If you’re into Americana, you probably recognize Mike Wolfe. Since 2010, he and his buddy Frank Fritz have co-starred on the popular History Channel series American Pickers. The duo makes 70,000-mile treks around the U.S. each year searching for long-lost treasures; then, they haul the loot back to their respective resale shops to find them good homes.
Wolfe’s keen eye and bargaining skills have made him a star among antique aficionados. However, many people don’t know much about his life outside of American Pickers. Here’s everything we know about Wolfe, from his personal struggles to his off-screen passion projects.
Mike Wolfe Is One Of The Stars Of ‘American Pickers’
Mike Wolfe, 56, got his start as a picker half a century ago when he pulled a bike out of his neighbor’s trash and sold it for five bucks. Today, he’s one of the nation’s most popular treasure hunters. As the co-host of American Pickers, he scours every corner of the country for forgotten artifacts in need of some TLC: antique toys, old cars, vintage guitars, etc.
Wolfe doesn’t just have great taste—he’s also a master at dealmaking. He and Fritz almost always get what they want, convincing even the most stubborn owners to part with their possessions. He once managed to barter with rock star Jack White, trading ownership of a massive taxidermied elephant’s head for $6,000 worth of antiques.
Viewers might have never witnessed the exchange were it not for Wolfe’s persistence. He tried selling the concept of American Pickers for five years before the History Channel took a gamble on him. The risk paid off. The series had an average viewership of 3.8 million viewers in its first season. Listen to him talk about the show in this February 2020 interview with CBS Sunday Morning.
So what happens once a deal is sealed? For Wolfe, finds are restored and put on the floor at Antique Archeology. The retail emporium has two locations: one in LeClaire, Iowa, and the other in Nashville, Tennessee.
“All of these things in here were someone else’s dreams, they were someone else’s world,” said Wolfe. “There’s a magic to it; it’s magical.”
Mike Wolfe’s Personal Life Almost Caused Him To Quit The Show
Wolfe is often in high spirits on camera. He has never let on that he’s faced a number of personal challenges over the years—even when they put the show’s future in question.
In 2013, he and his wife Jodi welcomed their daughter Charlie into the world. Wolfe was thrilled to be a first-time dad (Jodi has a son from a previous relationship).
“Giving my husband the daughter we always imagined was by far the most exciting moment for me,” said Jodi. “We were at a friend’s house a couple of years ago listening to their 15-year-old daughter play guitar and sing a song she wrote. My husband later told me what a feeling it must be to see your child do something so amazing like that. I thought to myself, it was time we get serious about having our own. I wanted that feeling for him.”
But the couple discovered in utero that Charlie would be born with a cleft palate. The condition would require multiple operations.
“We were devastated initially but quickly decided we could handle her birth defect and would embrace it and be strong for her,” Jodi said.
“Mike and I were so proud of her, we told everyone about her cleft and even shot her baby announcement photo with it. We had two surgeries the first year she was born. Those were tough. We are a team, and we stayed together every night at the hospital. Charlie is a strong girl—she even surprised the surgeons and got to go home early.”
The family survived the ordeal, and Charlie is now a beautiful, healthy young girl. However, in 2013, another medical problem emerged in the family. Jodi was diagnosed with stage 2 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“Believe it or not even vegan, exercising, juicing mama’s get cancer,” Jodi said. She added, “I was the last one to expect it. Life was everything I could possibly dream of then bam…”
Neither Wolfe nor his wife went out of their way to publicize the issue. But in May 2020, they delivered the good news that she’s been cancer-free for six years.
COVID-19 Allowed Him To Focus On Other Ventures
Wolfe’s passion for picking is only one small part of a larger goal: preservation. With Covid throwing a wrench into American Pickers‘ production schedule, the host (and now executive producer) is using his time to focus on a separate project.
Wolfe is a proponent of Nashville’s Big Back Yard, a tourism campaign meant to help small towns in Middle Tennessee and Northwest Alabama thrive.
“I think a result of the current events, is that people are reflecting on what they want their lives to look like over the next 20 years; how they want to raise their kids and how they can protect themselves moving forward,” said Wolfe. “People are remembering how they grew up, they are longing for community, more space and self sufficiency. I think the answer is Main Street and rural America.”
Nashville’s Big Back Yard highlights destinations along the historic Natchez Trace Parkway, between Nashville and Muscle Shoals, Alabama. To quote their website, they are spreading the word that “small is the next big thing.”
Wolfe Has A Surprising Net Worth
If a dollar goes further in small towns, we imagine Wolfe lives like a king. According to Celebrity Net Worth, he is sitting on an estimated $7 million in assets.
Wolfe reportedly makes $500,000 per season of American Pickers. He also has a penchant for buying old real estate. A 2011 New York Times profile revealed that he owned several buildings in LeClaire, Iowa, and in 2012 he and his family moved to a 5,100-square-foot home set on 32 acres of land.
The property provides plenty of space for Wolfe’s personal bike collection. The former racer is said to own over 40 motorcycles. And while we are quite certain that he managed to get a deal on most of them, their collective value adds up to a hefty chunk of change.