If it seems like Pawn Stars has been on television forever, it’s because it’s outlasted almost everything else that has come and gone in its time. Want proof? When it debuted in 2009, it was the second-highest-rated reality show, behind only Jersey Shore. Remember that train wreck?
With two seasons per calendar year, over 500 episodes of the show have been created, putting it in a place that few reach in television history. While it doesn’t get the ratings it once did, that’s partially because of its huge success. It spurred a ton of copycat Pawn Shop shows and moved the reality genre away from competition shows.
Since the beginning, people have asked how real Pawn Stars is. Well, there's a real Gold and Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas, Nevada, where the show takes place and is owned and operated by the cast, but it’s a stretch to say it’s still a traditional pawn shop and that the stars are still regular people.
Being on a highly successful show will change people, but being on a highly successful show will also make producers very cautious when it comes to the formula and to making sure that only the picture they want to paint is seen by viewers. Thankfully, in this era of celebrity gossip and the internet, we know far more than we would've if this show were on 25 years ago. With that in mind, here are 15 Dirty Secrets of Pawn Stars the producers don’t want you to know about.
15 Corey got kicked out of a bar for public urination
According to Radar Online, in August 2014, Corey was taking part in a motorcycle ride sponsored by Hot Bike magazine. The group stopped at a bar in Jefferson City, Missouri, and from there, things just got weird. The site reported onlookers saw the star of Pawn Stars in a heavily drunken condition. “You could tell when we walked in the bar that it was not gonna go well. He was so sloppy drunk and so obnoxious, you just knew this was heading towards a bad scene,” the site quoted one person. Apparently, Corey was too drunk to find his way to the bathroom. “All of a sudden, it was just, bam! He got his pants down, peeing on a bar stool, being very proud of it,” said an onlooker. While that stunt didn’t get the TV star kicked out, he was eventually shown the door when he threw a bar stool across the room. He apologized for the entire incident later.
14 Olivia was fired for dirty pictures that turned up
When producers decided the show needed an injection of female energy, they found Olivia Black, who was looking for a legitimate job at the pawn shop. She was never completely at ease in front of the TV cameras, which made for great entertainment when Chumlee would work his awkward charm in front of her. She only appeared in one season, though, because a few pictorials that showed the heavily tattooed brunette in various states of undress popped up on the Internet. Olivia had taken them for the popular SuicideGirls website, and producers decided that wasn’t the image they wanted to send, so they fired her. Rick Harrison has gone on record saying it wasn’t him who fired her. Since leaving the show many years ago, Olivia has embraced what got her in trouble and now works as a nude cam model.
13 Workplace harassment took place on an episode
We’ve never seen this mentioned anywhere else, but it always struck us as strange that Rick forced a female employee known as "Peaches" to figure out the value of a box of older Playboy magazines. She shows an obvious dislike of the task, but since she’s already in hot water with Rick for being late, she reluctantly does it. If she didn’t, it was implied, she could lose her job. Well, wouldn’t you know... Nevada actually has some of the better workplace sexual harassment laws. Maybe that’s because prostitution is legal, but that’s just a guess. Theoretically, she could've had a claim against the shop and the show for having to take on the task for two reasons. First, it’s implied she could get fired if she doesn’t deal with the material of a sexual nature. Second, she shows her distaste for dealing with such sexual material. Maybe it was all for the show and a giant act, but the law could've been broken here.
12 Corey didn’t lose that weight naturally
In the first season of Pawn Stars, Corey Harrison weighed about 365 pounds. During filming in 2010, he underwent gastric lap band surgery, but that was never mentioned on the television show. Corey lost weight over the next several seasons, and by the fifth season, which was shot during the summer of 2011 and aired later that year, Corey had gotten his weight down to about 250 pounds. While we can understand his desire to keep that part of his life private, talking about the surgery on television, even one time in passing, could have spurred many men (who make up the bulk of the audience) to take a look at the surgery. A 2015 study shows that five times more women pursue gastric lap band surgery than men do. Corey talking about it might have helped ease any stigma men have about the procedure.
11 The store was once sued for destroying stolen material
In late 2013, the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop was the focus of a criminal complaint alleging negligence unlike any we’ve ever heard of. Apparently, a woman by the name of Jennifer Beckman stole a coin collection of her uncle’s worth about $50,000. She brought in the coins and was given $12,375. The shop decided it would be worth more to melt down the coins and sell the gold rather than to try and sell the collection. In most cases, a pawn shop has to hold onto material it takes in for 90 days in the event the original owner wants to buy it back, and this buys the police time to track down stolen goods. Coins are not subject to that law, so by the time the pawn shop was notified, it had already destroyed the collection. The matter was settled out of court.
10 Corey was once arrested for a bar fight
You’ll find an awesome tale of Corey deciding that a barstool worked just as well as a toilet elsewhere on this list, but it’s not the only time the rotund son on Pawn Stars has been in trouble with the law when it comes to drunken antics in a bar. In March 2011, Corey - who's lost quite a bit of weight - was out celebrating at Murray’s Saloon and Eatery in Big Bear Lake in California. Corey was getting a little loud and making people around him feel uncomfortable after he shoved a security guard. Officials were called, and he also shoved a sheriff’s deputy. He was arrested for battery and resisting arrest, but after a period of being allowed to sober up, he was cited on much lesser charges and released. While somebody like this should perhaps stay away from bars, Corey went ahead and bought one instead.
9 The cast was sued by their first agent
Rick Harrison thought of the idea for Pawn Stars years before it ever made it to television, and the concept was turned down by several production companies. Once things finally started to come around, though, the Harrisons (and Chumlee) did the smart thing and got an agent from Las Vegas by the name of Wayne Jeffries. According to court documents, Jeffries was a major part of getting the Harrisons their deal, and he was supposed to share in the money that came from the show, including merchandising royalties. He, however, thought his role was immediately diminished once the success happened, and he was fired without getting what was due to him. The lawsuit was quietly settled with undisclosed terms.
8 Chumlee is currently on probation for gun charges
On March 9, 2016, Austin “Chumlee” Russell, was arrested on gun and drug charges when police searched his home in connection with police serving a warrant on his home in a sex assault case. While the sex charges were never substantiated, police did find a bunch of illegal firearms and drugs that got the goofy sidekick in trouble. The 33-year-old was found with a dozen illegal guns, including assault-style MP5 rifles that weren't registered. He also had about five ounces of marijuana, Xanax, and some methamphetamine. He could've gotten a lot of jail time but compromised to three years of probation and counseling. If he doesn’t get in trouble during his probation, the charge will be dropped to a misdemeanor, meaning he could own firearms again. You probably won’t be seeing him firing any guns on the next few seasons, although producers opted not to fire him.
7 Those aren’t regular customers in the shop
If you think that the people who seemingly walk off the street with items to sell just happened to be there at the same time as the cameras, you’re as big a fool as producers hope. Not only are the sellers carefully screened and their items thoroughly researched beforehand, but even the people in the background are hired extras. You’ll sometimes see real customers who've been plucked out of the long lines that form outside during filming, but for the most part, they're all actors who've been hired to play the roles of extras. Imagine how many regular customers would look at the camera the whole time and not just appear to be shopping. The “experts” who come in know exactly what they'll be looking at, so all of that knowledge that seems to come out of their head has more than likely been recently put there.
6 These days, it’s less pawn shop and more tourist attraction
You won’t find a lot of pawn shops on TripAdvisor, but the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, where all of the interior filming takes place for Pawn Stars, is ranked No. 94 of 461 things to do in Las Vegas on the popular tourism site as of August 2017. If you want to believe it’s actually just a pawn shop when cameras aren’t there, we urge you never to visit the store or to read the reviews of the site on TripAdvisor. What you’ll discover is that while it still technically does act as a pawn shop, it's much more a place to get a Pawn Stars T-shirt or coffee mug. It’s essentially just become a giant gift shop for the television show. People who've gone in said there are items that were purchased on the show on display, but the price tags are often worth double the actual value.
5 The stars of the show are rarely at the shop
As we mentioned, the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop has become more of a destination for tourists who are looking for something other than a casino on a trip to Las Vegas these days. While it’s cool to see the inside of the shop (which is much smaller than it appears on television, according to most reviews), don’t show up, wait in line to get in, and expect to see any of the cast members. The Old Man rarely shows up to even tape the show, and the three stars are usually never at the shop, tending to their other business ventures (Corey owns a bar, Chumlee owns a candy store, Rick owns an entire strip mall), or stay in the back to get their work done during the day. For those who want to meet a celebrity, the store does regular autograph signings with many of the experts who are seen on the show.
4 The shop owners are cashing in on tours
Once the popularity of Pawn Stars took off, there were a few spin-off shows featuring the “expert” stars of the show, such as American Restoration and Counting Cars. Once there were a few places connected to the show and the opportunity to shuttle people from stop-to-stop, the tour industry took notice. The people behind Gold and Silver Pawn Shop took notice, too, and figured out the one thing they could guarantee none of the other tours do: a meet-and-greet with one of the main stars of the show. So now, you’ll get the same basic tour the other outfits do, but the company that teamed with Gold and Silver promises you a famous photo-op. While the other tours generally run $50 to $75 per person, this tour costs $125 per person. So, that begs the question: is the guaranteed chance to meet Corey, Chumlee, Rick or The Old Man really worth $75? We’d rather try our luck at the blackjack table.
3 Prices are inflated for dramatic purposes
Pawn Stars created a ton of TV shows basically taking the same premise and only tweaking it slightly. While we could make an argument Pawn Stars is the just a next-generation version of Antiques Roadshow on PBS, part of the fun on all the shows is when somebody has an item they don’t know the value of and finds out that it's worth a lot. Well, just because somebody says it’s worth a lot doesn’t always mean that’s the only opinion. There was a show made that never got beyond the pilot stage with the premise of Pawn Stars but only featuring military memorabilia. Once the show was killed, producers talked about how they used up to 10 professionals to appraise the value of items and would always choose the one who appraised it at the highest price to be the person appearing on air. They wouldn’t go for the average price because the highest value was where the most drama was.
2 Sometimes, they make bad choices on what to buy
While it makes for good TV when the guys sometimes don’t score a home run with something they’ve purchased, don’t fool yourself into thinking every object isn’t carefully examined and appraised before you see it on a show. However, with some items, like art and autographs, it’s not a precise science. In an early season episode, a woman tried to raise money by selling her script from “The Godfather” that was autographed by producer Al Ruddy. After a bit of haggling, the seller turned down the shop’s $500 offer. Good for them because the script was placed into an auction shortly thereafter and sold for $12,000! Ironically, the person who bought the script was Al Ruddy’s wife, Wanda. While that kind of money isn’t huge to the multi-millionaires on the show, it does prove that they aren’t always perfect when it comes to sizing up the value of an item.
1 Producers may have tried to pull a fast one with a spin-off
Rick Harrison’s name can be seen on most of the spin-off shows to Pawn Stars, but he was taken by surprise when, in 2012, production company Left Field Pictures produced one spin-off, Cajun Pawn Stars, without his permission. While the show only had about 50 episodes and was never close to as popular as the original Las Vegas-based show, reports surfaced that Harrison had a deal that the company and History Channel would not produce nor air a show similar to Pawn Stars. The cast said they weren’t mad at the Louisiana-based family-owned pawn shop because it was a good opportunity but because they were blindsided when the show was added to the network schedule. The issue never got litigious because we’re guessing the production company and History Channel realized their mistake and worked to make the Harrisons happy.
Sources: history.com, gspawn.com, health.ucsd.edu, foxnews.com