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MIKE WOLFE, the co-star of “American Pickers,” the popular antiques show, is known for driving the country’s back roads and pulling old signage, bicycles, gasoline pumps and other “rusty gold,” to use his term, out of people’s barns and garages. So it’s not entirely surprising to walk into his house and find a 1913 Harley-Davidson parked in the dining room.
Like everything Mr. Wolfe “picks,” the motorcycle has a story. He bought it in upstate New York from a man whose father ran a classified ad that Mr. Wolfe came across 30 years later. After establishing that the bike was still in the family, he recalled, “I drove all the way to New York, slept in the guy’s driveway and knocked on his door the next morning.”
Fast-talking and persistent, Mr. Wolfe, 46, can sniff out unique or valuable antiques like a bloodhound. He persuaded the reluctant owner to sell him the bike for $25,000, although “it’s worth 55 grand, easily,” he said, holding the handlebars protectively, as if a visitor might jump on and drive away.
On “American Pickers” (and in “American Pickers Guide to Picking,” a book out next month from Hyperion), Mr. Wolfe and his childhood friend, Frank Fritz, 47, show a similar enthusiasm for wheeling and dealing with eccentric collectors or, more often, “freestyling,” their word for driving around in search of homes with lawns that look like junkyards and may contain treasures. As pickers, they are middlemen in the antiques food chain, buying items they can sell quickly, at a markup, to dealers and collectors.