Pawn Stars is a highly successful reality TV show that has made it to a 13th season thanks to loyal viewers. A modern-day take on Antiques Roadshow, Pawn Stars follows the staff at the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas, Nevada. Despite being heavily scripted, the shows entertainment value cannot be denied. Most of the actors, ahem, clients, on the show are so unconvincing that one must laugh out loud at their negotiation skills. Nowhere else on mainstream television can you see a biker walk into a pawn shop, clad with a box of old junk, ready to negotiate. The most fun is seeing how quickly the sellers accept a couple of hundred dollars for something that they bravely demanded an initial $50,000 for. Priceless.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not all acting. The Gold & Silver is a real place. Before the History channel turned this hotspot into a household name in 2009, the shop was enjoying regular business. On a typical day, over 4,000 people line up outside the shop, in the hopes of selling off their gems. The staff are real too. Richard “Old Man” Harrison opened the shop back in 1989, with the help of his right hand man, Rick Harrison ( his son, AKA, the bald one). Rick’s son Corey, and non-family-member-funny-guy Chumlee complete the pawn quad.
Let’s take a look at some of the absolute weirdest things sold on Pawn Stars.
15. Civil Rights Movement Potato: $2
This obviously simulated transaction featured the late rapper, Sean Price, haggling with Chumlee over a spud. Sean Price was relatively well-known in the underground hip-hop scene in the 90’s and early 2000’s. He was part of the duo Heltah Skeltah and member of the Boot Camp Clik. Whenever you see a B-list celebrity on Pawn Stars, be warned! It’s probably a fake transaction!
According to Price, the potato dated back to the 1960’s. The potato, as the tale goes, was thrown at Martin Luther King Jr. during the March on Washington in 1963. The tater, which exhibited a smiley face (apparently “battle wounds” from the toss), was passed down from Price’s uncle. Price confidently requested $100,000 for the potato; Chumlee counter-offered $2, and a deal was made.
14. 250-Year-Old Japanese “Entertainment”
When Rick Harrison was asked, “What is the weirdest thing you have in your shop?”, he didn’t hesitate. 250-year-old Japanese entertainment. Also known as shunga, these paintings can be traced back to the 16th Century. Influenced by Chinese T’ang Dynasty erotic paintings, the shunga were composed of twelve scrolls that depicted different sex acts.
The paintings showcased fully clothed subjects; nudity was not inherently erotic in Japan as citizens were accustomed to seeing each other nude in the local baths. Further, the inclusion of clothing allowed viewers to differentiate which social class was being portrayed in the scene. Taboo combinations of monks and young girls were not uncommon. Yikes! We’re not sure how much Rick paid for this art, but it’s worth, and weirdness, is unmistakable.
13. Liquid Pistol: $2,500
It’s no secret that guns are among the most collected items worldwide. Compressed with carbonic acid, this rare “liquid” pistol was sold to the shop for $2,500, but might be worth much more to a gun collector. Invented by Paul Giffard in 1872, the model was later bought by Colt’s Manufacturing Company for an astounding one million dollars. This revolutionary invention was particularly beneficial in combat, as the gun required no gunpowder to shoot. According to Craig Gottlieb, the Stars‘ go-to gun expert, less than 500 of the original models were made, and he estimates that as few as 100 exist to this day.
12. JFK’s Cigar Box: $60,000
The most pricey item in the Pawn Stars shop award goes to: JFK’s cigar box. This authentic piece of presidential memorabilia actually contains a few unsmoked cigars; increasing the item’s resale value significantly.
An avid smoker, JFK notoriously ordered 1,200 Cuban cigars mere hours before signing the U.S. trade embargo that would deem all exports from Cuba illegal. Rick purchased the box for a cool $60,000, however, a collector might bid upwards of $125,000 for this rare historical relic. In fact, in the 90’s, a sister cigar box, also hailing from JFK’s desk at the Oval Office, sold to the publisher of Cigar Aficionado for over $500,000.
11. John Belushi’s Autograph: $501
John Belushi was a famous comic who is credited as being one of the founding cast members of Saturday Night Live. Despite a tragic drug-related death at the age of 33, Belushi’s acting legacy lives on to this day. He is known for his legendary roles in Animal House and The Blues Brothers with Dan Aykroyd.
An extra on the set of The Blues Brothers movie, filmed in 1979, acquired Belushi’s signature during the filming on the movie. Penned on the invitation from Universal Studios, it was sold to the shop for $501. Not bad for a signature, right?
Considering that the value of this autograph was confirmed at about $700, the seller walked away a winner. Good thing Corey was the one working that day, we don’t think that Rick would’ve gone so high for such little profit!
10. David Hasselhoff Autographed Buoy: $375
Another fizzled out celebrity autograph! David Hasselhoff might be old news these days, but in the 90’s, he was a major contender in the TV heartthrob department. His career started out on daytime soap The Young and the Restless, although he is most known for his iconic role as Mitch Buchannon on the hit Baywatch.
The Hasselhoff autographed buoy has a resale value of about $500-$600, and was sold to the shop for $375. Despite it being a cool collector’s item for a Baywatch fan, most die-hards are out to get their hands on Pamela Anderson merch. As Rick says in this sequence, “we’re talking David Hasselhoff, he’s not that cool.”
9. “Death of Prohibition” Corkscrew: $325
The Prohibition era in the United States lasted a whopping 13 years, from 1920 until 1933. The 18th Amendment prohibited the production, transportation and sale of all alcoholic beverages, which resulted in increased crime rates and illegal smuggling. Andrew Volstead was the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which oversaw the Prohibition legislation. He was viewed negatively by most citizens.
The Bridgewater “Death of Prohibition “corkscrews were patented in 1932, right before booze gained legality once again. The sets featured a corkscrew, shot glass and wine stopper tucked neatly into a coffin-shaped box; the corkscrew masterfully crafted into a seemingly dead Volstead.
8. Wayne’s World Car: $9,500
Wayne’s World is a cult classic film, based on an SNL skit and released in 1992. Featuring Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, the movie was shot over 34 days and earned nearly $200 million at the box office. The film features a 1976 AMC Pacer, affectionately referred to as the “Mirth Mobile”. The car was host to the famous “Bohemian Rhapsody” scene. As the story goes, Mike Myers didn’t find the scene funny at all when filming began. He had to be coerced into going along with it; good thing he did, it went on to be one of the most iconic comedic scenes of 90’s film.
When Rick found out the car was for sale in Orlando, he organized a visit. The car was equipped with the original licorice dispenser and the camera mounts from filming. The seller accepted a bid of $9,500 for this beauty, although with a few moderations, it can auction for upwards of $15,000.
7. Grammy Award: $2,350
Winning a Grammy is a huge professional and artistic accomplishment for all involved in the music industry. An award of this caliber is culturally significant and monetarily valuable. It’s no doubt that Rick jumped on his chance to have one in his shop.
The award is issued to Ronald Dunbar & General Johnson (who?) for their songwriting collaboration for (assumed) 1970’s hit, “Patches”. Jokes aside, it’s actually a pretty cool R&B song that I have been looping since I started research on this entry. Check it out.
The award was sold to a lighthearted (finally!) Rick who got a kick out of the seller’s sense of humour. Hey, at least someone was able to negotiate with the grump! Seller walked out the door with $2,350 and we assume it will sell for much more than that to a music lover.
6. Lot of Limited Edition Pepsi Cans: $20
Here’s something that seemed like it would bring in some cash, but is virtually worthless. A lot of vintage Pepsi cans. Very cool, yes, but the resale value is shockingly low. The company itself dates back almost 125 years, originally producing a carbonated beverage coined “Brad’s drink”. Since then, the drink has changed names twice, to PepsiCola in 1898, and finally to its shorter abbreviation of Pepsi in 1961.
Sadly, vintage cans are not high on the list of high-auction Pepsi items. Some of the old school coolers and display racks sell for a few hundred dollars, but the cans are a different story. The seller came in with a lot of about 7 cans and asked for a mere $50. Rick countered with $20 and a deal was made. Note to self: stop collecting Pepsi cans now.
5. Dinosaur Eggs: $500
Isn’t it weird that JFK’s cigar box sold for $60,000 but DINOSAUR EGGS only got $500? You would think these ancient natural artifacts would reel in more than a few hundred bills. Not so. The seller arrived to the shop with an initial proposal of $20,000. Corey called in an expert, who confirmed that dinosaur eggs typically sell for $300-$600 per egg. The reason for the low-balling? There are thousands of these things available on the market. The value was much higher at the turn of the 20th century, when archaeological methods were less evolved. These days, so many eggs have been found that they are no longer considered rare. We still think that dinosaur eggs are the bee’s knees! Wouldn’t it be cool to have one of these on a bookshelf to impress dinner guests?
4. Rolling Stones Promo Record: $60
Here’s another item that was sold for far lower than one would expect. A promotional, limited edition Rolling Stones vinyl from the 60’s, never commercially released. This type of record would have been sent out to radio stations to promote their tours. The seller arrived with a cost of $4,000 in mind. Doesn’t seem too far-fetched, considering how sought out Rolling Stones’ collector items are. Unfortunately, when Rick brought in the expert, it was determined that the resale value was actually closer to $150. Apparently there are a ton of these EMI records available online, on auction sites like eBay. Poor guy, but a good sport. He shook on $60 which probably got him at least a couple of burgers in Vegas.
3. First Issue of Playboy Magazine: $1,400
The very first issue of Playboy magazine was published in December 1953, and featured Marilyn Monroe as the “Sweetheart of the Month”, or, as we call them today, Playmate of the Month. Only 54,000 copies were printed, as founder of Playboy, Hugh Hefner, was unsure of the magazine’s success. They all sold, and Hefner began to build an empire that would be worth half a billion dollars by the millenium. The magazines first issue is the most sought after, with an estimated value of up to $2,700 for a good condition copy.
2. JFK Luncheon Invitation: $150
Here’s another pretty neat bit of JFK memorabilia. A seller came into the shop with a JFK luncheon invitation for the day he died, November 22, 1963. The luncheon, hosted in Dallas during JFK’s visit, was organized to discuss the election with Texan business leaders. Perhaps what makes this invitation more interesting is the fact that JFK was on his way to the luncheon when he was assassinated.
Unfortunately, the value dropped significantly when Corey realized the invite was not addressed, and never mailed out. Had it been addressed to someone, it might be worth more. What could have been a super seller ended up earning the owner a small fortune of $150.
1. Super Mario Statue: $550
Super Mario Bros. is probably the most well-known and well-loved video game in history. The first Mario Bros. Nintendo game was released in 1983, with Super Mario Bros. coming out two years later. More than 30 years later, over 40 million copies of the game have been sold worldwide. The Mario franchise has expanded to include several other games, a TV show and tons of Mario merch.
This giant Mario statue was originally housed in a video arcade, and given to the seller as a prize for winning a Mario Kart competition (of course). Considering it’s worth probably anywhere between $1,000-$1,200, the seller got a pretty good deal signing off at $550 for this piece.