Monday, September 13, 2010

American Pickers Antique Archeology

We went to Iowa for my Father-in-Law's 80th Birthday Party on September 11th!
My in-laws live in LeClaire, Iowa,
home also to the History Channel program "American Pickers"
Mike Wolfe
& Frank Fritz
If you've never heard of American Pickers, check out the History Channel website and check out Mike & Frank's websites also, just copy and paste them into your browser. People I've mentioned this to think the show must be about banjo players, but it's a couple of guys out on the road looking for antiques, mostly bicycle and motorcycle stuff but also toys and signage and a whole lot of other stuff in between.
Mr. Wolfe runs an eclectic antique store in downtown LeClaire named "Antique Archeology" the shop is well hidden behind the BP Gas Station on the main drag, to find it most people ask some of the other shop owners for directions, after the 100th time they've been asked this same question they're all pretty much ready to tear their hair out. Nowadays the local businesses are mostly resigned to the question, and pretty good spirited about it, but perhaps Mike should have a sign on the main road pointing out where he is located. Now of course when you have family living there, they're going to bring you the back way and take you right to the place. It's a wide open garage space complete with a front parking area and small office room. There is an upstairs balcony which I headed for until I noticed the sign spelling out No Admittance, the balcony is full of old bicycles of every era. These guys have a waiting audience of collectors to purchase their finds, some of it winds up in the shop, some they sell on Ebay and some they hang onto, (don't we all). Below at the end of this column, you'll find my "picks" from the guys, which are now for sale at Two Graces or just email me

Here are Holly & I in the main room, as you can see there's stuff on the shelves, but much of it isn't for sale and not actually priced. Some folks get turned off by stuff that isn't priced, the thought being that they feel the sellers are summing you up and pricing accordingly, if you look wealthy you'll pay more, if you look like a dealer, maybe you'll get a deal. What happens now is that the 2 women who actually work in the shop take pictures of what you're interested in and email them to the guys, usually this means Mike, then he emails back to say what he wants for it, sometimes this works, and sometimes you'll have to check back. It seems Danielle refuses to price items because Mike gave her a hard time for underselling something, (this happens to all of us).

This Skookum advertising head was carved and beautiful, and on the shelf of stuff not for sale, argh, I really wanted it! This is a version that you would have seen used as a label on an apple crate box. If the picker folks ever read this please let me know if you'd want to sell it!

These are the Laurel & Hardy heads the guys picked up on last week's show, then they gave Danielle her evaluation for her raise wearing these heads, eek, not the best way for the boss to treat you, rather disrespectful, she did get the raise. Now here's the thing, Danielle is basically finding places for these 2 guys to go to and buy stuff, pick & 'Pop on', (sounds like a Dr. Seuss tale), she runs the shop AND now answers questions from the public that visit the shop AND signs autographs AND has her picture taken with people, When Does She Have Time to Do Anything Else? You would not believe the lines of people waiting to see her! If the guys were at the shop at all it would be the same thing autographs, pictures, and questions all day long, with nothing else being done. Picture takers don't spend any money, again I can attest to this with my store Two Graces Plaza Gallery being by this big beautiful picture takers dream of a Church. They do sell a variety of T-Shirts, which you can order online, but they're out of Fat Guy sizes for guys like me.

A group shot of a bunch of Vintage Automobiles just across the alley from Antique Archeology.
As I'm not a Car, Bicycle or Motorcycle guy, what's the point of visiting this place???
Well, check this out, my best Picker here in Taos recently scored a set of these 2 vintage Currier & Ives prints in great condition "High Water in the Mississippi" and it's companion piece "Low Water in the Mississippi".
They are too big to carry out to Iowa.
Instead I'll send Danielle some pictures of them and see what they think.
(I never heard back & never checked back with them about this)
Did I mention LeClaire is smack in the middle of the Mississippi, I mean to say, not at the delta and not at the beginning, and no not in the river, but towards where the river is wide and beautiful with nesting Bald Eagles and lots of fishing.
Back to the story, just one of these prints turned up on the PBS program Antiques Roadshow a few years ago and was appraised for... ...wait for it... ...$15,000-18,000 thousands of dollars.
Check it out at this web address
Yes, the market flows and changes like that great river, but you never know if some collector may want this tribute to this river, and especially someone who lives near it! Perhaps Mike & Frank will find it worth their while, perhaps they'll know of just that right collector, and perhaps we can do some business.

Here are my "picks" for sale as of today at Two Graces.
Not quite thousands of dollars worth but as many of you know, we sell a lot of 'smalls'
5 Vintage Tintypes (sepia toned), the one on the bottom center is a portrait of a lady which the scarf she is wearing has been hand colored. "American Pickers" provenance at $18.99 each.

14 Sacred Heart of Mary, sculpted 3-dimensional metal figures, they are hollow on the backside which allow them to lay flat, 5 inches tall. Great detail, could probably be used for molds, the detail on the underside is very nice. Otherwise for a shrine or for an art project. Some are shiny and some have slight patina to them, these are AMAZING, and are certain to be scooped up fast. Mother Mary will come to you for $10.99 each.

This New Mexico pennant was in a big stack of pennants, and sorry will not be for sale, it will become part of my collection hanging in my shop.

Next we have 6 matching Sacred Heart of Jesus, same size as the Mother Mary's, with or without patina, BUT there are only 6 of these, so if you are wanting a matched set of Jesus and his Mother act FAST. These Jesus figures are $10.99 each.

Thank you Danielle and the people at "Antique Archeology" and all the shop owners in LeClaire, say hello to Pat & Jack for me when they visit your shops.
Postscript: Thanks to the popularity of "American Pickers" this particular story on my blog has continued to be the most popular, thank you for reading. I hope it gives you some idea of  the actual Antique Archeology storefront. If anyone has written a story about visiting the new store in Nashville, I'd love to read about it. OR, if you've written a story about Two Graces Plaza Gallery I'd REALLY LOVE TO READ THAT!
My mother & father in law have always enjoyed running into Mike & Frank, they always take the time to say hello and chat. Congratulations to Mike and his partner & new baby.


  1. I get frustrated watching that show sometimes. I feel like they're ripping off some hillbillies and givin' us Iowans' a bad name. I dunno. I guess im more of a PAWN STARS fan.

  2. During the first season the guys seemed to have that wild eyed, Oh Boy I'm getting this for a steal and I'll flip it for a lot of money attitude. The backlash on this seemed to have sunk in and has helped to mellow them out a bit and be more respectful to the owners of the Stuff. A whole lot of people with lots and lots of stuff will someday up and die and then what will happen to all that stuff that then becomes junk to the family, well basically it will end up with Goodwill or something of that nature maybe even get shipped off to the dump. These guys and others like them myself included appreciate what these objects are and pass it on to others who also will love what they've purchased.

  3. great post R and great finds! you two look so happy to be in someone elses shop!!! looks like it was a great time!
    I think they have toned it down quite a bit, they want to keep visiting their vendors and they have to offer a fair value... I think for the most part they do, and sometimes they don't even get keystone... and you cannot stay in business that way!
    fascinating inside look R thanks!!!

  4. How did you ever get out of there? The stories that each treasure held could have taken a lifetime to learn. Glad you and Holly are back safe and sound.

  5. Cool, Robert – sounds like fun!

    My take on the show is that these guys actually get their "customers" to unload stuff (and get immediate cash for it) that would probably just sit in the barn and rot until the day they die.