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Collecting Memories with Mike Wolfe

Mike Wolfe doesn’t just collect "rusty gold," as he fondly calls the vintage treasures he unearths across the continent. When the creator, executive producer and co-star of the History Channel’s hit TV show American Pickers goes treasure hunting, he’s also collecting moments.

Like this one, for example. One day the drum tech for the Rolling Stones walked into Wolfe's Nashville store, Antique Archaeology. He invited Wolfe to the band's concert that night. Naturally, Wolfe obliged. Upon being introduced to the greatest rock n’ roll band in the world, Wolfe was stunned when Mick and the boys regaled him with questions about their favourite finds from his show. "I'm like, 'Is this really frickin' happening?' I mean, these guys are really into it!" he exclaims adding, "I was speechless, and that rarely happens!"

Not too shabby for the middle son of three who was born in Joliet, Illinois and grew up humbly with his single mom and siblings. The treasure-hunting bug bit when Wolfe was a mere four years old. "I found a bike in the garbage and sold it to a kid down the street. That kid gave me $5 in 1968! I was hooked!" he explains.

He wasn’t the only one. Now in its eighth season, American Pickers is a bonafide hit for the History Channel and appointment television for millions of viewers. It’s also a testament to Wolfe's perseverance. He pitched the idea for five years before a broadcaster stepped up. The show's first episode, broadcast in January 2010, garnered 3.1 million viewers.

What makes the show so popular? Wolfe says it’s the story every found item tells, whether it's rusted, or buried underground, that makes American Pickers a resounding success.

Collecting the past

"There's more to life than the here and now. There's more to appreciate about our past," he says, adding, "For a true collector, the past resonates with us. It’s in our marrow."

Wolfe has felt this way his whole life. As a boy, match books emblazoned with vintage advertisements, old posters and comic books, were some of Wolfe's favourite finds. He’d even hang out in junk yards where he'd excavate rusty cars' glove boxes to unearth old registration papers.

"I felt like a detective," he says. Wolfe explains that he was a tiny kid: he was 4' 11" in Grade 9 and weighed 97 pounds. He got picked on. A lot. Back alleys and backyards were the safest, surest bets to get to and from school undetected. Picking through junk and through garbage became his refuge.

"The finds became my friends, my inspiration. I could travel with my imagination and I feel blessed that I had that hook because people who don't collect are missing out on something," he explains.

To see more pictures and read the entire article, get your copy of the Fall Issue of HOSS Magazine on newsstands or subscribe to our digital issue.