American Pickers Star Frank Fritz on Upcycling, Salvage, and Tips for Picking

If you’ve seen American Pickers, you’re probably familiar with Frank Fritz. He’s got a knack for finding awesome buried treasures in people’s junk-filled storage spaces, and his personality is impossible to not notice.

He’s also coming to Tempe on Friday, November 6, for the third annual Salvage This!, which figures to be among the biggest upcycling events of the year. Of course, a decade ago, having an evening centered around recycling and reusing old products would’ve seemed ridiculous, but Fritz believes the eco-friendly practice is popular these days for a number of reasons.

“Recycling and reusing is very popular now, and it seems like everybody is reusing things,” Fritz says. “Mid-19th century furniture is very popular because it was made in America. Now, we’re a disposable community, where we just get rid of things, but this trend is changing that, and some of it’s cool. I definitely see things get reused now because people get attached to them and they don’t want to see it end up in a landfill.”

You may know about the show, and you may understand the basic concepts of “picking” and reusing older items, but there’s one aspect of the event you may not be familiar with at all. There’s now a book out to help get you started in your picking journey.

“It’s called the American Pickers Guide to Picking, and it has some little tidbits about picking in there,” Fritz says. “It can’t be learned overnight, but with the Internet, it’s a lot more feasible to buy things that you’re interested in. The book will help direct you on some tips when buying things.”

Of all the tips in the book (and some not in the book), Fritz believes the most helpful one is something that he doesn’t always abide by, but knows he should: the idea that quality doesn’t change over time.

“I tell people all the time to buy good stuff whenever they can,” Fritz says. “Good stuff is always going to be good, and mediocre stuff will always be mediocre. Even if something mediocre is rare, it’s not always worth it. And now with the Internet, almost everything is less rare than it used to be.”

A lot of the time, knowing the quality of a product on first glance takes years of practice and knowledge building up, which is why Fritz believes the best way to go about picking is just to get out there and dive in.

“Educate yourself, then get out there and start looking around,” Fritz advises prospective pickers. “There’s a lot of older stuff that falls to the wayside because it was collected by older gentlemen. If the youth gets interested in it, there’s some really cool stuff out there.”

While picking may be a lifelong passion turned career for Fritz, that doesn’t mean life is always easy. Filming a TV show can mean some grueling days, and when the show happens to be centered around traveling all over the country, that certainly doesn’t make it any easier.

“What the viewer doesn’t see [when watching American Pickers] is the 16 to 18 hours a day we put in,” Fritz says. “They don’t see the crew that comes in at 3:30 or 4 in the morning to set everything up. It takes a long time to make a show, and it’s a travel show, so we’re in a different hotel in a different area every night. We’re shot on location all over the country.”

That said, Fritz and his co-star, Mike Wolfe, are just wrapping up the seventh season of American Pickers, so the lifestyle can’t be too bad. Although as the weather starts to settle deeper into fall, Fritz is certainly looking forward to his stop in the Valley to bring a little sunshine into his life.

“I live in Iowa, so I can’t wait to come out to Phoenix and get some warm weather,” Fritz says. “If anyone has any questions while I’m out there, don’t be afraid to ask.”

The meet-and-greet with Fritz begins at 5 p.m. on Friday, November 6, at the Yard in Tempe. Tickets cost $100 (or $50 for the event without the VIP meet-and-greet) and are available online.
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Josh Chesler
Contact: Josh Chesler