Rick Harrison From ‘Pawn Stars’: ‘Most People Don’t Realize How Regulated The Pawn Industry Is’

Zachary Volkert - Author
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Jan. 25 2015, Updated 8:29 a.m. ET

Pawn shop owners have joined the ranks of reality TV’s oddball profession TV shows with Pawn Stars starring Las Vegas’ Gold & Silver man Rick Harrison. Pawn Stars doesn’t fail to bring the drama that keeps reality TV one of the most lucrative types of television on the air today, and that’s not just because of Rick’s natural charisma. Pawn Stars by its nature attracts the kind of seedy characters and heart-wrenching tales that viewers love, and that’s something Harrison has spent much of his adult life learning to navigate.

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Dealing with the people who come through the door of his Pawn Stars store has taken years for Rick to learn. That includes everything from dealing with drunk customers (who he doesn’t buy from) or making sure that thieves aren’t trying to make a quick turnover on stolen goods — something Nevada law has been able to adapt to over time, the Pawn Stars star told NPR.

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“Most people don’t realize how regulated the pawn industry is, especially where I’m at in Nevada. When I take something in pawn or I buy something, I just don’t take [an] ID. I take their driver’s license number, their height, their weight, their eye color, their build. I turn that into the local police department, and then I also turn it into Homeland Security. It’s part of the Patriot Act, and that goes to a central database online across the United States that checks for stolen items.”

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Even before becoming a public persona on Pawn Stars, Harrison had acquired a string of hard-learned lessons over the years, among them, “If someone’s trying sell you a $50 Rolex, it’s fake,” he told NPR. That time devoted to the art of running a pawn shop has also taught Rick other fascinating lessons about the role of pawn shops in the American economy. In fact, he says, up until the 1950s, locales like the one on Pawn Stars were “the number one form of consumer credit in the U.S.”

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Las Vegas, with a reputation for gambling and high rollers, attracts large-ticket items often unheard of at pawn shops in the rest of the country, says Harrison — noting that the store almost always has a Picasso painting on one of its walls. Still, he says, despite Las Vegas’ reputation for crime, the Pawn Stars world he runs is far from mafia-like, Rick told NPR.

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“I offer you $100 and you accept it. I give you the $100, plus a pawn ticket. You have 120 days to come back in my pawn shop and pick up your merchandise and pay me my money back… If you come back in 30 days, you give me $115. I hand you the ring back and everything’s good in the world. Now, if you don’t pay me back. I end up keeping the merchandise and I put it in my showcase for sale. Nothing goes on your credit report. No one chases you down to break any legs or anything like that. You just simply have lost your merchandise. It’s that simple.”

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You can catch Rick Harrison in the newest episode of Pawn Stars‘ ninth season tonight on The History Channel.

[Image via The History Channel]

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