I just finished watching a YouTube video featuring Mike Wolfe talking to Jim Mertens of WQPT, Iowa Public Television. Mike Wolfe is one of the “pickers” on the popular PBS TV show, American Pickers. Mike and his longtime friend Frank Fritz travel the country looking for artifacts that they can bring back to their retail locations for resale. Along the way, they meet interesting people who collect things that feed their passion as collectors, and sometimes because of their respect for local history. They know that, if they don’t steward these items, they will disappear in trash bins and landfills forever.
Occasionally, Mike and Frank will accept a project from an important museum to find artifacts to add to its collection. And often they will find artifacts that they can sell, or many times donate, to museums just because the items need to be put back where they belong. This sense of both commerce and respect for history is notable and worthy of your viewership.
If you’re a local historical society, you probably get most of your collection from residents and family members who donate their items for preservation and display. Of course, it might also make sense to know who the pickers are in your area and to work out an arrangement whereby they can make you aware of their locally important finds. Instead of creating a competition for these artifacts, why not extend your acquisitions program’s reach by seeking out and developing cooperatives with pickers that can benefit both?
View this video of the interview with Mike Wolfe to learn more about the origins of American Pickers and their plans for the future: