The investment strategy of hidden treasures

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Mike Wolfe

Mike Wolfe

When Mike Wolfe bought his first home, he first had to unload a few collectibles. To purchase what was the old general store in his hometown, which included an upstairs apartment for him, he had to sell a few of his antique motorcycles, so he could secure the funds.

This isn’t an unusual fund-raising technique for Wolfe, who is the energetic creator and face of History Channel’s “American Pickers.” Since the show premiered in 2010, Wolfe and his partner, Frank Fritz, have highlighted the underused wealth that many collectors hoard, rather than use. Wolfe views his own collections as investments, not museum pieces.

Wolfe started his collecting with bicycles as a child after he noticed that neighbors threw out still-functional bikes. For a family who had little disposable money, the finds were “like King Tut’s treasure,” Wolfe says. When another kid offered $5 for one of his bicycles, Wolfe realized the power that his merchandise had.

“In a moment’s notice, I could sell it and make money at it,” he says.

Wolfe says consumers should look at their collections in the same way. The key, besides having an eye for the interesting, is to take a sober approach. If you look at something only from the “passionate side,” then you potentially hurt returns, he says.

Wolfe’s investment strategy reflects this belief. He has 50 percent of his money in collections, 50 percent in
real estate and not a “dime in the stock market.”