GUEST COLUMN

BY PETER W. WAGNER
PUBLISHER NW IOWA REVIEW

A few weeks ago I wrote that Connie and I, the morning we arrived in Las Vegas for business and fun, and before I learned I had Covid, had visited the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop made famous by History Channel’s Pawn Stars television series.

We had just a few hours earlier checked in at the Golden Nugget for the 2021 Circus Fans Association convention. Since we had arrived a day early, and our room wouldn’t be ready until afternoon, we decided to visit the location where the Pawn Stars TV show is filmed. The doorman told us we could walk there since it was only a short six blocks. He also told us not to miss it since the building was much smaller than most visitors expect. What he didn’t tell us was Vegas blocks are longer than the standard blocks we have back home.

From a distance the multi-purpose building looks large, and it is. But once inside, the public space is tight and limited. Evidently the rest of the building is used for offices and as storage space for pawned and purchased vehicles and other oversized items.

Of course, none of the TV series stars were there. “The Old Man” business founder and family patriarch Richard Harrison, has been dead since 2018. Nothing is ever said about his passing since he still shows up on many of the TV program reruns. The show, after all, has been on television since 2009.

Rick Harrison, his son Cory “Big Hoss” Harrison and comic relief “Chumlee” Russell were also absent from the scene. We were told they only come in when new episodes of Pawn Stars are being filmed.

But there was a life-size image of Rick in the back area of the narrow show room and visitors could stand there to have their picture taken. I did, and in the photo it looks like two living, breathing human beings standing side-by-side.

There was no charge for standing beside the fake Rick for the photo but much of one side of the narrow building did feature a large souvenir area selling t-shirts, hats, cups and more with Rick’s image or the store logo emblazoned in large type. Connie and I passed on buying any souvenirs.

We also passed on buying any of the pawned items for sale. The building was full of tourists, and it was difficult to even get close to the two long rows of showcases. There were a number of employees in black t-shirts ready to wait on customers, but most individuals were just looking rather than buying. I was told the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop employs over 700 individuals, but that number may include those who work in the parking lot and at Rick’s Rollin Smoke BBQ and Tavern and other businesses just across the parking lot from the pawn shop.

The activity in the small parking lot was an amazing thing to see. A half dozen men were busy directing new vehicles into the lot at the entrance and keeping others from attempting to enter through the exit. Once in the lot every car or pickup was quickly directed to a parking spot that had amazingly just become empty moments earlier. Once out of their vehicle, each new group was directed to a reception table at the front of the lot where they were encouraged to register for a special in-person time with Rick, Cory and Chumlee. We didn’t bother since we didn’t expect to be back in Vegas when the prize was awarded.

Speaking of Chumlee, Connie and I attempted to visit his cards store, Chumlee’s Candy on the Blvd, across from the pawn shop parking lot and near the BBQ restaurant. But there was a note on the door announcing that whoever was working the shop was gone for five minutes. We sat outside Chumlee’s Candy for better than a half hour, waiting for a taxi to take us back to the hotel, and never saw anyone return to open the store.

We did look in the window, however, and were surprised to see a very small, limited space with few candies that were not available at most c-stores. The Sugar Shack in the Emporium at Arnold’s Park has a bigger and better selection of candies.

There were questions earlier this year regarding the status of Pawn Stars. But Rick is said to be surprised by the program’s success. He thought it would run one or two seasons at best.

The production of new shows did stop for a time, however, because of the Covid pandemic. But new shows were introduced in August when the program moved to Saturday nights on the History Channel.

Connie and I enjoy watching Pawn Stars every once in a while. We sometimes learn a tidbit or two of history and enjoy watching Chumlee – supposedly the second banana to Rick and Cory – spout out historic facts regarding a piece brought in by someone looking to sell it. I often wonder if the three stars are that smart regarding what is brought in or if the filming is stopped long enough for them to look up details on a nearby computer?

Whatever, it was fun to see how something that looks so big on TV can be so small in reality and still provide both fun and financial opportunity for so many.