On most days, Mike Wolfe is far from the geek-chic slickness of Silicon Valley where most innovators hang. You're more likely to find him in tiny towns like Bristol, Tenn., foraging through other people's junk--looking for rusty, bumpy, faded gems that will fetch a healthy price for his business, Antique Archaeology. But don't let the "Antique" portion of his company's moniker mislead. This is not your doily-collecting type of antique enterprise.
You may recognize Wolfe as the head picker on History channel's American Pickers. He makes his living negotiating and collecting people's junk (or "man-tiques," as he prefers to call the relics). And the stuff he collects is legendary. To most undiscerning observers, a Dukes of Hazzard TV tray and matching lunchbox might sound like a disposable tribute to days long past. But to Wolfe, those are the kinds of treasures that surprise and delight.
In a sagging economy that smacks of a double dip, there is something poignant and appealing about Antique Archaeology. And there is something to be said for preserving some tangible parts of our unique and quirky heritage (for a price, of course). In an age defined by technology and communication, the lost art of buying and selling stuff is a refreshing bit of nostalgia.
As a business, history may seem so, um, five minutes ago--especially in immediate-gratification, frenetic, app-filled, tablet-happy techie circles. But not to Mike Wolfe. His approach to business is best described as old-school, grease-the-wheels negotiation. His no-BS approach has some serious teeth.
Wolfe's ability to see the possibilities and find the potential in every collectible makes him a great story. He sees things other people don't. His passion (and his TV show) is fueling renewed interest in collecting, and helping forge a lucrative new business sector for potential pickers everywhere. There is a chicness to junk--and the business opportunities and potential profits to be made are pretty chic as well.
So cheers to you, Mr. Wolfe, for showing us that history is not just the past--it's very much the present, and it's driving an abundance of opportunities for the future.
Amy C. Cosper,
Editor in chief
Follow me on Twitter, @EntMagazineAmy