Drive down Las Vegas Boulevard at any given time during the day near downtown Las Vegas, and you’ll likely see a line of people winding around the corner waiting to get into the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop.
They’re all hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the stars of the History Channel’s hit reality television series, “Pawn Stars.” Now in its seventh season, the show has been wildly successful, and features three generations of a family business. Rick Harrison owns the shop along with his father Richard “The Old Man” Harrison, and operates the shop with son Corey “Big Hoss” Harrison and Austin “Chumlee” Russell.
Deals are usually – though not always – struck with potential sellers of objects ranging from vintage cars, sports memorabilia, Samurai swords and just about everything in between. And, of course, the audience gets to hear the story behind the artifact.
When it comes to negotiations, Rick Harrison said the No.1 rule is to be willing to walk away.
“If you go out and buy yourself a new car, and you’re in love with it and you’re not leaving that dealership until you have it, you’re not negotiating – you’re just figuring out a price to pay," Harrison said.
It’s risky when having to determine whether something is real or not, however, and there’s where Harrison’s knowledge comes in. Known for being “The Spotter” on the show, Harrison seemingly has history books stored in his brain for the intricate details he remembers about things.
That knowledge, he says, all stems from his childhood. As a boy, Harrison suffered from extreme epilepsy, to the point where seizures would immobilize him for days or weeks at a time. That’s where his love for books was formed, and there was nothing for him that could be left undiscovered.
“You’re talking to the guy who read about the history of batteries … twice,” Harrison said.
But it was a character known as The Great Brain, in a series about a boy growing up in Utah in the late 1800’s who came up with schemes to make money that really struck a chord with Harrison. Quitting high school his sophomore year, Harrison began his hustle.
A model family for Las Vegas’ city of second chances mantra, the Harrison family opened the pawn shop in 1988, serving customers 24 hours a day. The part of the business that isn’t featured on the show, however, is one of the main components of the pawn industry: Pawning.
“It’s the oldest form of banking, and it’s the simplest form,” Harrison said. “You bring me a piece of merchandise, I loan you money against it, and I hold the collateral and then you come back and give me the principal plus some interest. It’s that simple.”
Pawners are reluctant to come on the show for privacy reasons, but Harrison admitted that some of the busiest times happen during fight weekends.
Since the show’s success, Harrison has also had success when the camera isn't rolling. Along with endorsements, he will soon open Pawn Plaza next to the shop on Las Vegas Boulevard, which will include restaurants and shopping. Pawn Plaza’s colorful construction can already be seen in motion, and should be open later in the summer.
Harrison also has partnered with the Epilepsy Foundation to raise awareness about the condition and the effects of seizures.
Rick Harrison, owner, World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop
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