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15 Secrets Behind A&E’s Pawn Stars

Entertainment
15 Secrets Behind A&E’s Pawn Stars

If a person can put a price tag on a given item, there’s a significant chance that Rick Harrison and his family are interested in selling it at their Las Vegas pawnshop. How does this make them any different than the hundreds of other pawnshop owners across the country? Well, Rick and the other Harrisons are also interested in putting the business transaction on TV, airing it as part of the second-highest-rated reality show in history, Pawn Stars.

The Gold & Silver Pawn Shop has been open since 1989 and has arguably been the most famous second-hand store in America since History Channel started documenting its business in 2009. With over 507 episodes and counting, the Harrison family has easily gone on to become the most famous pawnbrokers in the world. Fame like this doesn’t come easily, and it’s not just their knowledge of history that’s made them famous. On top of that, Rick, his old man, his son, and especially his son’s idiot friend, are all lovable and, at times, hilarious individuals who keep fans coming back week after week.

Of course, there are dozens of things about the Harrisons and Pawn Stars, in general, that even the most loyal fans are completely unaware of. We know these guys are geniuses when it comes to historical oddities, trivia, and spotting a fake gold coin from a real one, but what does anyone know about Rick and company’s lives when business hours are over? If you find yourself answering that question with “nothing” and wishing it were “something,” we’ve got you covered. Keep reading for 15 little-known facts about the hit History Channel reality series Pawn Stars.

15. The “Reality” Of Their Pawn Business

Given the nature of so-called reality shows on television today, fans of Pawn Stars, big or small, may find themselves wondering just how much of the show is actually “real.” Sure, people actually do own bizarre artifacts and items, and the Harrison family do in fact buy and sell these strange goods for profit. However, what some fans may not realize is that the nature of pawning means it’s almost impossible for Pawn Stars to actually be 100% real. For example, everything fans see on the show is actually filmed when Gold & Silver is closed, primarily due to laws indicating that the identity of people pawning items needs to be protected unless they choose otherwise. This means that if a random pawner happened to be in the background of a shot, they wouldn’t be able to air it. To cut down on this, the store gets closed for several hours during filming, with pre-approved visitors allowed in and out of the business. There’s also the issue of tourists who either want to meet the gang or simply wind up on TV, none of whom are allowed inside when cameras are rolling.

14. Why Olivia Left The Show

While there’s no denying the Harrison family are an interesting bunch, there are, no doubt, plenty of Pawn Stars fans who have long been wondering what the heck happened to Olivia Black. For those who don’t remember or maybe missed a few episode, Black was an attractive new hire brought in for a handful of episodes spanning across season five to season seven. Her main job seemed to be working the night shift alongside Chumlee, who barely even tried hiding the fact he had a pretty big crush on her. Chum wasn’t alone, as plenty of audience members likewise fell in love with the tattooed beauty, only for her to quietly disappear just as she began getting popular. The reason relates to History Channel producers discovering her past modeling work for the website SuicideGirls, including a large number of nude and otherwise risqué shoots. According to Rick Harrison, this in no way affected his opinion of her, and he was more than happy to keep Olivia on board, citing that her personal life is just that. Unfortunately, the producers had the final say in this one, and Olivia was gone from the show the second they learned about her past.

13. Chumlee Has A Serious Rap Sheet

Especially because of how smart the Harrisons seem about practically every subject of knowledge there is, Corey’s childhood friend Austin “Chumlee” Russell often comes off as Gold & Silver’s village idiot. On the other hand, the kid actually has a pretty solid foundation of information himself, albeit confined to the niche areas of video games, sneakers, and pinball machines. Then again, he was also arrested for possession of just about every illegal item known to man in early 2016, so perhaps, his reputation as a screw-up isn’t entirely undeserved. In March of that year, Chumlee’s house was raided in correlation to sexual assault allegations, and investigators found crystal meth, marijuana, and a dozen illegally purchased firearms. There was also heavy evidence of cocaine use. Naturally, this all led to Chumlee’s arrest, and he was later charged with 20 felony counts of unlawful possession. Despite the size of his rap sheet, Chumlee got off easy with three years of probation and counseling after accepting a plea bargain.

12. Rick Was Epileptic As A Child

When watching Pawn Stars, the first question fans have about the pawn business and the Harrisons, in particular, is pretty simple—how the heck do they know so much about random stuff? Well, for most pawnbrokers, the answer is just as easy. Rick, in particular, had been interested in history and fun facts from a very young age and eventually realized he could make a business out of it. That said, Rick’s explanation is still somewhat unique, both in how young he was when the interest in history began and the specific reasons why he found himself compelled to learn. Unfortunately, the story begins with heartbreak and pain for young Rick, as he suffered from severe epileptic seizures starting at the age of 8. These episodes largely confined him to hospital beds far away from any electricity that could trigger his condition, meaning all he could do to entertain himself was read—and, of course, learn.

11. The Old Man’s Real Navy History

Nine times out of ten, no matter what someone tries selling to Gold & Silver, the Old Man, Rick Harrison, Sr., is going to suggest his son and grandson are willing to pay way more for it than he ever would. The one exception to this trend is artifacts with any sort of military significance, especially those relating somehow to the U.S. Navy. This is because the senior Harrison himself indeed served his country for 20 years, ultimately becoming a petty officer, first class. Admirable as it is that Harrison served his country valiantly for so long, there’s a small black mark on this record in that it wasn’t entirely voluntary on his part. According to Rick, Jr., the Old Man only ever got involved with the military because he stole a car sometime in the 1950s, and a lenient judge offered him a seriously reduced sentence if he joined the military and got his life straight. After his first discharge, he re-enlisted for the healthcare benefits and never looked back.

10. Rick Wanted A TV Show About His Store For Years

In the less than 10 years Pawn Stars has been on the air, it’s very rapidly progressed from a quirky little show about the pawning business to one of the largest reality empires on television. With this in mind, one might expect TV networks around the world were heavily interested from the word go, but in fact, the exact opposite may well have been the case. While PBS must have had some level of interest, airing a documentary about the business in 2001, the eight years in between that broadcast and the subsequent TV series would imply long-term interest was actually pretty low. Indeed, Harrison had attempted pitching the series to a number of networks, including PBS and also HBO, though none appeared willing to pick up the program. There was, however, one other party that had some interest in putting them on TV…

9. Insomniac with Dave Attell Covered Them Before They Were Famous

Taking place mere minutes away from the Las Vegas strip, Pawn Stars is surprisingly the sort of show where audiences never really know what to expect. At any given moment, a celebrity or plain-old eccentric individual with an inflated sense of what his or her items are worth can show up and do something funny or weird, which is a big part of the show’s appeal. Another show that rested on those same laurels was the Comedy Central travelogue Insomniac with Dave Attell, and this fact isn’t a mere coincidence. A solid six years before AMC realized there was money to be made in the pawn business and two years after the PBS documentary, the wayfaring comedian did a special in Las Vegas and devoted a few minutes of showtime to none other than Rick Harrison and his strange family-run business. Corey, the Old Man, nor Chum weren’t on board yet, but fans did get to enjoy a pretty rare sight… Rick with hair.

8. There’s Another Harrison With No Interest In The Show

Aside from simply being on TV and making boatloads of money, the Harrisons seem to take a particular pride in the fact they own a family business. Gold & Silver is co-owned by Rick and the Old Man, and as the show has progressed in fame and success, Corey has likewise gradually earned some serious stock in the company. That said, these are but three members of a pretty gigantic family, and it seems like the rest of the Harrisons have no interest in being on TV. Even in the episode detailing Rick’s bachelor party prior to wedding number three, his bride-to-be was nowhere to be seen, which really isn’t all that surprising. There are also three additional Harrison children we’ve never seen, including Corey’s brother (the others are half-siblings from a different marriage). Of these other Harrisons, a son named “Adam” was briefly involved in pawning as well, but he entirely left the business behind to find work as a plumber.

7. Corey Was The Youngest To Get Into The Family Pawn Business

With the Old Man’s stern seriousness dragging everyone down, Rick’s goofy enthusiasm a little much to take at times, and Chumlee, well, being Chumlee, many fans of Pawn Stars might consider the younger Harrison, Corey, to be the most down-to-earth staffer at Gold & Silver. While this attitude may occasionally present Corey as not caring all that much, the fact is, he’s technically been in the pawn industry for the longest per capita time of anyone in his family. The nickname “Big Hoss” isn’t simply a reference to Corey’s weight, most of which he shed by the way, but is also a nod to the fact Rick and the Old Man are slowly grooming him to one day own the business. This process began way back when Corey was a mere 9 years old and got his first job in the shop. Today, he’s the top buyer in the store and has become his father and grandfather’s partner as an owner of the store.

6. Rick Dropped Out Of High School

Considering how much knowledge Rick Harrison seems to have on just about everything, viewers might expect the guy to hold a college degree or two in a field like World or American history. In stark contrast to this assumption, the truth is that he didn’t even finish high school, dropping out in the 10th grade to pursue outside business interests. No, he wasn’t already getting into the pawn business with the Old Man—Rick’s first attempt at the entrepreneur lifestyle involved selling fake Gucci bags, an enterprise he later claimed was netting him in the neighborhood of $2,000 per week. Quite frankly, if he had the knowledge to do that while spending his free time reading up on British naval history, maybe the guy didn’t need to finish high school after all. Of course, this isn’t to say all dropouts are bound to success, as Harrison, in many respects, got lucky, finding a job he was naturally good at despite a lack of formal education in business… or anything else.

5. Having A TV Show Increased Gold & Silver’s Business Tenfold

It should go without saying that Pawn Stars being the second-highest-rated reality show in history, behind only Jersey Shore, has significantly changed the life of the four men who star on the program. Not only are they making big bucks through their contracts with AMC, but being on television every week has immensely raised Gold & Silver’s profile to the extent the store’s revenues absolutely exploded over the past decade. According to Rick, the store only had 12 full-time employees when the series began, and more recent episodes include mentions of a gigantic staff in numbers nearing the high 40s. More importantly, they’ve gone from reporting an average 100 customers per day to over 1,000, a fact that caused them to renovate the building and increase their showroom’s size by two-thirds. Considering how early in the show’s run this information was gleaned, it can only be assumed things have only improved from there.

4. It Spawned A Number of Spin-Offs

To anyone who finds him or herself in love with the idea of pawnshops and the business they involve, but for some reason finds the Harrison family abrasive, don’t worry—AMC has you covered. Given the enormous success of Pawn Stars, it was only a matter of time before copycat shows began cropping up, with truTV’s Hardcore Pawn, in particular, receiving criticism for being a mere knockoff. It’s not a knockoff when the originals are still involved, though, which is why the large number of Pawn Stars spinoffs also on AMC are less maligned by the public. In fact, because these spinoffs primarily star guest experts who became popular personalities while interacting with the Harrisons (see: American Restoration and Counting Cars, pictured above), fans of the show were actually quite receptive to them. That said, the conceptual spinoff Cajun Pawn Stars was a little less warmly received, with the original show’s cast members claiming they had no actual involvement in its creation.

3. Steve Carell Loves World War II Diving Knives

One of Rick Harrison’s catchphrases is that he never knows what’s going to come into his pawnshop, and over the past eight years, fans of the show have learned exactly why. Another thing the public has become aware of is that we can never know who’s going to come by Gold & Silver either, as a shocking number of celebrities have stopped by the store at one point or another to buy themselves rare trinkets. This actually isn’t all that surprising since the show takes place close to the Las Vegas strip, where celebrities of all kinds butter their bread on a daily basis. Perhaps the most entertaining celebrity to stop by the shop was Steve Carell, who, at first, denied his identity only to then pretend to get enraged when Rick made a joke about his height. When it was clear who he was, Carell went on to purchase a World War II diver’s knife, something he claimed to have wanted for a long time. Some other celebs to stop by and offer similar stories include George Stephanopoulos, Meredith Vieira, and Butch Harmon.

2. Bob Dylan Signed A Self Portrait For Chum

In addition to the various celebrities who have stopped by the show by total happenstance, there have also been a few instances when the cast sought out celebrities and basically begged for their attention. Easily the biggest star to appear for this reason was none other than rock and roll’s poet laureate, Bob Dylan, who was stopped on the street by Chumlee and asked to sign what many critics agreed was one of his worst albums, Self Portrait. Dylan himself claimed Self Portrait was a joke to calm down talk about him being the voice of a generation, and as such, it doesn’t hold much stock amongst record collectors or music fans in general. Despite all this, Rick Harrison somehow got duped into paying $50 for a copy of the record, and to recoup his losses, he sent Chumlee on what at first looked like a wild goose chase to find Dylan and beg him to sign the cover. Amazingly, after wandering around random Las Vegas hot spots, Chumlee indeed ran into the man in question, who agreed to sign the album with an almost childlike chuckle.

1. No, That Wasn’t Really Prince

Although Bob Dylan was perhaps the biggest musical star to appear on Pawn Stars, he wasn’t the only one. There was also an episode where Rick arranged to have the Old Man meet one of his favorite bands in the Oak Ridge Boys, and another where Rick himself attended a rock and roll camp featuring Kip Winger and The Who’s Roger Daltrey. One musical icon who never appeared on the show, however, is the legendary Purple One, Prince. Don’t tell that to Chumlee, though, as the poor guy firmly believed that he met His Royal Badness outside of Pop’s Philly Cheesesteaks. Of course, those familiar with Prince probably know he was a vegetarian and thus probably wouldn’t be caught in that sort of establishment. There’s also the fact that most Prince fans probably know what he looks like, which Chumlee apparently didn’t when he got a man later confirmed as a Prince impersonator to sign a guitar. Naturally, not knowing his mistake, Chum thought this random autograph would make the Harrisons extremely happy with him. Instead, he was left a laughingstock for his faux pas.

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