About Me

Twenty years ago I asked a Tarot card reader what would I be doing when I was 50. She replied, “I see you doing something so wildly creative, it defies a job title.” Only recently did I realize that was a slick way of saying, “I have no idea of what you’ll be doing.” But that prediction kept me charging ahead to the fifties with zeal and anticipation. Now that the future is today, I’m ready for anything!

The Day the American Pickers Came


Mike Wolfe and three generations of Maricle Pickers.
When your in-laws have 30 years of acquisitions from garage and antique sales, and they treasure their privacy as much as their acquisitions, the last thing you’d expect them to agree to is a visit from the American Pickers.

But that's what happened back in May. And I couldn't let 2011 go by without writing about it.

Big News in a Small Town
A visit from a show this big in a town this small is huge news. American Pickers is the highest-rated show on The History Channel. Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz crisscross America in their Antique Archaeology van, seeing prized antiques where others might see junk. At least 1,200 people email American Pickers daily. Somehow, my email made it to the top of the heap. (Potential employers, take note.)

Thirty years of acquisitions, including these
1960 scale-model cars, were up for picking.
"You Should Have the Pickers Stop Over."
Our move into Mike’s parents’ house was preceded by clearing out the second story of stuff. Items were sorted into several categories: keepsakes, things to be sold at antique sales, things to be given away or disposed of, and things to be kept for our new household. 

“You should have the American Pickers stop over,” neighbors would tell Mike's parents. We offered to contact the show. To our surprise, his parents agreed. In December I emailed them about the picking potential and rich history of Dodge County, Minnesota. Weeks, then months went by.

Bottoms up: the Pickers paid $30 for these diver shotglasses.
In April we heard from a producer named Jeff. He had a long list of items they wanted in particular, and a request for us to send photos. I did a two-day photo shoot over the Easter weekend, with 120 items prepared, photographed, uploaded, catalogued, downloaded and sent. Thank God we had DSL Internet service instead of the satellite we have today. I’d still be downloading.

"Oh God, Now What Did I Get Us Into?"
What looks like a random pop-in on TV is actually the result of months of military-like planning. My husband Mike talked with producers, production assistants, and location scouts. An assistant wanted to know if there was a deli nearby where the crew could grab lunch.

"Why don't we just throw some brats on the grill?," Mike suggested, knowing how hard it would be for a TV crew to slip in and out of downtown Dodge Center at lunchtime.

“That’s a great idea!,” the assistant said.

Oh God, now what did I get us into, Mike wondered.

So not only was a national television crew stopping by, they were staying for lunch. I was amazed at the aplomb Mike's parents showed. Mike bought brats and buns and sides and plates and plasticware for 18 people. I made three kinds of bars.

At one point, Mike was told the storyline would be about three generations of Pickers in one family: Mike’s dad, Mike, and Wyatt. But in a last-minute call, Mike learned the storyline changed; he would be the only person on camera. Mike's a loquacious sort and has a good command of prices from watching Antiques Roadshow. But flying solo on national TV had him nervous.

Wyatt was disappointed because he wouldn’t be on TV. I was disappointed because I wouldn’t have a meatier blog. But you go with the flow, even if you're going with the flow from the green room.

"Your Mom Has a Good Eye."
Several times during the shoot, Mike would pop in when the Pickers made an offer that he wanted to double check with his mom. Frank Fritz was interested in a Fenton green glass basket. Mike's mom said she'd part with it for $60.

"Your mom has a good eye," Frank told my husband. "But that's what we'd get for it." Their offer of $30 was politely rebuffed.

Picnicking with the Pickers
The crew broke for lunch at about 1. Mike's dad grilled the brats. I helped set up and clear away paper plates and served dessert. I was curious about the Pickers’ experience in Minnesota but figured they needed down time, not to be Pickers but just two guys at a cookout, enjoying lemonade and potato salad and grilled brats that were crusty on the outside, juicy on the inside. One of the cameramen told Mike's dad they were the best brats he'd ever had.

The Pickers nixed the zeppelin photo,
but the producers overrode them. 
The Maricle house wasn't quite the "honey hole" the Pickers dream about, but they did buy a few things. A leather jacket owned by Mike's uncle Harlan, a set of 1960 scale-model cars from a Ford dealership, a pair of bizarre shot glasses with figures of divers sculpted into them,  a model T steering wheel, and a 1929 photo of a zeppelin taken over Davenport, Iowa. We figured the Pickers would pounce on the zeppelin photo since they’re from Iowa.

You see photos like this everywhere, Mike Wolfe said.

But the producers, who call the shots, said they wanted the photo picked.

The Magical Mystery Bus.
"Oh, You're Good."
The Pickers looked at a beat-up tour bus formerly owned by a country singer named Howie Gamber. The bus was crammed with boxes of stuff from the second floor. Mike offered the Pickers a price of $200 for the bus and its mystery contents.  Frank wasn't interested, but Picker Mike was and husband Mike ran with it. "Just think of how it would look with Antique Archaeology on the side," husband Mike said of the bus.

"Oh, you're good," Picker Mike said. 

Dog lover Mike Wolfe and a wary Jerry.
We were afraid our rescue dog Jerry would freak over the house full of people and bright lights, but he lay placidly on the couch, as usual. Mike Wolfe, a dog lover, flipped over him.



By the end of the day, Mike's parents were surprised by the scripted sense of the show. So was Mike, who realizes the final cut of any program is the result of heavy editing and scripting. “I’m a lot more jaded now,” he said.

A Post-Pickers Antique Sale 
We knew the Pickers' visit wouldn't stay a secret forever, not when a county sheriff stopped in front of the house during filming. Not with the school nurse living down the road and around the corner. The next step is to prepare for a spring antique sale. There's a peck of possibilities that the Pickers didn't pick, and you might discover the honey hole of your own dreams.

Follow me on Facebook so you'll know where and when the sale will be held, and what you'll find.

Want to be on American Pickers? Click here


20 comments:

  1. Wonderful post Susan! Too bad my Wyatt was too afraid to get out of car when we stopped in front of the house :( A little bit of "Hollywood" on our little neighborhood!

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  2. Thanks Lisa! Yep, the visit turned the town on its ear for awhile. The neighbor who rents land from Mike's dad was asked not to plow during the filming because of the noise. He was glad to do it as long as he got an autographed picture.

    Hope you and Wyatt come by for the antique sale this spring! :=) Susan

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  3. Hi Susan, this episode of "Pickers" just re-ran tonight, and I Googled it because I found Mike's family story interesting, and my search hit on your blog. I knew that all these reality shows are scripted - clearly it's not just the two pickers driving around aimlessly in their truck, stopping willy-nilly wherever they see a farm - but it was a bit disappointing to hear just how scripted and planned it was, and how much work you had to do ahead of time! I especially wondered why Mike's mom and dad were never pictured on camera; it's really disappointing to me that they cut them out at the last minute, given that it was all their collection. They could've given them a 60-second spot, at least. I wanted to see them! :( I also think the pickers were a little on the cheap side; if they really wanted to "help the family out" as much as they said they did, they didn't need to talk Mike down so low on prices and pass on so many items. But such is big business, I guess, and that's what these shows are now. I hope that your family did make some money out of it, and that overall it was a good experience for you. :-)

    Anyway, I just wanted to say I really enjoyed your blog entry, and it was great to get a look at it from the "pickee's" perspective for a change. Great job! :-)

    Toni

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  4. Hi Toni! I was wondering why this post had so many pageviews again, then I read your comment. Very fitting that the episode re-ran, as it was about 1 year ago today the Pickers came out. Mike's mom didn't want to appear on TV, but I don't know what drove the Pickers' decision. At least they included the family photos! :=)

    Anyway, I wanted to thank you for your comment and for reading. The visit gave me an opportunity to present my blog to a huge audience, and to "meet" many wonderful people! Susan

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  5. Just curious , what was the name of the Episode they aired your place in?

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  6. Hi Beth: The episode title was "Odd Fellas Education." One of the Pickers was a guy who collected memorabilia from Oddfellows Lodges as they closed down. At least I hope that's why they titled it that! Thanks for reading, Susan

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  7. Just caught your American Pickers episode here in the UK. We always watch it when we can, to learn a little more about how things are in the good ol' US of A. I've been over the big pond many times, mostly to Texas, Florida, New York and DC, but it's great to see how the rest of you hang out. Really enjoyed your blog too. How's it feel to be world famous! Cheers, Ron.

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    1. Hi Ron: I don’t know about the “world famous” part, but I enjoy seeing pageviews spike for this post every now and then, like they recently did in Australia – which means the episode aired. The universal appeal of this show is amazing. And I appreciate the fact that readers search out more information about the Pickers’ visit to our place. Thank you so much for checking out my blog! Best, Susan

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  8. Just saw a rerun of the episode in South-Africa, what ever happened to the $200 bus? I am kinda surprised but at the same time I should have known that the show is that scripted. I still enjoy seeing what they "find" at all the different places they visit. Belated congrats on being on the show.
    Regards
    Gerhard

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  9. Hello Gerhard! We still have the $200 bus, sitting around like a prize package on Let's Make a Deal: it could be filled with treasures or it could be a zonk. I'm amazed at the popularity of that rusted-out vehicle...I'm thinking of creating a Facebook page for it! Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed the post, and hope I didn't dash any illusions for you. Thanks for reading! Susan

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  10. estou assistindo o episódio agora.aqui no brasil..

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  11. Hello Gravuras! I am amazed at how this television show bounces around the world, and appreciate that you sought out my blog. Thanks for reading and commenting! Cheers, Susan

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  12. Hey im watching from ireland im just wondering do they agree on a price for items before hand and the haggling all scripted also?

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Hi Dean from Ireland! I'm sorry for not responding sooner. I need to check this blog more often.

      Yes, the prices and haggling are real. Many items were not shown because the Pickers weren't interested in them or the prices were too high.

      Thank you for commenting!

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  13. I had visited your website which was really good Atomic Model Set

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    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting! And my apologies for not responding sooner. American Pickers definitely has worldwide appeal.

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  14. Hi Susan, just watching your episode on the 'Dave' channel here in the UK. 09/22/15. Really interesting reading your blog on how it's put together. After four years hope the family is back on its feet. Dave Dean, Sheffield, England.

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  15. So scripted. They "stumble" upon everything and their characters are annoying as f@ck. I still watch though... most of the stuff they don't pick is more interesting than the stupid signs and sh@t they do pick! There is perfect examples of heavy editing when the skinny picker is wearing the glasses that split into two at the nose hanging around his neck... whenever he is talking they are constantly and I mean CONSTANTLY changing from split to unsplit... I think season 6? Yeah good blog post, but doesnt take a genius to recognize that a show like this isn't real... get out of your small town and see the world for f@cks sake!

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    Replies
    1. Wow, you really are an a-hole! WTF is wrong with you?! There's no reason to trash this lady for a blog post. No one is forcing you to read it, jerkoff!

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