The Time Someone Sued American Pickers’ Frank Fritz

Being a picker seems like one of the most enjoyable jobs a person can have, especially when you’re fortunate enough to turn your passion into a hit TV show like History Channel’s “American Pickers.” The majority of the show is nothing more than Mike Wolfe and, up until his recent exit from the show, Frank Fritz traveling the back roads of the United States on the hunt for “rusty gold.” But there’s more to the gig behind the scenes than meeting interesting people and digging through cluttered barns, and not all of it is pretty.

The entire life of a picker is about making deals. They buy, they sell, and they live or figuratively die by their word. Sure, many of the smaller items pickers like Frank Fritz tend to trade in only bring metaphorical pennies per deal to their bank accounts, compared to some big ticket items like classic motorcycles or one-of-a-kind pieces tied to history. Even so, those minor dealings are just as important as the bigger ones, not only because they make up for profit with volume, but because they also serve as proof of the integrity of the picker. After all, word is bond in the picking world, and Fritz’s word seems to have slipped at one point in the past. Then again, it’s entirely possible there was a miscommunication somewhere along the line. Either way, it ended with the former American Picker losing a few dollars in court.

Sued by an auctioneer

As the Greenville News tells it, Jerry Bruce, an auctioneer in Greer, South Carolina, believed he’d made a deal to purchase an antique polarimeter from Frank Fritz for $300 plus shipping. The device was used in the 1800s to measure the amount of sugar in alcohol and would’ve made a prime addition to the museum he was planning to open. There was only one problem: The item never showed up in the post. To be fair, Fritz never cashed the check Bruce had written him either, but as far as the auctioneer-collector was concerned, the two of them had a verbal contract.

The device, which Fritz can be seen picking from the office of an old Mississippi aircraft hanger’s office in the 2010 episode “Psychic Pickings,” was originally purchased by the picker for $40. After he failed to show up to court, it ended up costing him $1,000 more, plus $80 in court costs. It’s likely that Fritz could spare the money, but it’s still bad publicity.

Bruce didn’t sue Fritz for the money. Instead, he says, “It’s the principle of the fact that they go around the country promoting themselves as honest people and a deal is a deal and a handshake’s a handshake.”

Not the only time Fritz was sued

In addition to the suit over the polarimeter in 2014, former American Picker Frank Fritz found himself on the receiving end of another lawsuit in early 2020. According to The Sun, the plaintiff was none other than Fritz’s ex-girlfriend, Diann Bankson (pictured above, with Fritz). To be perfectly clear, Bankson dismissed the lawsuit only a few months later, but it’s still a second lawsuit on the books for ol’ Frank. And that’s probably not good for a picker’s image.

Bankson claimed Fritz had been negligent with fireworks one night, leading to bodily harm. Apparently, Frank had been drinking (he has since gone through rehab). He reportedly tried to light a happy-explody but was unable to get it to spark, so he shoved it into an antique ashtray to try again. Still nothing. Instead of properly disposing of the recreational explosive, Fritz left it in that closed cylinder ashtray, which Bankson ended up using a while later when she was smoking a cigarette. Unfortunately, she didn’t see the firework until it ignited in the ashtray she was using. The resulting damage left her with third-degree burns on her arm and hand, after which she claims Fritz told her to “toughen up” instead of taking her to the hospital. If this is truly how things went down, it’s a wonder she dropped the lawsuit at all, but since it was dropped, these are nothing more than allegations.

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