Pawn Stars: A history lesson in every episode

By | September 5, 2012 | Entertainment

Pawn Stars: A history lesson in every episode

Show: Pawn Stars

Airtime: Mon., 10/9c on The History Channel

Rating: TV-PG L (for infrequent coarse language)

Genre: Reality

Cast: Rick Harrison, Richard “The Old Man” Harrison, Corey “Big Hoss” Harrison, Austin “Chumlee” Russel

Ok for ages: 9+

Official site:

Parents should know: This reality show about the inner workings of a family-run Las Vegas pawn shop is fun, informative and educational. The father, son and grandfather who run the business are not only sharp, but they also love history and know how to read people. They’re a close family who sometimes bicker about the business and items brought in to be pawned. There’s a tiny bit of swearing, but the worst words are bleeped out.

Review: I wouldn’t ordinarily recommend a show called Pawn Stars for family viewing, because, well, it just doesn’t sound right. It sounds like that other thing with a similar name that’s definitely not for family viewing. But after watching Pawn Stars the past few years, I don’t even think much about that other thing with a similar name. I just think of Pawn Stars as a fun show with some interesting characters who love history and know how to run a business.

The Gold & Silver Pawn Shop is located on the outskirts of Las Vegas. Three generations of the Harrison family run the business: Rick Harrison, his dad Richard “The Old Man” Harrison, and his son Corey “Big Hoss” Harrison (though he needs a new nickname since shedding 115 pounds off his frame).

You might think that years of running a pawn shop in the gambling capital of the country would harden these guys to the realities of life, but they’ve managed to stay friendly, fair and focused on family. Oh sure, things come up where they argue and bicker over various aspects of the business, but you can tell they really care about each other – even “The Old Man,” whose curmudgeonly persona isn’t fooling me. I know there’s a big teddy bear lurking behind that scowl.

The breakout star of the show is Austin “Chumlee” Russel, a loveable guy in a baseball cap who comes up with some of the funniest lines and seems like he’d be a true and loyal friend. He’s also a crack shot with a gun. Every time the guys need to check out a gun that’s brought in, they take Chumlee out to the shooting range where he invariably wows everyone with his shooting skills.

Prior to the 1950s, pawn shops used to be the leading form of consumer credit in the United States, and it’s interesting that our economy is such that they’re once again helping people make ends meet. And as Rick says, “You never know what is gonna come through that door.”

Any item you can think of has probably been haggled over at The Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, including a Picasso painting, a 16th-century samurai sword, a Super Bowl ring, a $20 bill from infamous hijacker D.B. Cooper, a book signed by “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, and all sorts of cars, trucks, planes and even a submarine.

One reason Pawn Stars is such an excellent family show is the history lesson in every episode. We not only see neat stuff, but we also learn the historical and financial value of it. It makes me wonder what might be lurking in my basement that could pay off the mortgage.

If I was running a pawn shop, I can only imagine that I’d want every cool thing that came through the door. And sometimes the Harrisons DO buy things because they’re cool, but more often than not, they consider the resale value first. You can’t have a bunch of stuff in a pawn shop that’s going to sit there for years on end. They’re in the business to make money, and they always remind the sellers of that.

On the other hand, I’ve seen The Old Man actually offer someone more than the asking price after learning the true value of the item. The Harrisons are always looking for a good deal, but they’re not out to rip anyone off. Pawn Stars teaches kids that you can run a good business, while at the same time being fair and honest. If the guys don’t know the value of something, they’ll call in experts to help, some of which have spun into their own TV shows.

There are other shows about pawn shops around the TV dial, but Pawn Stars is, by far, the best. It’s all about family, running a business in America, and seeing the value of things both interesting and mundane. It also gives you hope that there ARE some reality shows worth watching.

In addition to the Pawn Stars website above, which includes videos, photos, games and more, check out the official site for the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop.

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Jane Boursaw

Jane Boursaw is a family entertainment writer specializing in movies and TV. Visit her at Reel Life with Jane; follow her on Twitter; become a friend on Facebook; and email

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