Posted by: cassymuronaka | April 16, 2011

Pawn Super Stars

If there was one stop that my son, Jake, was determined to make during his recent 21st birthday celebration trip to Las Vegas, it was to Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, home of the cable television show, “Pawn Stars.” He and his father are huge fans of this show and its owners: The Old Man (grandpa), Rick-Harrison (son), and Big Hoss/Corey (grandson).

There is a simple formula to this 30-minute show, which is a more or less a low-rent version of  “Antiques Roadshow.” Citizens bring in variety of items to the store to sell (I’ve never seen anyone actually want to pawn anything). Rick then scratches his head, hums and haws, and talks about how he needs to talk to a buddy of his to evaluate said item, before eventually asking the citizen, “So, how much do you want for this thing?” Depending upon the citizen’s mental stamina, there ensues a brief negotiation which Rick begins by offering half of the item’s estimated value.

Rick usually gets what he wants, partly because of his pawn experience and comfort with the cameras.  Most people are blinded by television lights and their own greed.

The appeal of a visit to “Pawn Stars” for Jake was a chance to meet and get his photo taken with Chumlee, the supposedly dimwitted childhood friend of Big Hoss, and the breakout star of the History Channel show. The goofy-looking Chumlee, with his innocent love of old toys and dangerous, rotting weapons is the perfect foil for the ruthless business acumen generally displayed by the other three men.

The 24-hour-a-day store looked deserted when we first drove past around midnight Thursday. An episode was being filmed the next day, and camera crews threatened to spill onto Las Vegas Boulevard, so we kept on driving again.  We finally parked for good too late in the afternoon on a Saturday, when a steady stream of taxis was pulling up and dropping off tourists, obvious fans of the show.

What other pawn shop has a velvet rope outside of it, the better to manage the crowds, and a  cheesy sign on its shabby-looking building saying “as seen on TV?”

Despite Jake’s deep reverence for Chumlee, a feeling that he apparently shares with many other young men across the United States, he and his father settled for a photograph of themselves outside the store. The only people selling inside Gold & Silver Pawn when we visited were polite college-age kids.

Although we missed Chumlee, we did spot the cannon that shoots bowling balls,  an unusual piece of inventory featured in one of the show’s episodes.  We also saw a lot of other overpriced offerings, which is not the usual nature of a pawn shop.

The most affordable items in the shop were Chumlee memorabilia.

When the show first began airing, it was Big Hoss who was the show’s anointed sap, a position he may not have enjoyed filling. After a few episodes of the show, Big Hoss became known more frequently as Corey.  And almost over night Corey acquired a massive increase in intelligence and displayed far more sharpness as a negotiator with the public.

The role of comic relief then fell to Corey’s childhood buddy who also works at the pawn shop, Chumlee. And a star was born.

If any of the owners resent Chumlee’s enormous popularity, they wisely keep it to themselves and prefer to commercially capitalize on his cult status.  About one third of the shop’s inventory currently is devoted to Chumlee t-shirts, bobbleheads, golf balls, even chapstick.



  1. Chumlee is like a highway traffic accident. You know you shouldn’t look as you go by, but you just can’t help it.

    • Hahaha, that is true!

  2. i’ve seen bits/pieces of this show but never w/ chumlee. will have to seek him out.

    the two shows about the people who buy abandoned storage spaces is a big favorite in our house now.

  3. … although i’m not sure why the world needs TWO shows about abandoned storage spaces.

    • One of those storage shows is very big here too, especially because the episodes are all filmed nearby. Everyone gave up on “American Pickers,” though.

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