24 May 2016

American Pickers’ top automotive picks are better late than never

We asked. We begged. Pretty sure there was even some discussion about offering a writer’s first born.

Once, twice, then three times we pleaded. The answer never changed: No, no and no.

OK, so Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, stars of the The History Channel’s American Pickers, are just too doggone busy for an interview. At least that’s what their PR peeps told us. So our questions about their biggest auto-related picks went unanswered – and our rabid interest in catching the show every week waned too.

But guilty pleasures are guilty pleasures, and we recently went on a binge-watching spree to discover what we’ve been missing. Lo and behold, we stumbled upon a “Best of” episode that answered many of the questions we wanted to ask Mike and Frank ourselves.

So, without further ado, here is a list of American Pickers’ “Biggest Buys,” which also includes a few non-automotive items that are still pretty cool:

  1. 1931 Lionel State train set – This one turned out to be a not-so-solid buy, so it’s probably best to get it out of the way first. Purchased for $8,000, the set was valued at $3,400 – a loss of $4,600 for the boys from Iowa.
  2. 1948 Airstream travel trailer – Purchased for $8,000 and repaired for an additional $3,000, it was traded for a classic Indian motorcycle plus $5,000.
  3. 1960 Cadillac Fleetwood – A win. Bought for $9,500 and shipped for $500, the Fleetwood was valued at $14,500.
  4. Elephant head – Don’t ask. Kind of weird. Purchased for $9,500, the head was sold to Jack White of Third Man Records for $6,000 plus $6,000 worth of stuff that Mike wanted. A win for everyone except the elephant. Moving on.
  5. Vincent Motor and David Mann painting – Win-win. The Vincent motor was purchased for $10,000 and is valued at $12,000; the Mann painting cost $5,000 and is valued at $8,000.
  6. Zundapp RS 750 motorcycle with sidecar – This was a great buy. Purchased in Europe for $10,500 and shipped for $1,000, the German-built Zundapp was immediately sold for $18,000.
  7. 1958 Gretsch Chet Atkins 6120 Guitar – Named for one of the greatest guitar players in history, and perhaps the most desirable Gretsch model, the guitar and two amplifiers were purchased for $9,500. Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys bought the Gretch and one of the amps for $10,000.
  8. 1960s Dodge A-100 custom van – Dodge’s answer to the Ford Econoline and Chevrolet Van, the A-100 was purchased for $11,000, shipped for $1,000 and valued at $15,000.
  9. 1914 Henderson Cycle Car – Antique Archeology bought the diminutive Indianapolis-built cycle car for $12,000 and sold it for $14,500.
  10. 1937 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead motorcycle – Purchased for $20,000, let’s just say it’s worth much more than that. No surprise that Mike kept it for himself.
  11. Von Dutch Harley-Davidson XA VW motorcycle – Built around 1966 by pin-striping legend Von Dutch, the Harley-Davidson XA is powered by a 36-hp flat-four Volkswagen engine and has some Moto Guzzi components. Mike paid $21,000 for it and added it to his personal collection. The rare bike has been displayed at the National Motorcycle Museum and in Antique Archeology’s Nashville shop.
  12. 1935 Auburn Phaeton 653 – The last year of production, the ’35 model was given an attractive facelift by designer Gordon Buehrig, creator of the gorgeous Cord 810. Purchased for $26,500, shipped for $1,000 and repaired for $10,000, the 653 is valued at $45,000. We did the math for you – that’s a $7,500 profit.
  13. 1939 Indian Aristocrat motorcycle and 1930s Indian Chief motorcycle – The 4-cylinder Indian known as “The Aristocrat” was purchased for $30,000, while the rigid-frame Chief (with 1939 motor and 1935 tank) was acquired for $10,000 and repaired for an additional $4,500. The bikes’ combined value is $58,000, which puts Antique Archeology $13,500 in the black.
  14. Two 1954 Nash-Healeys Mike and Frank scored a pair of ’54 Nash-Healey coupes at an old AMC dealership in North Carolina. They bought a red, Cadillac engine-powered one for $21,000 and nicer grey model for $25,000. According to the Hagerty Price Guide, a ’54 Nash-Healey in No. 4 (fair) condition is valued at $36,800. Two big wins on this pick.
  15. 1910 Royal Pioneer motorcycle – Due to a fire that destroyed the Massachusetts factory and put the company out of business, fewer than 500 Royal Pioneers motorcycles were built. American Pickers found one. Royal Pioneer advertising claimed the bike was “built absolutely without regard to cost;” it appealed to sophisticated buyers who simply wanted the best. Mike purchased one for $55,000, and again, it comes as no surprise that it isn’t for sale. Bonhams sold a Royal Pioneer six years ago for $92,000.

22 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Noel Sabiston Melbourne Florida May 25, 2016 at 15:29
    Any chances for you guys to try to get Mike or Frank to show off their personal collection of cars, bikes and stuff. They always talk about the stuff they find going into their private collections. I know AMERICAN PICKERS Fans want to see this!!!! You guys might get a show out their stuff!
  • 2
    Gary Stokes Powder Springs, GA May 25, 2016 at 16:13
    Thank you for publishing this article. I have also been trying for over 2 years to contact American Pickers about my collection. I have emailed, telephoned, sent letters with pictures and no answer from them. I have a collection of Nash Motors memorabilia, including a Nash Motors factory employee's shop coat or duster that belonged to my father. My father was a factory representative for Nash Motors and later American Motors and I have a collection of his items along with the documentation. I also own some beautifully restored AMC show cars (insured by Hagerty). But I have not been able to get American Pickers attention. It seems that I am not the only one.
  • 3
    Lrak Charleston sc May 25, 2016 at 17:45
    "Valued at". Doesn't equal "sold for". Big diff! Kind of surprised these guys are in biz after seeing their so-called profits!
  • 4
    Danny Saucier Washington May 25, 2016 at 18:24
    You won't get a comment from them. They have made too many lousy old car decisions, on camera, in the past to be recognized as experts on anything. They lose all credibility when they "absolutely LOVE" every thing they come across on the show for the sake of buying? Frankie has made some great decisions in the past on some 4-dr. mopars! It was old though. Impossible to find parts to restore a non-desirable flat head 6, crap driver worth 10K when your done spending 40-50 to restore. And you wonder why they won't "talk" to the camera on interview? But they can afford to overpay with TV money for sure,,,,,,,,,,,,,
  • 5
    Gene Ohio May 26, 2016 at 08:50
    They've made some great buys but it kills me when I see them walk past cars I'd kill to find and not even stop to look.
  • 6
    ferd the cloud May 27, 2016 at 09:13
    Only a "win" or "profit" if sold. Until then, expenses both in initial capital outlay and on-going storage and maintenance.
  • 7
    Steve G IL May 27, 2016 at 11:54
    You could have left out the elephant head and guitar which have no relevance to the topic, and included the multiple disaster cars Frank Fritz bought and immediately lost money on.
  • 8
    MarkO Long Island NY June 1, 2016 at 10:20
    Some of their automotive decisions are clearly not the best,but it's still fun to watch the "barn find"aspects of their quest. (And the related stories) I find it quite funny that they go "ga ga" over something in one episode and walk right past the same object in a subsequent show. I also would like to see their personal collections. Also curious as to whether there is a Mrs Mike or Mrs Frank...or ???
  • 9
    Carl Brummett TX June 4, 2016 at 18:16
    The 2 cars Frank bought that I thought their expert said he paid to much for was the old Plymouth under ground and the Model A ford. I would have gladly paid what Frank paid for either car especially the Model A
  • 10
    Pete Terry Utah June 5, 2016 at 14:26
    As to the 'spontaneity' of the Pickers show-In the Rare Finds section of the Aug 2016 issue of Vette magazine they feature a '57 and '55 Corvette stored in a garage for a long time. "Most recently, the TV show Pickers expressed an interest to do a shoot in Jay's garage. He killed the propose deal because a prerequisite was selling them one or both of the Vettes."
  • 11
    RUNE OLUFSEN Norwegen July 25, 2016 at 05:53
  • 12
    John siringo Florida September 7, 2016 at 15:05
    It kills me that the call experts on movie posters but spend thousands for cars they have no idea on what they are worth! Frank is so cheep all he thinks of is $ dollar signs!!
  • 13
    Pau Barcelona December 20, 2016 at 12:40
    After reading most of the comments here it becomes evident why they won't do interviews...
  • 14
    SD CT December 28, 2016 at 17:04
    Nice one "Pau"! Everyone's an expert behind a keyboard, lol... I love the show; the good buys, the bad ones, and the just plain ridiculous ones alike. Would love to see their private collections, although I could do without the warehouse of oil cans that penny-pincher Franky supposedly has. Mike has a great eye for bikes - both motorized and pedal, and seems like a genuinely solid guy. Love me some Danielle too! Keep at 'em for an interview and thanks for the article!
  • 15
    Denny OR December 28, 2016 at 17:17
    Guys, don't get your knickers in a knot about the dealings on "Pickers". It's mainly entertainment. Like when they go "freestyling" and come upon a guy in his barn. "HI, we're pickers from Iowa." And the guy never seems surprised by a camera crew with their own vehicle recording the whole thing. These visits are set up ahead of time . I think some of the negotiations are done ahead of time as well. Let's just enjoy it for what it is: entertainment.
  • 16
    Willy Nevada January 1, 2017 at 14:44
    TV viewers hardly are seeing everything these two entertaining fella's are buying/selling or keeping. Also, it seems like the values they talk about sometimes are auction/retail and sometimes "wholesale."
  • 17
    DM California January 1, 2017 at 15:06
    Of course we only see small fraction of all the stuff they buy. What they decide to show us on TV. I reckon they got a big truck following them round to some of the places they go.
  • 18
    KDavin Pacific Northwest January 1, 2017 at 17:38
    If you step back and look at the boys on 'Pickers', you'll note that they claim to be in search of the types of items they generally focus the show on. i.e. weather vanes, tin toys, strange clocks and petroliana, etc. They have become,effectively, accidental car guys. They both seem, especially Wolf, to have a real grasp on the ancient motorcycles and bicycles born at the beginning of the last century. They certainly seem to stumble across some amazing finds! The pair of Nash Healey's was pretty unusual. Obviously their track record is less than stellar regarding car buys. Still, kinda cool to see what they may come across next but also obvious the Hagerty Valuation Tools are out there for a reason! (I've seen those guys carrying smartphones...hello!)
  • 19
    droF Novi, Michigan January 4, 2017 at 19:52
    Hey guys, its all supposed to be entertainmant, just like the so called reality shows, all set up to entertain. I suspect with the TV money and the sales of their finds, they do well.
  • 20
    no junk California May 16, 2017 at 16:14
    I have read a lot of the post. There are some real morons out there, just enjoy the show. I don't see any of you running around the country meeting wonderfull people doing what you love to do. They have 2 stores and now opening up a bar...... good for them. e
  • 21
    Rancid000Bones ohio June 11, 2017 at 12:07
    Exactly! It's a t.v. show. I see stuff they walk buy that i would like , they don't buy. My taste is not there's. Enjoy the t.v. show. It's called entertainment. They dug a damn motorcycle from the ground on one episode, then put it together rusty! Sorry that some people don't like their choices! They also do get revenue from the show, its not for free! lol
  • 22
    russdee melbourne June 22, 2017 at 05:48
    Great show and its all about entertainment. Very interesting to see the people they meet, and places they go, and what Americans are interested in collecting.

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