The hit History Channel show Pawn Stars has been on the air for 15 seasons. Nobody could have anticipated that a show about old junk and a bunch of old guys would become one of the channel’s highest-rated shows.
People from all over the world travel to the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas, Nevada to buy and sell artifacts, treasures, antiques, and oddities. Some of the objects that come through the door of that now-iconic institution are worth tens of thousands of dollars. Pawn Stars may be a reality show, but how much of it is actually real? Keep reading to find out.
It All Started In Sin City
Richard Harrison (AKA “Old Man”), his son Rick, Rick’s son Corey, and Corey’s friend, Chumlee had been working at the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop long before Pawn Stars premiered. Old Man opened the store in 1989 and ran it as a 24-hour family business.
It was Rick who had the idea to turn the daily workings of the store into a television show. He pitched the idea to several networks in the early 2000s until eventually, the History Channel picked up the show.
Rick Never Gave Up On His Idea
Rick Harrison knew that he could create a successful television show based on the inner workings of his family’s pawn shop, but it took him a while to convince networks that it was a good idea. “I figured that a show would mean free publicity and free publicity would mean more business,” he told Star-Telegram. “But everyone told me that no one wants to watch a show about four fat guys in a pawnshop.”
The Gold & Silver Pawn Shop made its television debut in a 2001 PBS documentary. It was also featured in Comedy Central’s Insomniac in 2003. HBO worked with Rick for a while, but ultimately, Pawn Stars found a home of the History Channel.
Don’t Forget, The Show Is Still Reality TV
Audiences fell in love with Pawn Stars as soon as the first episode aired. In its first year, it was the second most popular reality show on TV (Jersey Shore was the first). An episode of Pawn Stars that aired in January 2011 was watched by over 7 million viewers.
The show became so popular because everyone on it seems so relatable, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still a reality television show. Pawn Stars isn’t all it seems to be.
The Experts On The Show Aren’t Actually Rick’s Friends
On the show, whenever Rick isn’t sure about the validity or price of an item, he calls in an expert to help him figure out what’s what. Rick always tells the camera that he’s calling in a good friend, but in reality, these experts are selected by producers.
The experts aren’t for appearing on the show or sharing their expertise, but they do get some exposure and publicity which helps them promote their businesses. More than 30 experts have appeared on the show over the years.
Some Of The Deals Are Made Beforehand
Cameramen don’t just sit around waiting for cool artifacts to be brought into the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. The filming days are fully planned out to showcase the very best that the pawnshop has to offer. that means if somebody brings in something cool on a non-filming day, they might be asked to bring it back later so it can be featured on the show.
Sometimes Rick and his crew communicate with potential sellers via email before filming to ensure that the coolest artifacts arrive at the shop when the film crew is on-site.
Legal Issues For The Boys Of Pawn Stars
The cast of Pawn Stars has been sued several times since the show first premiered. In October 2012, the cast’s original agent, Wayne Jeffries sued the cast members as well as A+E Networks and History for interference with business practices.
Jeffries claimed that he wasn’t fairly compensated after he was fired because all of his hard work got the cast to where they are now. He thought that he was owed $5 million. Eventually, the case was dismissed.
The Cast Got In Trouble For Melting Antique Coins
In 2014, the cast of Pawn Stars faced legal issues once again when a woman who had sold an antique coin collection got very upset when he learned that her coins were melted down. Melting coins is perfectly legal and common as long as the coins aren’t stolen.
Unfortunately, unbeknownst to Rick, the coin collection that was sold to him actually was stolen. The woman who sold the coins to him stole them from her uncle, and after the coins were melted, her uncle asked for them back.
Chumlee Broke A $20,000 Artifact
That wasn’t the first time Chumlee got himself into trouble, though. There are a lot of fragile items in the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, and Chumlee isn’t the most graceful of men. Once, he broke a bass that someone had pawned that reportedly cost $20,000.
He didn’t even tell Rick or Corey that he broke the bass. He just put all of the broken pieces back into the box and hoped nobody would notice.
Chumlee Was Arrested On Felony Drug and Gun Charges
In March 2016, Chumlee Russell made headlines when he was arrested on a slew of charges. The Pawn Star cast member’s home was searched by police after serving a warrant in a sexual assault case. When law enforcement searched Chumlee’s home, they found an arsenal of weapons along with marijuana and other drugs including methamphetamine. Chumlee wasn’t arrested for the sexual assault allegation, but he was taken into custody for illegally possessing weapons and drugs.
He was released on bond and pleaded guilty to a felony weapons charge, unlawful possession of a firearm, and to a gross misdemeanor of attempted drug possession. He took a plea deal in exchange for three years of probation and counseling.
The Case Of The Stolen Earrings
This coin fiasco wasn’t the only time Rick and the Pawn Stars gang unknowingly took in stolen items. In 2009, a man traded a pair of diamond earrings for a cool $40,000.
But not even a day passed before it was discovered that the jewelry was actually stolen. Although the victim got her belongings back and the thief was jailed, Rick was still out the $40,000. “It’s the cost of doing business,” Rick told NPR. “That’s the way I look at it. … And Las Vegas is a crazy town at times. There’s a lot of high-end things I get. So you have to know about … really large diamonds, really expensive watches. … So it’s a lot different than most places.”
Corey Was Arrested For Battery And Obstruction
Chumlee isn’t the only member of the Pawn Stars cast who’s been in trouble with the law. In 2011, after having a little too much to drink at a bar in Big Bear, California, Corey got into an argument with another guy at the bar. Harsh words quickly turned into a physical altercation, and eventually, the police got involved.
The security guard at the bar called for back-up, and then police officers arrived and arrested Corey. He spent the night sobering up in jail.
Old Man Is No Longer With Us
“Old Man” or Richard Harrison was the patriarch of Pawn Stars. He was the man who started it all. Sadly, on June 25, 2018, “Old Man” passed away due to complications related to Parkinson’s disease. He was 77 years old at the time.
Rick Harrison, Richard’s son, took to Instagram to inform the show’s fans of his father’s passing. Rick wrote: “He will be tremendously missed by our family, the team at Gold & Silver Pawn and his many fans the world over. He was my hero and I was fortunate to get a very cool ‘Old Man’ as my dad.”
A Fitting Tribute To The Old Man
After Richard “Old Man” Harrison passed away, Pawn Stars aired a special episode two days later on June 27. The episode is an hour-long, and it features the rest of the Pawn Stars cast sharing their fond memories of Richard. “There’s a lot of memories here,” Rick says at the beginning of the episode. “And most of them are with my father.”
If you’re a Pawn Stars fan, this episode probably made you tear up a little bit. The show just isn’t the same without Old Man.
Old Man Left One Of His Sons Out Of His Will
After Old Man died, the details of his will were released to the public. Surprisingly, one of Richard’s sons wasn’t a part of the document at all. Rick was left in charge of his father’s estate, Rick’s brother Joseph got a percentage of Richard’s fortune, but Rick’s other brother Chris was left out of the will entirely.
Rick released a statement explaining, “The family had previously discussed this information and it is a private matter.”
Rick’s Wife’s Complicated Past
Rick is no longer with Corey’s mother. In 2013, he got remarried to Deanna Burditt. These two have a strong relationship, but ghosts from Burditt’s past are still haunting them to this day.
In 2013, Deanna’s ex-husband, Richard Burditt, was convicted of forcible sexual abuse as well as dealing in materials harmful to a minor. He pleaded guilty of all charges, but he hasn’t served any time in jail. Rick has said that the whole situation is very stressful and that Richard hasn’t served any time “because of all the bureaucracy.”
Chumlee Was The Victim Of An Internet Death Hoax
In 2013, a website called the Internet Chronicle reported that Chumlee had passed away after overdosing on marijuana. This never happened. Chumlee has never overdosed on any substance. Chumlee was alive and well, but now he had to deal with the aftermath of being involved in an internet death hoax.
Other news sources claimed that Chumlee died on a heart attack. Chumlee took to social media to share with his fans that he was, in fact, alive. He tweeted, “May we live long, Rich forever.”
Chumlee Wasn’t Originally Going To Be On The Show At All
The initial plan for Pawn Stars was for the show to only follow the Harrison family members. While the first season was being filmed, producers met Chumlee and thought that he would be a good addition to the cast.
“There [were] 10 other employees in the shop and they were looking for a fourth person to put in the show,” Chumlee said. “I thought to myself, well, I’ve known these guys my whole life. We have good camaraderie, and I’m just going to be funny and joke with them like we would normally do, and not get nervous in front of the cameras, and it kind of worked out.”
Corey Got Chumlee His Job At The Pawn Shop
It’s hard to imagine Pawn Stars without Chumlee. Once production decided to include a non-family member on the show, Chumlee was up against ten other Gold & Silver Pawn Shop employees. Ultimately, it was Corey who convinced producers that Chumlee was the man for the job.
Chumlee and Corey have been friends since they were just kids. As soon as Corey found out that producers were searching for a fourth cast member, he knew that Chumlee would make good television.
Corey Lost A Lot Of Weight
On Pawn Stars, we know Corey Harrison as “Big Hoss.” Corey might have to change his nickname, because “Big Hoss” isn’t so big anymore. Corey struggled with his weight for most of his life, but when his doctor put him on a preventitive regimen for diabetes, Corey knew he had to make a change.
Corey decided to have surgery to help him lose weight. He said, “I literally drove straight from the doctor to the lap-band center and had the surgery almost immediately,” Corey said. “Back then, the surgery was too expensive for my bank account, so I had to pay with four credit cards, but it was something I had to do – I was not going to get diabetes!”
There Are Many Scripted Portions Of The Show
We already know that many of the customer interactions that we see on the show have been arranged beforehand, but did you know that many of those interactions are actually fully scripted?
For example, in one episode, an elderly woman comes into the shop with a ’50s vintage Gibson electric guitar. The woman’s story is that she’s had the instrument under her bed for nearly 50 years. Rick calls in a guitar expert to help him assess the value of the instrument. In reality, that expert came on the show to promote his guitar store, and the woman is the mother of one of the store’s employees. The entire story about the 50-year-old guitar was totally made up.
Olivia Black Still Works At The Shop
Pawn Stars was very much a boys club until Olivia Black appeared on the show in season 5. Fans were excited to see a female face join the franchise. Unfortunately, Olivia seemed to have been fired from the shop after she posed for a nude photospread for Suicide Girls.
The truth is, Olivia was never fired from the shop at all. She still works at the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. She just no longer appears on the show because the History Channel didn’t want her to ruin Pawn Star‘s family-friendly image.
Some Strange Things Have Been Pawned
Some stranged objects have come through the doors of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. In one episode, a man tried to sell a bag containing several human skulls. One customer brought in a bag of adult magazines from Japan that were created over 250 years ago. Someone brought in an old ID card that belonged to Slash, and one person tried to sell an entire submarine.
One of the rarest items brought into the shop was an antique coin called a didrachm from Greece. Experts determined that the coin was from 325 B.C.
Did You Catch The Subway Product Placement?
If you watch Pawn Stars on a regular basis, you may have noticed that Rick, Corey, and Chumlee eat a lot of Subway sandwiches. That’s because Subway is one of the show’s largest sponsors. They pay a lot of money to have their food featured on Pawn Stars.
At times, the product placement is more obvious. In one episode, Big Hoss uses a Subway sandwich to demonstrate how an auction will unfold while Chumlee listens carefully.
Pawn Stars Merch Is More Profitable Than The Pawn Business Nowadays
The Gold & Silver Pawn Shop is buying and selling more antiques than ever before, but since the show came out, most of the business’ income comes from Pawn Stars merchandise.
You can get Pawn Stars themed shot glasses, coffee mugs, t-shirts, and bobbleheads on the shop’s website. They’re even selling an autographed Chumlee bobblehead for $400. You can be some of the artifacts in the store online too, but many of those are over a thousand dollars.
Meeting The Cast Isn’t That Easy
Whenever people walk into the GOld & SIlver Pawn Shop now, they expect to meet Rick, Corey, or Chumlee behind the counter.
Sometimes the guys do show up to the shop to mingle with fans, but at this point, they’ve made enough money to hire other people Apparently, Rick and Chumlee like to hang out at the Pawn Plaza next door to the shop. If you’re in the area and you want to meet a real-life Pawn Star, your best bet is to stop by the Plaza.
Sometimes The Whole Shop Has To Close Down For Filming
Pawn Stars did increase Gold & Silver Pawn Shop’s foot traffic, but the show also presents some challenges that have been disruptive to the business. Whenever Pawn Sars is being filmed, the whole Gold & Silver Pawn Shop has to stay closed to the public.
According to shop manager Travis Benton, “Sale can suffer because of the show.” Benton also commented on the large number of shop visitors who were just there to see the famous location rather than actually purchase or sell an artifact.
Filming Happens More Often Than You Might Think
While creating a new season of Pawn Stars, the film crew works between two and five times per day from Monday to Friday. The whole shop has to be closed down for each filming session.
That means thousands of potential customers are turned away each week. It all works out in the end, though. This shop sees over a million visitors per year, so it looks like they can afford to close the shop for a few weeks.
The Show Attracts Thousands Of Customers Each Day
The Gold & Silver Pawn Shop was a successful family business before Pawn Stars began, but now, after the success of the show, business is booming. On an average day, approximately 4,000 people walk into the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop.
Ten years ago, Rick and his family were lucky if they saw 4,000 customers in a month. Now the shop isn’t just a shop, it’s a tourist attraction. People come from all over the world to visit this treasure trove of artifacts and oddities.
Most People Who Visit The Shop Are From Out Of Town
We already know that tons of tourists visit Las Vegas all throughout the year. A lot of those tourists make their way to the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop hoping to see some of their favorite stars from the History Channel.
Luckily for Rick and his family, these tourists are also quite likely to buy some Pawn Stars merchandise while they’re paying the shop a visit. The cast of Pawn Stars is very vocal about how much they appreciate their fans.
Touring Is A Profitable Venture For The Pawn Stars Cast
Even though Las Vegas is a popular tourist destination, not every Pawn Stars fan can make it to the shop to see Rick, Corey, and Chumlee. Rick figured that he and his son could make some extra cash off of their popularity with a country-wide tour.
Fans who attend these “VIP experiences” get to meet the Pawn Stars cast members, and they also get to visit homes featured on Counting Cars, American Restoration, and Tanked.
Corey Dropped Almost 200 Pounds
The recovery from Lap band surgery wasn’t easy for Corey, but through hard work and dedication, Corey was able to change his lifestyle and lose close to 200 pounds.
He told ABC News, “I can only have four to five ounces of food in my stomach. When you only have that much space in there, you don’t want to fill it up with crap.” It’s been an adjustment, but since losing the weight, Corey is healthier than ever before.
Celebrity Guest Appearances
Many famous faces have walked through the doors of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. Luckily for us, we got to see those celebrities on Pawn Stars.
Celebrity appearances include Phil Collen, Joe Elliot, Jeremy McKinnon, Katie Couric, Vic Flick, Meredith Vieira, and even Bob Dylan. Steven Carell was even called in to discuss a movie prop from his upcoming film. His appearance on the show was obviously an advertisement for a new movie he had coming out, but we still liked seeing his face in the shop.
Bob Dylan Appeared On The Show
Bob Dylan is a world-class performer, and he’s even won a Nobel Prize. It’s hard believe that a musician of his caliber would appear on a reality show, but that’s exactly what happened in Season 3 of Pawn Stars. A customer featured on the show bought Dylan’s album Self Portrait on vinyl.
While the episode was being filmed, Bob Dylan just happened to be playing a concert in Las Vegas, so of course, Chumlee was able to track him down and have him sign the record.
Corey Has A Side Hustle
Corey has proven to be quite smart when it comes to business. He must have gotten his business sense from his old man. It doesn’t seem like Corey is the kind of guy who’d be into beauty products, but even so, Corey is the co-owner of Beauty Bar, a successful salon and club in Las Vegas.
Beauty Bar has been open since in 2014. Corey and his friend, Darin Feinstein, purchased the salon Fremont Street and turned it into a salon by day and a bar and club by night.
Chumlee Owns a Candy Shop
Corey isn’t the only Pawn Stars cast member with a side hustle. His friend Chumlee owns a candy shop which opened in Las Vegas in 2017. The store is called Chumlee’s Candy on the Boulevard. “My brother and I wanted to do something fun, and candy is fun,” Chumlee told The Las Vega Review-Journal.
“Let’s face it, it’s been 13 seasons now. 460 episodes. It’s time to acknowledge the fact that Chumlee might be able to open up his own business by now.”
Corey Broke His Hand In A Motorcycle Accident
Corey made headlines in 2011 when he was involved in a motorcycle accident between Las Vegas and San Diego. He had a nasty encounter with a truck during a rainstorm.
That wasn’t the only time he got into trouble on his motorcycle, though. In 2014, a piece of his fender came off and caused him to go into a high-speed tailspin. Corey narrowly avoided a head-on collision. He went about his day as normal before heading to the hospital only to learn that he had broken his hand.
Corey Got Divorced In 2015
In the late 2000s, Corey Harrison married his college girlfriend, Charlene. That was before Corey was on television and before his net worth was over $2 million. With the success of the show, Corey and Charlene’s relationship was put to the test. Unfortunately, it wasn’t built to last.
After a few rocky years, Corey and Charlene got divorced in 2015. After that, Corey started dating Roxy Gonzalez, but that relationship didn’t last very long at all.
Pawn Stars Spinoffs
The success of Pawn Stars led to several other spinoff shows that revolve around interesting people finding, buying, and selling interesting artifacts. American Restoration was Pawn Stars’ first spinoff. It premiered in 2010 and featured Rick Dale and his crew at Rick’s Restorations. So far there have been 126 episodes of American Restoration.
In addition to American Restoration, Leftfield Pictures has created five similar series, all of which follow the same format as Pawn Stars.
Richard “Old Man” Harrison Served In The U.S. Navy
Before becoming the Old Man on Pawn Stars, Richard Harrison worked as a school bus driver when he was just 14 years old. When he was 17, he got arrested for stealing a car. In court, the judge gave him two options: either go to jail or join the military.
Harrison didn’t want to go to jail, so he chose to enlist in the U.S. Navy. He ended up serving in the Navy for 20 years.
Rick Had A Sister Who Died When She Was A Child
While Richard Harrison was on a break from the Navy in 1962, he met and married the mother of his future children, Joanne Rhue. Not long after they got married, Joanne gave birth to the couple’s first child— a daughter named Sherry.
Sherry was born with Downs syndrome, a genetic condition, and sadly, she passed away when she was just six years old. Rick was born in 1965, so he knew his older sister for a short time.