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The Untold Truth Of American Pickers Star Hobo Jack

History's "American Pickers" is jam-packed with colorful characters working their hardest to get the best deals possible on cars, collectibles, and other high-priced items. Among the most beloved in the show's rogues gallery is Hobo Jack, a nickname for antiquer Jack Sophir. The cheerful native of Litchfield, Illinois, owns a lot of property in his small, rural town and tends to pan up the most interesting things for host Mike Wolfe to pick through and ultimately buy from him, then sell or keep for his own collection. Sophir is skinny, bearded, grey-haired, and has a penchant for breaking into tune and playing the guitar. Thus far, he's only appeared twice on the show — in Season 2's "Hobo Jack" and Season 6's "The Return of Hobo Jack (per IMDb)– but those two appearances won him a lot of fans thanks to his steely skills at the negotiating table. 

It's perhaps not surprising to learn that there's much more than meets the eye when it comes to Hobo Jack. Join us as we delve into the man's history and find out what lies behind his friendly smile.

Hobo Jack is actually pretty well off

"American Pickers" has previously come under fire for being a hair less than fully authentic, so it's perhaps not a big shock to learn that Jack Sophir currently lives a life that has little in common with a hobo's. Per Herald Weekly, Sophir invented much of his persona for the show. In reality, he's a home as well as a property owner and has "seen regularly bidding on big-ticket items in auctions." So you might not spy the spry collector riding the rails, but you're likely to encounter him in places such as the Wayside Antique Mall and other locales around his Illinois hometown.

While this revelation may disappoint some Hobo Jack fans, it's worth noting that he's never been anything less 100% honest about his point of origin. "Video" Bob Whiteside, who runs Sophir's official website and wrote the official biography posted there, is perfectly frank about the multi-hyphenate's collegiate background, and he speaks of his moneyed youth as well. Quoting a Joni Mitchell song, he styles himself as a "Refugee from a wealthy family" in his official website's biography. A profile published in The Telegraph in 2015 explains just what he's a refugee from; Jack Sophir is the son of artist/sculptor Dorothy O. Young.

"My mother discouraged me from becoming an artist because she said the main way to make a living with art was by teaching, and she knew I was too shy and introverted for that," Sophir told The Telegraph. Per the article, his parents wouldn't fund his art school education, so he ended up paying his own way to the Washington University School of Fine Arts. Sophir then spent years traveling the rails before buying property and settling down in Litchfield.

Hobo Jack is a published author

"Hobo Jack" Sophir isn't just a collector — he's an author with multiple published works, and he's a musician with a CD in circulation. Per his official website, he's released three books. The latest of these is 2015's "Amazing Adventures of The Tramp Prince," a novel that "contain[s] very controversial opinions about health, animal rights, human rights, government and injustice," according to its blurb; it also notes that "many of these discussions are with a toad." Promising "Socratic dialogue" to its' readers, the fantasy novel centers on "a young man's journey to find a new home for his family after they lose their farm." It remains in print on Amazon.

Sophir's other works include the 2008 novel "Time in a Box," which "looks like a children's book but reads like 'Gulliver's Travels'" and focuses on the journeys of Patches the dog and Backwards The Railroad Bum, who become separated when Patches leaves their simple life of riding the rails "in search of answers to life”s big questions." Sophir also authored "Get a Horse: A Unique Collection of Early Automotive Humor from Turn of the Century Magazines," which is exactly what it says on the tin, in 1989. "Time in a Box" may be downloaded through Sophir's official website, while copies of "Get a Horse" may be found from secondhand sellers on Amazon.

Additionally, at press time, Sophir has produced a single album of his music, entitled "The Best of Backwoods Hobo Jack: Original Songs by an American Picker." Sophir not only writes and sings his own songs, but he also plays guitar, harmonica, and banjo on the tunes. The 18-track CD includes songs such as "Yodlin' Away my Blues" and "Cheated Charlie." You can buy the album through Amazon Music.

He got the nickname 'Hobo Jack' from Mike Wolfe

According to The Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl, Hobo Jack isn't Sophir's moniker of choice. That sobriquet, in fact, came from "American Pickers" host Mike Wolfe. Sophir shows no apparent preference for the nickname — on his official website, he bills himself by what seems to be another moniker entirely, "Backwoods Jack." That's why many of his works, such as his CD, are credited to "Backwoods Hobo Jack." This combination of the two names splits the difference between the billing he's famous for and the nickname he prefers to use.

Per a comment on a video of Sophir performing at the opening of Wolfe's Antique Archeology shop in Nashville, Tennessee in 2011, he gained the name "Backwoods Jack" due to the locale of that cabin. "Buzz Potter and Captain Dingo asked me about who Jack really was and a little about him. I answered, "He lives by himself on a winding road in the backwoods." They both smiled and said, "That's it, Backwoods Jack," said Bob Whiteside. Video Bob also claims that History came up with the Hobo Jack nickname, not Wolfe. 

In a note on his official Facebook page, Sophir confirmed Video Bob's story and added that he'd been performing as Backwoods Jack for 10 years at hobo festivals before receiving it as his official Hobo Road name at Marquette, Iowa, during a gathering. Any way you slice it, Backwoods Jack is a name that comes by honestly; per The Telegraph, he lives in a cabin with two dogs on his property, and the structure lacks running water or electricity. He does, however, use a generator when he needs it.

He's been collecting since he was a child, and loves cars

According to The Telegraph and Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl, "Hobo Jack" Sophir began collecting things as a child. "I can't explain why I collect. I remember around seven, walking home from school and looking for treasure, which I never found. I just have a treasure hunter mentality," he told the latter site.

Sophir's favorite things to collect are classic cars and car parts. "I've owned probably 100 cars in my life, and I still have 30 of them," he told The Telegraph. He also makes money restoring and selling vehicles, a hobby which originally caused friends to suggest he contact the "American Pickers" producers. Sophir has a particular fondness for Victoriana. "My fascination with the Victorian Era has no basis, I can't explain it but it is a compelling passion," he related to Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl.

The rumors of his death have been greatly exaggerated

This isn't the only time "American Pickers" has been dogged by rumors that one of its cast members has died — when Frank Fritz left the show, several websites circulated false rumors that he'd passed away (per MSN) — but it might be the funniest. In 2016, The Telegraph posted a bogus notice that Jack Sophir had passed away to their Facebook page — it's since been immortalized in a screencap on Sophir's official website. He replied with a screencap posted to the front of his official website of the article with a statement reading, "Hobo Jack's In Obit.... How many people get to read their own Obituary?" He also included a quote from author/humorist Mark Twain: "The report of my death was an exaggeration." 

While Sophir definitely isn't dead, he might be considering spending more time smelling the roses. Per The Telegraph, Sophir expressed interest in moving to San Francisco, where his daughter lives. He also mentioned simplifying his thriving business in the article. But regardless of whether he's living in the middle of the country or on the west coast, "American Pickers" fans will always root for their beloved hobo.