‘American Pickers’ Venture Into The Woods Chasing A Relic From Music History

American Pickers follows reality stars Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz as they travel from state to state buying forgotten Americana. They’ve picked up some incredible historic relics from collectors and hoarders and — for our enjoyment — shared them with their viewers through their TV show.

Recently, Wolfe and Fritz got a call from a Massachusetts man claiming to have a legendary piece of American music history. Both skeptical at first, the Pickers agreed to go to this backwoods home and see if they’d been lured out by tall tales or a true music-lover’s dream find…

The History Channel boasts a widely popular program featuring Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz. They travel across the country scavenging through what could possibly be America’s most valuable and hidden relics. Together they are known as the American Pickers.

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Whether they are called by a potential seller or they stumble upon a rare find, these two reality stars will pick through old junk until they find a piece of American history. They’ll either buy it to then sell in their antique shop or keep it for their personal collections.

Wayne Wendel

During their impressive 19 seasons (and counting) show, the pair has found some really impressive pieces of American history. Notably, they purchased a vintage Jell-O wagon from Louisiana for $6,500.

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On a recent episode, Wolfe and Fritz were called to a small town in Massachusetts. The town of Chesterfield is approximately 100 miles west of Boston with a population of about 1,200 people. So, when they got the call about a possible major music memorabilia discovery, they were a little skeptical.

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The Pickers were driving out that way to meet Phil and his family, who moved onto the Chesterfield property in 2005. There, he and his son noticed something partially buried in the backwoods of their property. So they went to investigate.

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It appeared to be a rusty old van. Together they hauled the wreckage out of the earth and brought it up onto a car trailer to keep it safe. At first, they were confused by their find and how it got there; they were desperate for the Pickers to check it out.

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The van was a battered green International Harvester Metro. The age or make wasn’t what had Phil eagerly waiting for the pickers to arrive; rather, it was an image of a man painted onto the van beside some writing that caught his attention.

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Wolfe and Fritz arrived at the property and met with Phil. He led them to the back where he was storing the van. Upon first look, Wolfe and Fritz were skeptical — it was just a rusty old thing. But they knew a closer examination was warranted.

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After all, the writing on the van, was impossible to ignore. It read, “Aerosmith.” Could this van be linked to the great American rock and roll band? The American Pickers noted the font and style of the band’s name were not the same as the band’s now-famous logo.

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Who’s to say this van didn’t just belong to someone with a love for rock’n’roll? As Wolfe said, Phil “is deep in the woods, he’s off the grid, and I keep thinking to myself, ‘What the heck would this van be doing here?'” Well, the Pickers had some theories.

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The band Aerosmith started out in Boston in 1970. Steven Tyler (vocalist), Ray Tabano and Joe Perry (guitarists), Tom Hamilton (bassists), and Joey Kramer (Drummer) started the band, but Tabano left the following year and was replaced by Brad Whitford. They landed a record deal in 1972!

Gems / Redferns

Wolfe and Fritz were able to estimate that the van was manufactured between the 1930s and 1970s. The timing made sense and given the potential age and condition it was in, and the Pickers figured they could acquire it for pretty cheap. They just needed to figure out if it was authentic or not…

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Wolfe and Fritz got in touch with their friend Dan Auerbach, a musician who just so happened to know Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry. Auerbach passed along some photos of the van, and Perry reached out to former bandmate Ray Tabano to help him verify the legitimacy.

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Tabano came out to Chesterfield, Massachusetts and was astonished by this blast from the past. As soon as he saw the van he said, “That’s it, baby! I’m afraid to say how long it is, but it’s been like 40 years since we were in this thing.”

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It was confirmed — this was a huge piece of American rock and roll history! It was Aerosmith’s first ever band van, and Tabano pointed out their cosmetic upgrades they’d applied to it, like the carpet on the ceiling. The logo on the side of the 1964 van was the first time they’d ever written their band name anywhere.

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Tabano added that they would drive this van from Boston up to New Hampshire for $125 a gig. After they paid for their gas, tolls, and food, they’d only pocket a few bucks. It didn’t matter to them though — they did it for the rock ‘n’ roll. They knew they were destined to be great.


Tabano recalled, “I just flash back to when we first started the band, ’cause it was an amazing thing. All of a sudden, here’s this thing that, you know, we lived in. It was like our dressing room, you know. It was like a rolling hotel.”

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After The History Channel aired the episode, people took to the internet to express their reactions after learning of the famous van. Many people wanted to learn more about the band’s time in the van, with one Twitter user writing, “Oh, if that vehicle could talk!”


The Pickers discovered Phil purchased the land from someone who had some kind of connection to Aerosmith. Although there is no concrete story as to how the van ended up there, it’s likely that this puzzle piece is somehow intertwined with the past.

The History Channel

Even though Phil had just learned about the van’s rich history, he still agreed to sell the relic to Wolfe and Fritz. They picked up the rock and roll van for a cool $25,000. Wolfe excitedly yelled, “We just got a piece of American rock ‘n roll history!”

The History Channel

After the find, the Pickers did what they do best: kept searching for old Americana. Recently, they opened up about some of the goings on behind the scenes — and fans were stunned.

Danielle Colby, co-star, and operator of the guys’ antique shop, landed in trouble with the IRS after failing to pay taxes on her side projects—burlesque dancing and boutique ownership. Remember kids, Uncle Sam gets his.

Many sellers who’ve appeared on Pickers report being made uncomfortable by the boy’s haggling. Apparently, some sellers agreed to a price for their wares off camera only for Mike and Frank to low ball them when the cameras rolled.

Thanks to her hustle as a burlesque dancer, Danielle also collects vintage clothes. Her collection includes, “a very rare costume from Lillie Langtry,” and “a banana skirt believed to have belonged to Josephine Baker” (Beyoncé had one, too)!

Animal activists jumped on Mike and Frank when they bought a taxidermied elephant head from The White Stripes singer Jack White, memorabilia from his album “Elephant.” Some things, critics argued, just shouldn’t be picked.

As a kid, Mike found a bike and sold it for $5. Afterward, he kept an eye out for junk with resale value, often digging through abandoned homes and alleyways. He even pestered farmers until they let him explore their barns.

Let’s face it: American Pickers is first and foremost about entertainment. But critics were disappointed to learn that show executives plant some of the Americana Mike and Frank allegedly stumble upon.

Antique collector Jerry Bruce, below, took the Pickers to court after he purchased a polarimeter from them for $300. The problem? The pickers never shipped him the merchandise. Jerry won a $1,000 settlement.

Mike worried that kids wouldn’t follow in his footsteps and start picking, refurbishing, and selling abandoned memorabilia. So he wrote a book called Kid Pickers: How to Turn Junk into Treasure.

Longtime friends Mike and Danielle met at a garage sale. “I was looking at a lamp and picked it up and put it down to see how much money I had,” Danielle said. “Mike scooped it up behind me. He said, ‘The time to buy it is when you see it.'”

Frank and Mike typically scoop up collectibles and heirlooms for low costs: $25 here, $60 there. But in 2017, they made their most expensive purchase ever when they spent $90,000 on 1930’s motorcycles.

The pickers often team up with Hobo Jack to hone in on some of their coolest finds, but despite the nickname, Jack’s no vagrant. He’s recorded five albums and published a handful of books. The dude’s an artist.

On the show, Danielle orchestrates the pickings and Mike and Frank do the buying. But behind the scenes, it’s really producers that read through seller submissions, select the interesting items, and work out the price ahead of time.

Frank Fritz is a collector, but not a passionate picker like his co-host Mike. In fact, some speculate that for him, the American Pickers gig is just that: a gig. He won’t be writing any kids books about it.

Mike and Frank appealed to fans outside the shows normal audience when they bought the original Yoda prototype—made by Mario Chiodo—for $6,250. Stunned and awed, Star Wars fans were.

Fans love the Mole Man, below, a sweaty guy with a 26-room underground lair: A fan held a yard sale and falsely advertised an appearance by the Mole Man. People swarmed the sale. Mole Man brings all the fans to the sales.

When American Pickers started gaining steam, even celebrities wanted a piece of the action. When Dolly Parton contacted the Pickers to purchase some of her stuff, she became friends with Danielle.

In a Louisiana barn, Danielle found a century-old, horse-drawn wagon that once showcased and sold Jell-O in upstate New York. Writing on the cart pushed Jell-O as “powdered ice cream.” The pickers paid $6,500 for it.

Were Mike and Frank having a secret love affair? Even though both have families, viewers speculated as much, since they spend so much time together and have such great chemistry. Danielle squashes the rumors every chance she gets.

When Mike and Frank hop into the van, they discuss their next stops and finds—they even have a little fun. Well, those conversations are less natural than you might think: writers plan what they’re going to say.

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