RV News

A visit with the pawn stars

The RV golfer takes a side trip to the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop in Vegas

by Denis Begin

Reality television has created an entire subculture of individuals who have risen from obscurity to stardom almost overnight. Although this type of programming does not usually appeal to me, Pawn Stars has caught my attention. In 2011, it was the highest-rated reality show on television. This half-hour weekly show features four main characters: Richard Harrison (the Old Man), his son Rick Harrison, Rick’s son Corey (Hoss) and Corey’s friend Austin (Chumlee) Russell. The show is about more than buying and selling, as it deals with the relationship between the four men. From time to time, well-known experts appear on the show to certify the authenticity of various items. There have been cameo performances from Bob Dylan and the Oak Ridge Boys. Debuting in 2009, the series is shot in Las Vegas by Leftfield Pictures and is featured on the History and Lifetime channels and can be viewed in 35 countries around the world.

The Gold and Silver Pawn Shop

Many rumours exist about the show. Some say the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop is only a movie set or that sales are staged and the characters are not real. I can tell you this family business is for real. It was started by Richard Harrison (Old Man) and his son Rick in 1988. The store is open 24 hours a day and has 30 employees. Located on Las Vegas Boulevard, the pawn shop is between Fremont Street and the Strip.

For the past two years, my wife and I have wanted to visit the pawn shop. We even had an item to pawn or sell: a 1976 Mickey Mouse rotary telephone in good working condition, manual included. This could be fun!

Getting into the pawn shop takes some patience, as there is generally a lengthy lineup. As people come out, others are allowed in. The day we arrived the place was crowded, with the queue slowly snaking along the glass display cases. There is a wide cross-section of people, many with children in tow. Fans wander around the store, taking pictures and commenting about being on a real TV set. You can buy t-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers, mouse pads, etc., and Chumlees’s picture predominates on most of the souvenirs. All the pawn stars, but especially Chumlee, have learned to market themselves very successfully.

The pawn shop does not have the usual items such as stereo equipment, tools and DVDs for sale. Displayed items include Jimmy Hendrix posters, a Picasso print, Super Bowl rings, Olympic gold medals, military uniforms, gold records, rare coins, American Civil War guns, endless jewelry and a letter from President Truman, just to mention a few. Some of the merchandise has been featured on previous episodes.

TV and reality

Watching the show on a regular basis and being in the store itself are two different experiences. The show is filmed two days a week and unique items for sale are scheduled on those days. The camera makes the building appear bigger and more modern. In truth, the store needs some work and could be expanded and have better lighting. On the television show, items are bought and sold over the main counters, but in reality that takes place over the counter by the main office. No photos are permitted in this part of the building. Although the store boasts an inventory of 12,000 items, much of it seems to be jewelry as well as big ticket items such as a jukebox, an area rug from Pakistan, bikes, sports memorabilia, a trombone, a cannon and a microscope. Items often featured on television, such as cars, are located in the back storage area. Many of the items would only be of interest to collectors and have a high price tag.

My Mickey Mouse telephone

If you watch the show you’ll see that very few items are pawned, only sold. As for my Mickey Mouse phone, I was asking $100. They offered $25. Eventually, after checking eBay, the offer was raised to $50. The employee I spoke to felt the telephone was in very good condition and could bring more money through a private sale. The phone will probably end up in my home office and be a great conversation piece.

It would have been nice to meet one of the main characters, but they were shooting off location. The Internet goes into great details about their private lives, but most of what you read is probably conjecture. If you have never been in a pawn shop or if you’re a fan of the show, check it out next time you’re in Vegas.

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