionel Train set in ideal condition. He ended up spending a ludicrous $8,000 for it as he expected to be able to sell it in an auction for a very healthy price. Unfortunately, he found out that the train actually had a number of replacement parts causing the sale to drop to only $3,400, less than half of what he paid for it.
It’s so important for the American Pickers not to purchase items with too many replacement parts because it absolutely decimates the value of the item. Therefore, it’s one of the first things they look-out for before making a purchase.
The rare exceptions are if the replacement part is also an antique, such as dated car engines.
5 They Have to Spend As Little Money As Possible
Mike and Frank are certainly no strangers to having to fork over some dough in order to purchase an item that they want. But as you’ll often see on the show, Danielle has to reign them in as they can’t spend too much money. This is because, the more money they spend, the less chance they’ll have at turning over a profit.
Generally, you don’t see Mike and Frank spending thousands of dollars on an individual item. In fact, it’s quite rare.
There are exceptions to this, however, including the time they bought a rare four-cylinder motorcycle for a whopping $90,000. But in this case, they knew there was a market for such an item.
4 They Can’t Swear Or Show Inappropriate Images
As a network channel owned by A&E, History Channel is under the same regulations and guidelines as all other similar entities. Therefore, it’s illegal to air any sensitive material that could get the network into trouble.
Even if Mike and Fritz come across something particularly cool, if it doesn’t meet these guidelines, they simply can’t show it.
The same goes for swearing of any kind since this is seen as a family show – even if children are unlikely to watch it. If they swear, they get beeped or completely edited out.
There was an instance, however, were American Pickers showed some WW2 art that was seen as offensive by some, but even then it was handled tastefully.
3 They Can’t Go Back On An Agreement
Here’s what happens when the pickers do go back on an agreement; they get sued and it looks tremendously bad for the network that pays them. That’s precisely what happened to Frank Fritz when he allegedly went back on a deal with auctioneer and collector, Jerry Bruce.
Bruce alleges that Fritz breached their contract when he didn’t end up selling him an item he said he would sell.
Bruce offered him $300 plus shipping for polarimeter (a device that measured sugar in alcohol) which Frank never sent. However, he did confirm that he would via a text message to Bruce.
At the end of the day, Frank failed to respond to the pleadings and the judge awarded Bruce with $1,080.
2 They Can’t Buy Reproduced Items
Though one of the things that differentiate American Pickers from other antique shows and antiquing, in general, is the fact that they don’t always adhere to the “100 years or older” rule, they almost never purchase something that’s been massively reproduced. Why? Because it completely destroys the value of the product.
If someone can go and buy what they find just about anywhere there’s no demand for a picker’s product.
The idea is that every single thing they find must be vintage and collectible.
Tracking down these relics and purchasing them to re-sell is the entire philosophy of the show.
It would be kind of interesting to see a spoof-show where two guys look for reproduced antiques and haggle with the sales-clerks at Walmart over the price. Your move, A&E…
1 They Can’t Pay Full Retail Price
To pick is to gamble; there are no guarantees. Even when there’s an apparent demand for a product, the most expert picker can still be surprised by something not selling. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important not to pay the full retail price for an item. It has a far better chance of being picked up by a buyer if its price-tag is less than its antique shop equivalent.
Though it’s something some people criticize about American Pickers, Mike and Frank have to purchase a product as low as they can go because eventually, they will have to pay for repairs, cleaning, and shipping of the product as well.
There’s absolutely no business model for pickers paying the full retail price on any item, no matter how rare.
What rules do you wish Mike and Frank on American Pickers didn’t have to follow? Let us know in the comments.
Read more: screenrant.com