‘American Pickers’ cast combs Steamboat Springs for fine, old junk
Steamboat Springs — Mike Wolfe, of “American Pickers” fame, walked away from the video cameras in a Steamboat Springs parking lot Wednesday and made a beeline for Michael Schliske’s faded 1972 BMW 2002.
“How much do you want for that car?” Wolfe called out.
“I don’t think I want to let it go,” Schliske replied. “I had another like it and someone ran into the back of it.”
Wolfe, true to character, was undeterred.
“Does it have the fuel injectors?” he asked.
On the surface, “American Pickers” is a television show about two men who scavenge America’s back roads for fine, old junk. In reality, it may be about the characters who collect it.
Wolfe and his partner Frank Fritz had been taping a segment of their show at Don and Lesley Woodsmith’s Steamboat Woodsmith shop in the Twentymile Warehouse when Schliske’s car caught his eye. A day earlier, their crew had taped them bargaining with the incomparable Cookie Lockhart at Lockhart Auction on 12th Street. It’s safe to say both Donny Woodsmith and Cookie Lockhart are a couple of genuine Steamboat characters.
For the uninitiated, Wolfe and Fritz have been antique pickers since before they became the stars of a reality television show — actually for 20 years. Specializing in vintage motorcycles and memorabilia, they make a living cruising the farm country of America in a cargo van looking for barn yards and storage buildings that hold the promise of housing good, old stuff.
After acquiring pieces of vintage carnival rides, motorcycle parts, ceramic advertising signs, folk art and antique metal toys, Wolfe and Fritz mark them up from their purchase price and display them in their original Antique Archaeology store in LeClaire, Iowa.
Since the TV show has hit its stride, they have opened a store in Nashville, Tenn. And Wolfe gave a pretty clear sign Wednesday that they still are in the business of buying and selling quirky antiques because one of their purchases from Woodsmith’s was destined for Tennessee.
“Mike, where do you want that sewing machine to go?” a member of the production crew called out.
“Nashville, send it to Nashville,” Wolfe said.
The item in question was a vintage Singer sewing machine on an elaborate cast iron stand.
At Lockhart’s, Cookie had prepared for the visit from “American Pickers” by pulling a lot of Western memorabilia out of storage, including a poster signed by Roy Rogers that she was certain they would be interested in purchasing. But she was mistaken.
Instead, Wolfe pulled a beat-up child’s pedal car down from a room in the rafters and paid $225 for it. He snatched up a 1930s era John B. Stetson advertising poster showing a cowboy shoeing a horse, a U.S. Cavalry feed bag, a pair of children’s chaps along with a variety of other items.
But Wolfe was most intent on a vintage pair of decorated cowboy boots.
“I had them for 30 years,” Lockhart said. “We dickered over them for most of the show.”
They settled on a price of $550.
Lockhart said she was told she could expect to see the show air within three to four months.
The Woodsmiths are best known for the hand-carved, wooden signs they make for Steamboat businesses. But packed into their two-story shop in a Steamboat warehouse district is a collection of hundreds of 1950s table lamps with that certain retro look. In addition, Lesley Woodsmith has a large collection of ’50s era kitchenware.
Lesley Woodsmith said they were told not to reveal what they sold or what price they settled on, but it’s safe to guess they parted with one of their many lamps.
Lesley said her husband caught the collecting bug from his father, David Smith, while growing up in Glendale, Calif.
Donny is a collector and doesn’t typically sell, but in a July 2013 interview with Steamboat Today, they acknowledged that at one time they had as many as 600 lamps.
“When you get to having 200 of something, it’s time to start selling,” Lesley said in July.
Donny Woodsmith said it was Lockhart who brought the show’s scouts and producers to see his shop, and they were immediately interested in his display of reflective lighting art that shares space with the collectible lamps and stacks of wood signs. The executive producer in New York told him they were going to feature his shop, then they canceled, then it was back on.
Woodsmith lost a great deal of sleep preparing for the taping, he said. He made a custom sign for Lockhart’s business just so the show could use a picture of it for a segue into the segment taped at his business. And he was up until all hours dusting the powder of sawdust off the pieces.
Donny Woodsmith might have worked as hard as the stars of “American Pickers” on Wednesday. A full two hours after the stars of the show had left in their motor home, he was still sitting before the cameras for an extended interview.
“They told Lesley that I gave them some great material,” Donny said. “I don’t know what was so great, but they watched it back, and they just kept laughing. You know how amazing life can be. They look for the passion and the personality to match it.”
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