Frank Fritz is a familiar face to millions of viewers who have tuned into the hit reality show American Pickers over the years. As co-host alongside Mike Wolfe, Fritz charmed audiences with his eccentric personality, impressive knowledge of antiques, and amusing banter with Wolfe. However, in July 2021, it was announced that Fritz would be leaving American Pickers after more than a decade on the show.
The departure left many fans wondering what happened to the beloved co-host and eager for updates on his current life after Pickers. This article will take an in-depth look at Fritz‘s journey—from his early days growing up in Iowa to finding fame on American Pickers and beyond.
Background and Early Life of Frank Fritz
Franklin Fritz was born January 11, 1965 in Davenport, Iowa. Fritz developed a passion for antiquing at a young age. His interest stemmed from his family members, who were antique collectors themselves. Fritz spent time accompanying his grandfather to auctions and sales, learning the ropes of spotting valuable vintage items.
In high school, Fritz became skilled at refinishing and selling old bicycles for profit. He later worked in a number of jobs including as a fire inspector, in construction, and even as a sous chef. However, Fritz continued to harbor dreams of making a full-time career out of antiquing.
Beginning His Antique Career and Meeting Mike Wolfe
In 2002, Fritz decided to leave his 9-5 job and pursue picking and selling antiques as his livelihood. He set up a booth at the Antique Archaeology antique store in Le Claire, Iowa owned by Mike Wolfe. Fritz and Wolfe soon struck up a friendship, discovering they shared many of the same passions when it came to collecting.
According to Fritz, “I learned more about picking from Wolfe in the first few weeks than I had learned in all the years before.” Their natural chemistry and genuine love for scouring barns, garages, and auction houses for hidden treasures laid the foundation for the success to come.
Fritz Joins American Pickers in 2010
In 2010, the concept for the show American Pickers was picked up by the History Channel. The network had been searching for an “odd couple” style duo with an engaging dynamic and extensive antique expertise. Fritz and Wolfe were perfect for the part.
The pair had already been friends for over a decade by this point and had refined their picking skills together on buying trips across the Midwest. Fritz brought an extensive breadth of knowledge, especially when it came to vintage motorcycles, cars, and bicycles.
American Pickers premiered on January 18, 2010 and was an immediate hit. Audiences were drawn to the amusing banter between Fritz’s laidback magnetism and Wolfe’s high energy persona. The show’s concept of unearthing unique historical objects from everyday people’s collections gave viewers an entertaining and educational glimpse into American history and nostalgia.
Fritz‘s Role and Contributions to American Pickers
Throughout his time on American Pickers, Fritz cemented himself as an audience favorite thanks to his impressive skills at spotting valuable picks. Though Mike Wolfe carried more of the narration duties on-camera, Fritz consistently amazed with his encyclopedic knowledge of antique bicycles, motorbikes, cars, and early American farm tools.
Some of Fritz’s most memorable picks included a antique John Deere tractors, vintage motorcycles like Indian Scouts and Harley-Davidsons, and early bicycles like high wheelers. His discerning eye helped drive profits and kept Antique Archaeology afloat through multiple seasons.
Off-camera, Fritz also handled a significant amount of the logistic and organizational duties for Antique Archaeology. He managed the office duties and paperwork for the business for several years into the show’s run.
Fritz’s Personal Life Outside of American Pickers
Though much of his life has been public since American Pickers launched, Fritz has kept some details of his personal life private over the years. It’s known that he was married once early in life, but divorced without having any children. Fritz lived in his home state of Iowa during his time on American Pickers.
In his free time off from picking, Fritz enjoyed restoring vintage bicycles and cars, often posting his projects on social media for fans to see. He was also an animal lover, having adopted several rescue dogs as beloved pets.
Fritz’s Health Problems – Crohn‘s Disease Diagnosis
As American Pickers reached its peak popularity in the late 2010s, Fritz began having health issues that eventually started impacting his role on the show. In March 2017, Fritz underwent back surgery to fix a herniated disc that had been hindering his ability to lift and drive—two key parts of the job.
The back surgery was a success, allowing Fritz to return for more seasons of picking over the next few years. However, in early 2021, Fritz revealed he had been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. The condition took a toll on his stamina and energy levels, making long days of travel and picking increasingly challenging.
By July 2021, History Channel announced that Fritz would be stepping away from American Pickers to focus on his health. It marked the end of his decade-long run and over 300 episodes filmed for the show.
Fritz’s Stroke and Current Health Condition
In addition to his Crohn‘s disease diagnosis, Fritz suffered a major stroke in July 2022. The months since the stroke have involved extensive rehabilitation and recovery. Though details of his current condition have been sparse, a September 2022 update from the American Pickers production company noted that Fritz was making progress with his speech and mobility.
Fritz himself has not made any direct public comments or updates. However, as of late 2022 and early 2023, he is reportedly continuing to work on his health and skills impacted by the stroke with the support of former co-star Mike Wolfe. Fans remain hopeful that Fritz will be able to make a full recovery and return to the spotlight when he is ready.
Addressing False Rumors of Fritz‘s Passing
Ever since news emerged of Fritz‘s stroke in mid-2022, some unsavory false rumors have circulated online that he passed away from the stroke. These appear to stem from clickbait sites spreading misinformation about his health crisis.
It‘s important to note that none of these claims hold merit. As of February 2023, neither Fritz himself nor any credible news sources have reported his passing. Production company representatives have clarified that Fritz is alive and simply recovering out of the public eye. Fans can rest assured these rumors are unfounded.
Fritz‘s Net Worth at the Peak of American Pickers Fame
Thanks to his co-host role on one of cable television‘s top rated shows for many years, Fritz amassed an impressive net worth at the peak of his American Pickers fame. Various reputable sources estimate his net worth reached around $5 million.
The bulk of Fritz‘s wealth stemmed from his salary and profits from starring on American Pickers. In the show‘s heyday between 2015-2020, Fritz was earning approximately $500,000 per season. With over 300 episodes filmed and more reruns, Fritz‘s income from the series itself was likely in the multi-millions.
On top of his Pickers salary, Fritz also benefited from his portions of the profits earned by selling valuable picks discovered on the show. As both co-owner of Antique Archaeology and a lead picker, he received a cut of the company‘s overall antique sales.
Notable Picks and Success Stories from Fritz on American Pickers
Fritz‘s unique eye for value and hidden gems led to some unforgettable picks over his years on American Pickers. Here are some of his most impressive successes:
1937 Indian Chief motorcycle – One of Fritz‘s hobby passions has long been collecting vintage motorbikes. In 2012, he scored a major win by discovering a rare 1937 Indian Chief motorcycle languishing in pieces in a garage. After extensive restoration work, the extremely rare bike sold for over $30,000.
Circus attraction flea circus – During Season 15, Fritz spotted an antique flea circus contraption that had originally been used as a sideshow attraction in the 1920s-30s. The unique find fetched nearly $10,000 upon resale.
Prewar balloon tire bicycles – Fritz is considered one of the foremost experts on antique bicycles in the U.S. Some of his best scores have been uncovering incredibly rare 1930s bicycles like Bluebird, Hawthorne and Colorflow models, which can command prices in the thousands for intact original examples.
Other Business Endeavors and Revenue Streams
In addition to picking, Fritz has earned income from various other small business ventures and licensing deals tied to American Pickers fame:
Frank Fritz Finds – Fritz‘s online store sells special picks and merchandise from his personal collection. Items range from vintage prints to t-shirts and mugs.
Book publishing – Fritz co-authored two books with Mike Wolfe – the autobiography "American Pickers Guide to Picking" and "How to Pick Vintage Motorcycles."
Licensing deals – As a branded public figure, Fritz has earned royalties from lending his name and likeness to American Pickers themed slot machines developed by Aristocrat.
Public appearances/speaking engagements – During the show‘s most popular years, Fritz made extra income from paid appearances at conventions, festivals, and private corporate events.
The End of Fritz‘s Time on American Pickers
After eleven seasons as co-host, History Channel announced in July 2021 that Fritz was leaving American Pickers. The news took fans by surprise, as Fritz had been a fixture on the show from the beginning.
In the weeks after the announcement, more details emerged citing Fritz‘s Crohn‘s disease as the primary reason for his departure. The health issues understandably made the rigorous filming and travel schedule unsustainable.
However, some insiders also noted growing behind-the-scenes friction with co-host Mike Wolfe as another factor in Fritz walking away. Their decades-long partnership had reportedly become strained in recent years.
Fritz and Mike Wolfe‘s Evolving Relationship
When American Pickers began in 2010, Fritz and Wolfe‘s history as friends and picking partners was a huge selling point. Their natural rapport made the unlikely pair a hit.
However, as the show wore on, rumors emerged hinting at a growing rift between the two off-camera. Personality differences and disputes over business decisions led to tensions. Fritz felt his role and contributions were undervalued.
By 2017, Wolfe had reduced Fritz‘s ownership stake in Antique Archaeology from 50% to just 11% – further pitting the pair against each other. Fritz continued with the show, but the relationship was damaged. His exit seemed a sad but inevitable outcome.
The Impact on American Pickers Post-Fritz
There‘s no denying American Pickers had a different feel once Fritz departed the show in 2021. Though Wolfe now starred alongside his brother Robbie, the original charming dynamic was missing.
Fritz‘s easygoing temperament and encyclopedic knowledge had provided the perfect counterbalance to Wolfe‘s high-energy fast talking style. Without Fritz‘s expertise readily on hand, some episodes seemed hurried and superficial.
Ratings inevitably declined, dropping nearly 40% by the end of 2021. Fan criticism mounted, with many feeling the show had lost touch with its roots now that the original duo was just a memory.
Fritz‘s Life After Leaving American Pickers Behind
Since stepping back from American Pickers, Fritz has maintained a low profile, focusing on improving his health and wellbeing after the challenges of recent years. Not much is publicly known about his current activities and interests.
Fritz still resides in his home state of Iowa, staying out of the spotlight. He reportedly remains passionate about vintage motorcycles and cars, so is likely still active in those hobbies on his own time.
Those who know Fritz have stated he is enjoying a slower pace and more time to work on personal projects since leaving the grind of filming a cable TV show. Fans hope as his health allows, he will re-emerge to once again share his knowledge and passion for antiquing.
Fritz‘s Current Projects and Endeavors
Details on Fritz‘s work since departing American Pickers remain scant. However, there are a few known and speculated projects tied to Fritz post-Pickers:
- Launched online "Frank Fritz Finds" merchandise store
- Working privately to buy/sell antiques and motorcycle restoration
- Consulted for recent American Pickers spin-off shows
- Pitched solo hosting concepts to networks related to interests
The stroke recovery has understandably forced Fritz out of the spotlight in 2022-23. But fans are hopeful he still has the itch to dig into his passion for antiquing on camera and may yet return in some creative new format someday.
Fritz Remains Active on Social Media
Though he‘s kept busy away from the Pickers cameras, Fritz has made an effort to stay engaged with his longtime fans on social media. Until the stroke, he was active on platforms:
Facebook – Fritz frequently shared antique finds, motorcycle projects, and glimpses into his post-Pickers life.
Instagram – More candid typical social media fare, including selfies with fans and photos with his rescue dogs.
YouTube – Fritz‘s channel gives in-depth looks at his vintage motorcycle restorations and barn finds.
The fan response on his pages remains overwhelmingly positive, offering encouragement and hoping for updates on his recovery. Their unwavering support is a testament to the lasting rapport Fritz built with viewers.
Fritz‘s Legacy and Long-Term Influence
Frank Fritz leaves behind an impressive legacy from his years scouting hidden treasure on American Pickers. Though no longer on the show, his impact remains:
Revived interest in antiquing – Fritz‘s enthusiasm attracted many new hobbyists to the antique trade. He made picking feel accessible.
Saving history – By unearthing amazing historical objects and sharing their stories, Fritz helped preserve American stories that may have been lost.
Pop culture icon – Fritz‘s signature style made him a recognizable face and name across America at Pickers‘ peak popularity.
Inspired fellow collectors – Fritz motivated fellow antique lovers to search barns, attics, garages – not just shops – for hidden gems. His passion was infectious.
The nostalgic Americana appeal Fritz championed seems more relevant than ever today. His picks will be enjoyed and remembered for generations.
Fritz‘s Departure Still Disappoints Fans
More than a year after Fritz‘s exit, American Pickers faithful are still lamenting the loss of the show‘s original spark. Many see Fritz as irreplaceable.
On the show‘s social accounts, comments expressing disappointment he‘s no longer involved are overwhelming. Fans point to the lack of explosive Fritz finds that wowed in the past. Others simply miss his endearing personality and humor.
Many feel the current Pickers chemistry rings hollow—it‘s clear Fritz‘s gravitas made the show tick during its 2010-2020 heyday. Until Fritz himself indicates otherwise, devotees are hoping for a comeback someday.
Conclusion: The Enduring Legacy of Frank Fritz
Frank Fritz‘s eleven year run on American Pickers represents just one chapter in a lifetime love affair with antiquing. From small town Iowa to the heights of cable TV stardom, Fritz made an indelible mark on the world of picking.
His battles with Crohn‘s disease and stroke have recently forced him out of the spotlight. But if his start on American Pickers taught anything, it‘s that Fritz is resilient. Perhaps when the timing is right, he will once again rev up his passion for treasure hunting to share new adventures with the loyal fans who miss him dearly.