Who is Frank Fritz?
Born in October 1963 in Davenport, Iowa USA, Frank Fritz is a TV star and antiques collector and restorer, who rose to fame thanks to his decade of work on History’s “American Pickers”. Born to Bill Fritz and Susan Zirbes, it’s unclear where Frank’s childhood love for collecting postage stamps, rocks, and other small items came from.
There are few available details regarding Frank’s home life and early years, but it’s reported that Bill had an affair, and left the household when the future TV star was an infant. Susan remarried in the same year and worked for a local construction company, whereas her second spouse Richard was a tire salesman. Susan passed in 2003, and was survived by Frank and her daughter.
After studying at Bettendorf High School and Sudlow Intermediate School, Frank decided to forgo a college degree and delve straight into the workforce. During his teenage years, the Iowan was an employee at Coast to Coast Hardware and Quad-City Automatic Sprinkler, eventually saving up enough money to purchase his first Harley Davidson motorcycle.
Although Frank bounced from job to job, his love for collecting memorabilia never went away. While working as a fire inspector in the Des Moines and Cedar Falls area, he bought an item for just $15 and sold it for $450, which is when he realized that he could turn his hobby into a full-time career. Shortly afterwards, the antiques collector opened his own Illinois-based shop named Frank’s Finds.
Joining forces with his high school pal Mike Wolfe, the dynamic duo earned their own show, which premiered in January 2010, and soon became unstoppable.
Jointly produced by Cineflix Media and A&E Television Networks, “American Pickers” has become something of a phenomenon, after hundreds of episodes and more than 23 seasons. The show’s premiere episode in January 2010 was viewed in over 3.1 million homes, and was History’s best debut since 2007 – a particular episode aired in September 2010 had 5.3 million viewers.
The recipe to the show’s success lies in Mike and Frank’s camaraderie, as they travel the states buying or “picking” items, either for clients, their personal collections, or for resale purposes. Danielle Colby, the show’s female protagonist, runs Mike’s business from its home base in Iowa and its second location in Nashville and is responsible for finding leads, or possibly valuable items for the men to purchase.
Although at first Mike and Frank travelled in a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, they soon switched to a more comfortable Ford Transit. Apart from following Danielle’s leads, the friends also freestyle, and make stops in the most unlikely places, often finding valuable treasures. They also visit some places more than once.
Of course, Mike and Frank can’t do it alone, and seek help from hoarders, collectors – both serious and amateur – and people with vast collections of inherited items that they don’t know what to do with. Mike’s favorite items are air-cooled Volkswagens, penny-farthings, antique motorcycles, and old bicycles, whereas Frank favors oil cans, peanut-related items, old Hondas, and antique toys.
Some of Mike and Frank’s rarest purchases include a 15-gallon gasoline pump, an incredible Piaggio Ape which could be the only one of its kind in the US, and valuable vintage film posters. In one of many memorable episodes, the Pickers purchased an elephant head from a taxidermy hoarder for a cool $9,500, while fans of the “Star Wars” franchise went crazy with their findings of several Yoda prototypes. This is why viewers love “American Pickers”: there’s something for all tastes.
It was announced in July 2021 that Frank would be leaving the show, which led to an internet frenzy and much speculation. His last appearance on “American Pickers” was in March 2020; as filming was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic, fans had been looking forward to seeing Frank and Mike together again, and rumors began circulating that there had been a rift in their seemingly unbreakable friendship.
All parties involved – sans Mike – preferred not to give statements until July 2022, when Frank was hospitalized after suffering a stroke. Mike penned his estranged friend a touching Instagram post in which he announced the news, asked for thoughts and prayers, and said: “I have been very private in the past year in regards to Frank’s life and the journey he’s been on. There has been lots of opinions in regards to mine and Frank’s friendship and the show, but now is not the time to set the record straight.”
It’s thought that the stroke was linked to Frank’s struggles with alcohol, as the TV star checked into rehab in 2020 to seek help for his addiction. As a decades-long sufferer of Crohn’s Disease, Frank’s alcoholism possibly exacerbated his condition, although he previously claimed to have stopped drinking due to alcohol-related deaths in his family.
In March 2020, and after suffering months of pain, Frank underwent back surgery which consisted of 185 stitches and rods in his spine. The collector claimed that his back pains came from picking up heavy items, and remarked that he was the only person in the show who lifted things, which many netizens interpreted as a shady comment towards Mike.
Previously, Frank also complained that Mike didn’t get in touch with him after his grueling spinal surgery. It’s unclear why they drifted apart, but after cutting out the booze, Frank dropped 65 pounds, and enjoyed the benefits of his new lifestyle until the stroke. As the TV star doesn’t use social media, fans have had their work cut out searching for updates on his health, but he is said to be recovering and in much better health.
Born in 1964 in Joliet, Illinois, Mike Wolfe’s endearing personality and love for his job have helped make him a popular TV personality, despite his less than perfect personal life. He was brought up by a single mother and has two siblings, one of them named Robbie, but where exactly did Mike’s love for collecting come from?
Well, after moving to Bettendorf in his childhood, Mike was relentlessly bullied by his classmates, and began walking through back alleys and backyards on the way to and from school to avoid them. In a 2019 interview, Mike described the alleys as a “safe place” and said, “And so the garbage became my toys, and they became part of my imagination, and part of who I was.”
At the tender age of six, Mike found a discarded bike in a pile of trash and sold it two days later for five dollars. The rest, as they say, was history, as the future TV personality would become an expert in bartering, even trading a pair of stereo speakers for a motorbike. In fact, his passion for motorcycles helped him land a short-lived job as a bicycle messenger. Later on, he began working in a warehouse, building bicycles.
However, Mike was living from paycheck to paycheck at this point, as he blew all his money on bikes. When a local shop became available on the market, Mike sold all his possessions to purchase it, and earned $150 on his first day of business. Thanks to hard work and perseverance, the Illinois native sold 500 bikes in just a year, and was soon able to open a second location in East Davenport.
During the late 1980s and early ‘90s, Mike also competed in the Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa five times. The grueling six-day ride saw all participants complete 67 miles a day, or 468 miles in total. Mike’s cycling prowess saw him win the 1998 Iowa State Time Trial Championships, and everything pointed to him becoming a national success story… until disaster struck.
When Mike’s Eldridge shop burned down due to a fire in the apartment above, the TV host lost everything. It would take Mike three years to receive any insurance money, and after crunching numbers, he realized that he would never recover financially, despite the success of his second location. Luckily, eBay began gaining popularity around the same time, and Mike realized that he could salvage the situation by changing career paths, and selling the things he picked.
After having a closing-down sale, buying a cargo van, and setting up a website, Antique Archeology was born. Although selling bikes was Mike’s lifelong dream, he realized that he needed to adapt to his new circumstances, which he did perfectly. For five years, Mike made a living by driving from city to city, talking to collectors, and looking through their collections for any possible purchases. He also recorded his time on the road, and was often told by his friends that his life would make for a good TV show – thus birthing the idea for “American Pickers”.
Another five years later, and having pitched his idea to dozens of networks, Mike finally got lucky with Mary Donohue, a History Channel executive who liked the idea enough to greenlight a show. From then on, Mike, Frank and Danielle became household names, but amazingly, Mike also found the time to pursue a new hobby: songwriting. Proving himself a guy of many talents, Mike made the most of his 2011 meeting with the legendary producer Brian Ahern, and wrote three songs for a compilation project, “Music to Pick By”.
— Mike Wolfe (@AmericanPicker) June 25, 2018
The TV host is also nothing short of altruistic: shortly after his daughter Charlie was born in 2012 with a cleft lip and palate, Mike realized that with his platform, he could help parents who didn’t have enough money to pay for their children’s corrective surgery. Children born with cleft lips and palates often have lifelong psychological, eating and speech problems, unless their conditions are treated early on – and although Charlie was lucky enough to undergo surgery at a young age, Mike knew that that wasn’t enough.
After teaming up with the global outreach organization Operation Smile, it’s believed that Mike has indirectly helped thousands of children with his sponsorship and public visibility. The charity’s profile has since grown beyond recognition, with other well-known figures joining the bandwagon.
The dashing burlesque dancer and antique shop office manager Danielle Colby, was born in Davenport in December 1975. With her striking blue eyes, warm personality, and various entrepreneurial talents, many fans were shocked to learn that she was brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness, but broke up from her husband and the father of her children when he couldn’t accept the fame and occasional notoriety that came with her TV career.
Danielle and Mike’s friendship spans decades, as the pair had been friends for ten years before the TV host began developing the concept for “American Pickers” – so it’s understandable that when the History Channel bought the show, Mike asked Danielle to work in the office of his antique shop, and she happily accepted.
Some of Danielle’s other pursuits include being the owner of a female roller derby team for three years, owning a retro clothing company named 4 Miles 2 Memphis, and founding a professional burlesque troupe named Burlesque Le Moustache, which was soon followed by a Chicago-based burlesque academy.
Danielle is certainly a master of reinventing herself: despite injuries forcing her to drop the roller derby team and the failure of her clothing shop, the TV personality is always looking for her next business venture. For now, burlesque dancing is her main passion when not busy filming for “American Pickers”. Danielle performs under the name Dannie Diesel and has sold out dozens, if not hundreds of shows to date.
A fateful burlesque performance starring the dancer Satan’s Angel and comedian Margaret Cho sparked Danielle’s interest; she created her burlesque troupe after moving from Chicago to Iowa’s Quad Cities area, and would tour western Illinois and eastern Iowa. Her partner, Jeremy Scheuch, is more than supportive of anything that Danielle wants to do, and often shows her off on his Instagram profile. The couple have many interests in common such as tattoos, cooking, travelling, and animals. While Danielle shares two children with her ex-husband, it’s unclear if Jeremy has any.