“American Pickers” is a reality series that follows two collectors and pickers, Frank Fritz and Mike Wolfe, who travel across the US to pick various items to resell for their clients or for their personal collections. The show premiered in January 2010 on History Channel, and has run for 22 seasons, achieving success in high rankings and an enormous fanbase across the globe. If you ever came across the show, which houses a slightly different format to “Pawn Stars,” you would know that Frank and Mike get on like a house on fire. Then to everyone’s shock, in July 2021, History Channel announced that Frank Fritz exited the show, which spawned various theories and rumors. So what actually happened between the magic-picking duo?
Who is Frank Fritz?
Frank Fritz was born on 11 October 1963 in Davenport, Iowa, USA. He is a private collector, businessman, and reality TV star, who gained international fame primarily starring in “American Pickers” and some other History Channel projects.
When Frank was still a child, his father left him and his mother for another woman, and in 1974, his mother married Richard ‘Dick’ Zirbes; his mother worked at a construction company, while Richard was a tire salesman.
Frank Fritz, co-star of the History Channel’s "American Pickers" TV show, right, gets a tattoo from from owner James…
Frank developed an interest in collecting random objects from an early age, such as beer cans, rocks, and stamps, among many others. He attended Sudlow Intermediate School, where he met Mike Wolf, who shared the same hobby of collecting things; Frank matriculated in 1982 from Bettendorf High School and chose not to pursue an academic career.
Having developed a strong interest in motorcycles, he began collecting small, dirt, and street bikes. During his teenage years, Frank worked at the Quad-City Automatic Sprinkler and Coast to Coast Hardware, to acquire a Harley-Davidson motorcycle that reportedly cost over $4,000. Even though his passion for collecting always persisted within him, he never thought of it as a career, and worked most of his life as a fire inspector before becoming a celebrity. Given the nature of his job, Frank covered numerous areas in Iowa, visiting places to collect items such as firefighting objects and trinkets.
One exciting story was that he found a piece which he bought for $15, and sold for $460, which got him thinking about launching a business. In 2002 Frank left his job and founded the antique collection shop entitled Frank’s Finds in Savanna, Illinois. Searching for interesting items and antiques, he began traveling the US, repairing and restoring items, and selling them in his shop.
Who is Mike Wolfe?
Mike Wolfe is an entrepreneur, collector and TV reality star, who rose to stardom by starring in the series “American Pickers.” He was born on 11 June 1965, in Joliet, Illinois, USA. Mike grew up without a father, raised alongside his two siblings, Robbie and Beth, by their single mother, Rita Wolfe. When he was six, Mike began collecting items which interested him, exploring locations where he could find something that piqued his interest. One of the first things he ‘picked’ was an old bicycle which he found in his neighbor’s trash can; after cleaning it and slightly restoring it, Mike managed to sell it to a friend, marking his first successful bargain. Whether it was a beginner’s luck or Mike’s instilled ability for discerning and recognizing a potential profit, it inspired him to continue looking for exciting pieces and other opportunities to cash out.
Like his friend, Frank, Mike also didn’t continue his education after matriculating from high school and focused on his career. Before becoming a well-recognized picker, Mike explored various avenues and prospects, including becoming a competitive bicycle racer, and owner of two bike shops in the 1990s, but has sense spent over 20 years traveling in his cargo van, traversing the country, searching for extraordinary items and finds. Over time, he opened up two shops Antique Archeology in Le Claire, Iowa, and in Nashville, Tennessee. Since becoming a celebrity, Mike has joined numerous other projects, and dipped his toe in other avenues including philanthropy, music, and literature.
How did they land the series?
As mentioned, Frank and Mike were friends from middle school and remained on good terms during their high school days. Before making his debut on “American Pickers,” Frank initially attracted media exposure by appearing in another top-rated History Channel reality series, “Pawn Stars,” as an expert on vintage items, often called by the show’s members to assess an item and provide information about it. As their business grew, and their network of potential partners and clients, the two were able to work with other collectors, and eventually Frank and Mike teamed up and began exploring, acquiring and selling. They also found Danielle Colby, who became their shop manager, also discovering potential clients and locations for their picking.
So, Mike, who had been invested in ‘picking’ for nearly two decades, had the idea of a show which would follow him and Frank on their road trips, as they ‘ransacked’ crumbling sheds, dilapidated warehouses, and old barns. Mike tried to pitch the idea to a TV network for five years before History Channel decided to invest in the concept and pick it up. Mike is credited as the show’s creator, executive producer, and co-host.
After the show premiered it became an instant hit, reeling in more than 3.7 million viewers for its first episode, one of the highest-ranking debuts on History Channel. The success continued to follow the series, which only grew in popularity over the years, and allowed the two to expand their businesses and become international stars – the best testament to the show’s popularity is the fact that it has run for 22 seasons..
Why did Frank Leave the Show?
When the 21 seasons of the show premiered, it seemed that everything was in order as the duo continued working their magic, finding and selling pieces. However, as the season progressed, it became apparent that Frank was turning into a sporadic presence on the show rather than a co-host. Frank was last seen in the 13th episode entitled “Burlesque Queen,” which premiered in March 2020. When the next episode premiered, “Ghost of the West,” fans were confused as its opening credits didn’t display Frank’s name. Furthermore, there was no mention of Frank or why he was not in the episode, which spurred controversy and rumors. After several episodes, it was revealed that Frank was in back surgery, but that didn’t satisfy the fans, who continued wondering whether Frank would reappear in the show. Talking to the media outlet The Sun, Frank said: ‘I would like to come back to the show, but we will see. I’m 100 percent recovered now, and I’m ready to roll and go back on the show.’
'PICKER' FEUD! Frank Fritz says he & his #AmericanPickers co-star Mike Wolfe haven't spoken in two years: "There's a lot of controversy going on right now!" https://t.co/Cz8ZJvnTuA pic.twitter.com/9PH6V2nVLc
— The Ashley (@TheAshleysRR) July 20, 2021
However, he revealed that the production staff was very vague regarding his comeback to the show; Frank said: ‘The show runner called me on my birthday on October 11 of last year and said ‘I’ll call you back tomorrow,’ but I haven’t heard from those people at all. They don’t contact me. I want to go back on the show, but it depends on the network.’
When Frank initially disappeared from the show, he enumerated several reasons why it happened. One of those was his back surgery, in which the doctors inserted metal rods into his spine, and he obviously needed a lot of time to recover from it. Frank also talked about the obstacles they encountered during the global pandemic, how it altered their plans and his performance.
Given that Frank also has a chronic inflammatory bowel problem entitled Crohn’s disease, it meant that in the case of him contracting Corona, he might have had worse outcomes due to some prescription drugs for Crohn’s, which are said to lower the immune system. So as the world of TV production was slowly being shut down, it posed even more risk for Frank, for whom wandering around the US and getting into contact with many people was not a good idea.
After his interview, it was announced that Frank was officially departing from the show.
What happened between Mike and Frank?
Following the announcement, fans began speculating that the two might have had a fallout, which ultimately pushed Frank away, while others claimed that the production gave Frank the red light. The suspected feud between the two hosts was confirmed in July 2021, when Frank gave an interview to The Sun and revealed the behind-the-scenes moment, saying: ‘I didn’t leave the show. I finished shooting, then I had a little back surgery, and the pandemic came. I haven’t talked to Mike in two years. He knew my back was messed up, but he didn’t call me up and ask how I was doing. That’s just how it is.”
He then talked about the show’s focus, which was Mike; Frank revealed: ‘The show is tilted towards him 1,000%. I can’t even bend that far down to show you how much. It’s like you’ve got Aerosmith and there’s Steven Tyler and he’s the frontman. I found my spot, I’m second and he’s number one. That’s no problem with me, maybe he does have a problem.’ There were some rumors that Mike wanted to replace Frank with his own brother, Robbie, and in January 2022, these rumors turned out to be accurate, as History announced that Robbie would step in and replace Frank as a co-host.
Given that the news of their departure and potential feud became very prevalent in the media, Mike decided to share his side of the story on his Instagram, writing: ‘I have known Frank for as long as I can remember, he’s been like a brother to me. We’re here to not only take care of the past, but also each other. I will miss Frank, just like all of you, and I pray for the very best and all good things for him on the next part of his journey.’
Who wants to see Frank and Mike together again? 🤔
Danielle also addressed the rumors and Frank’s departure on Instagram, by saying that she had been sad over Frank’s loss to the show and his struggles, which she had witnessed in the 12 years of working with him. She continued: ‘Frank caused so much pain for himself that it has been hard to watch. I truly hope Frank receives all the help he needs to become well after years of being unwell. It is not my place to speak ill of someone who needs help, so I will keep my comments uplifting. I’m sending love to everyone.’
However, after seeing Mike’s Instagram post, to say that Frank was furious would be an understatement! He responded: ‘Mike’s statement was bulls—, somebody wrote it out for him. “We never were friends in grade school. I don’t believe in ten years he’s said five nice things to me, you know? Unless he was cutting somebody else down, we were both laughing.”
While Frank placed all the blame on Mike, fans and some media outlets pointed out that Frank’s personal struggles impacted his “American Picker’s” exit, which Danielle implied in her Instagram post. Frank has a history of alcohol abuse issues, and has been very vocal about it, so some fans believe that it might have contributed to his feud with Mike and the production. In his interview with the Sun, he admitted entering the Abbey Center in Bettendorf, Iowa, to seek treatment for alcohol abuse. Furthermore, Frank opened up about the history of alcohol abuse in his family, revealing that his mother and grandfather had been alcoholics. After spending 77 days at the center, he continued going to meetings, and shared: ‘I don’t think I’ll ever have a drink again because I don’t like the feeling anymore, and some of the dumb things that I did.’
Unfortunately, that was not the only problem Frank encountered; he also shared details about his relationship, which pushed him over the edge. After planning life with his fiancé, Diann Bankson, and buying an expensive house, Frank learned that his fiancé had been seeing another man for over two years. He was so hurt and devastated that he even got a tattoo that said, ‘once a cheater, always a cheater’. Besides the emotional pain, Frank said that she had cost him six figures, and he later struggled to pay taxes on several of his estates.
On the other hand, Diann also clapped back at Frank, accusing him of adultery, saying: ‘It’s not true what he’s saying. If he’s trying to make me look like the bad person, of course I’m going to say it’s not true, because it’s not. The bottom line is that I know the truth and that’s all that matters. He’s playing the victim and it’s not true. I wasn’t cheating on him at all.’
Since he’s exited the series, he’s lost over 60 pounds, almost 30kgs, and is unrecognizable. He revealed that after successfully getting onto the right path, he began exercising and taking care of his diet, as he wanted to keep the Crohn’s disease under control.
Is this the end of the story of Mike and Frank? Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a way back, either in the relationship, or the TV series.