When some people think of antiquing, they may picture sweet, elderly couples out on a Sunday drive, browsing shop after shop for knick-knacks and doilies from decades gone by. American Pickers proudly proclaims that what they do is “not your grandmother’s antiquing.”
American Pickers transform trashed Aerosmith tour van into treasure
Founders Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz call themselves “pickers,” scouring mountains of disgusting junk and trashed houses for old relics and forgotten antiques that they restore into incredible treasures.
American Pickers is a reality television show that follows the two pickers as they travel the country looking for their next diamond in the rough. They’ve gone coast to coast, from highway to dirt road, meeting memorable characters and unearthing amazing finds along the way.
Turning trash into treasure
Wolfe and Fritz, based in Nashville, say that it takes a lot of practice to know where to “pick.” Wolfe has been practicing since the age of five when he found a junked-out bike, restored it, and sold it at a profit. After that, he left no dumpster or alleyway unturned in his quest to make picking his livelihood.
Hoping to inspire a new generation of pickers, Wolfe penned a children’s book called How to Turn Junk into Treasure, which teaches children how to find and restore “junk” at a profit.
Fritz began collecting junk in the form of rocks and beer cans as a child, but his eye for junk evolved over the years to include more valuable picks like vintage motorcycles and other antiques that look like worthless junk at first glance.
The duo is joined by their “scout,” Danielle Colby Cushman, who helps them ferret out new places to pick, as well as potential buyers for their restored treasures. Cushman is also a musician and a mother of three.
Reviving junk and preserving memories
One of the most popular episodes of the show follows the crew’s pursuit of an old, rusted-out van with an Aerosmith logo on it. After they took the van back to their shop, Fritz and Wolfe realized that it was the van the band drove when they were still new and relatively unknown. Amazingly, the original artwork and logo were mostly intact on the van’s exterior.
“When we saw this van, we knew it was something special. Now, seeing them have their moment with the van, it makes it all worthwhile.”
Cushman contacted Aerosmith, who said they were interested in purchasing the van if the team could preserve it. After many hours of painstaking work and a few parts from a donor van, the vehicle was ready to present to the band. The American Pickers team thought of every detail—down to the rust patterns on the bottom of the van’s panels.
The band was speechless when they saw the van, overcome with the memories of their early touring days. Frontman Steven Tyler slid the driver’s side door shut, marveling that it made the same sound the band heard after every gig—before they ever dreamed they would reach the level of fame they’ve achieved.
The Pickers described the emotion of returning the van to the band, saying, “When we saw this van, we knew it was something special. Now, seeing them have their moment with the van, it makes it all worthwhile.”