“I’M RICK HARRISON, AND THIS IS MY PAWN SHOP. I WORK HERE WITH MY OLD MAN AND MY SON, COREY. EVERYTHING IN HERE HAS A STORY AND A PRICE. ONE THING I’VE LEARNED AFTER 21 YEARS: YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT IS GONNA COME THROUGH THAT DOOR.”
IF YOU HAVE A TELEVISION, you have probably heard those word’s on The History Channel’s hit series Pawn Stars, a reality show that documents day-to-day interactions of Rick Harrison, the owner of Gold & Silver Pawn Shop.
This isn’t just any pawn shop. This is the most famous pawn shop in the world, located in one of the most famous cities in the world— Las Vegas. Each episode features customers negotiating to sell off-the-wall items and collectibles, and depicts Harrison evaluating each piece and trying to get a deal that pleases both him and the customer.
The show mainly focuses on Harrison but also includes his father Richard ‘Old Man’ Harrison, his son Corey Harrison, and Corey’s childhood friend, Chumlee. Rick and his father opened the shop in 1988 when the city’s population grew to 250,000. At that time, there was only one more pawn shop license available and Harrison was the first in line to claim it.
Today, Pawn Stars is in its fourth season and continues to be a huge hit, airing in more than 150 countries and in 37 languages. It is TV’s biggest cable hit and reaches 7 million viewers during its two airings on any given Monday night. What makes the show so popular you ask? Well, according to Rick, “One word: Chumlee.”
The Gold & Silver Pawn Shop is now one of the biggest tourist stops in Las Vegas, attracting 4,000 – 5,000
people per day, a far cry from the 70-100 before the show started. To handle the traffic, Harrison increased his staff from 13 employees to more than 50 and underwent a $400,000 expansion of his showroom, which now occupies 15,000 square feet and houses more than 12,000 items.
To be an expert pawnbroker, you have to be knowledgeable about different items, or know someone who is. While Harrison does call in experts from time to time, he handles most of the trade-ins himself, since he can spot a fake or fraudulent item quickly. “The pawn industry changes like everything else,” he explains. “Real slot machines have gone to high-def video machines now. We have gone from pocket watches and DVRs, to Rolexes and Xboxes.” This means that Harrison has to constantly stay informed of the current trends, as there is no way to predict the next item a customer will bring in.
Harrison explains that one of the most common misconceptions in the industry is the assumption that pawn shops work with stolen merchandise. “We are one of the most regulated industries in the country. It is as difficult to get a pawn license in Nevada as a gaming license.”
“I am an incredible bookworm. Up until a few years ago, I would read three or four hours a night. I mean I read science books, chemistry books, history books. I read that stuff for fun. And eventually all of it started melding together. It not only helps when I’m buying the stuff, but when I’m selling it too. So, I’m not that cool; I’m just a bookworm,” said Harrison in an interview with TV Guide.
Harrison admits there are items that he prefers to keep. “With things I really like, I will put them in the store with really exorbitant price tags on them so they don’t sell for a year or two,” he said. “And then, once I am over it, I sell it. Otherwise, I’d have a whole house decorated in pawn motif!”
Harrison said the coolest items in the shop are a flag that has been on the moon and a first edition Playboy magazine featuring Marilyn Monroe.
Harrison does have some advice when it comes to pawning an item. “Do your research, and then your expectations might be more reasonable. We offer [the customers] what [their items are] worth to us. It is a business, so it has to make financial sense for us to buy it. The price we are willing to pay may be determined by whether the item will sell quickly, or is so unique we will have it for quite a while before a buyer or collector wants to purchase it.”
With new fame comes fortune. Revenue has increased exponentially for the shop, the cast receives appearance fees, and fans can purchase Pawn Stars branded shirts, hats, games, smart phone and tablet apps, and more. So when Bally Technologies unveiled its Pawn Stars™ video slot machine, no one was surprised that it was a big hit, just like the show.
In the game, you can select Rick, Old Man, Corey or Chumlee as your primary character. Then you’ll enter the world of buying, selling and negotiating, and interact with the characters as if you are on the show. All the video footage of the Pawn Stars was shot specifically for the game. The interactions are not clips from the show.
As you play, you collect items that can be bought or sold during bonus events. A wheel spin took me to Rick’s
Bonus, where it was time to negotiate a price. I was pitching my old bicycle, and asked a high price. Rick laughed. After a little give and take, Rick made his final offer, and then offered to call in an expert.
Should I take the money? If the expert ruled my item to be genuine, it would double the price. I called for the expert, who informed us my classic bike was a phony. There went my bonus. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
There are a total of 46 items to collect and sell, with values that randomly change. The bike, for example, isn’t automatically worth more than the baseball, so there’s no strategy in selecting higher-priced items to sell. It is totally up to the player, the Pawn Star and the random number generator inside the machine.
Throughout the game you have the option to keep the same character, or change to one of the other Pawn Stars. And spinning a winning combination of the character’s symbol pays double.
The game is rich in features and has multiple bonus events, including a wheel spin that shows just what event you are going to play. The machine is making its way to casinos throughout the country and is receiving great reviews from players.
The Pawn StarsTM video slot game invites players to pick an item to buy or sell, then negotiate with the Pawn Stars for credit awards. Free games, 11 wheel bonus prizes, wilds, pick ‘em features, and iDeck interaction all make this game a rewarding new way to experience the popular
Look for this exciting game at your local casino, and check out Pawn Stars Monday nights on The History Channel!
BY G. DOUGLAS DREISBACH