When people think of reality TV in the US, one of the first shows that will come to mind is Pawn Stars. Starring Rick Harrison and his family, the History series has been ever-present on the channel since its premiere in 2009. It has run for 16 seasons and continues to draw record numbers of viewers.
As you might expect from the name, Pawn Stars is all about the buying and selling of items in the World Famous Gold & Silver pawn store. The cast negotiates with sellers to buy interesting and rare items before putting them on sale themselves.
However, fans might well wonder what exactly is and isn’t real on the show. After all, pretty much all reality TV is scripted to some degree. You might be surprised by what's faked on Pawn Stars and what's actually real.
19 Fake: The Store Now Operates As More Of A Tourist Attraction
Although the store is genuine and does operate as a pawn shop, it has also morphed into a tourist attraction. Excited fans can constantly be seen at the site and there will often be a queue to get into the building as it is relatively small. The store has been expanded several times and now even has a gift section that sells all kinds of merchandise such as t-shirts and mugs.
18 Real: Gold & Silver Pawn Is A Real Store
Gold & Silver Pawn, the store where most of the action takes place, is a genuine pawn shop. It is located in Las Vegas and is open every day, allowing customers to come in and trade in their goods for cash. So if you are in the city of sin, it is definitely a place that you can visit and get some extra cash if you have any unwanted items with you.
17 Fake: Sellers Are Pre-Approved Before Appearing
Sellers who appear on the show are never people who have just come and walked straight onto the set. Anyone can try to sell an item that will be featured on Pawn Stars, so big-ticket things will have to be pre-approved by producers. This helps to make sure no controversial figures appear, but also ensures consent and release forms are signed in advance.
16 Real: Around 50 Employees Work In The Store
The success of the show has allowed Rick and his family to expand the Gold & Silver Pawn shop significantly. Their other work also means that they are not as present in the store as they used to be. To combat this, the business has hired more than 30 new employees to cope with the extra demand and new customers. Around 50 people now work at the store.
15 Fake: Items Are Screened So Only Valuable Things Make It Onto The Show
One thing that you will have noticed from watching Pawn Stars is that almost everything the cast buys is a valuable or unique item. Even things they don’t end up buying usually have some kind of interesting story to them. This is because as well as approving sellers, producers also screen items. They only want stuff that will make good television to appear in the show after all.
14 Real: Chumlee Has Really Broken Expensive Items
Chumlee plays a comic relief character in Pawn Stars, but this buffoonish personality is actually more true to life than you may have realized. He has caused thousands of dollars of damages over the years. One notable example saw him break a stand-up bass after leaning on it. Rather than admit to the accident, he hid the instrument and Rick was forced to pay out $20,000 to its original owner when he returned to collect it.
13 Fake: Prices Are Agreed On Before Filming
As part of the pre-screening process, producers will usually agree to a price with potential sellers before a show. This is because it can be difficult to get an accurate valuation of how much something is worth. A lot of work can go into handling negotiations and ensuring a fair price is reached for both the buyers and the sellers. However, much of this is done off screen as it would not make for good television.
12 Real: The Store Looks The Same As It Does On Show
Anyone visiting Gold & Silver Pawn will be immediately familiar with it. Although a lot of the building is not shown on the television show, much of it is exactly the same as it appears on the screen. There are no built sets or off-site locations that are used for filming.
11 Fake: Negotiations Between Sellers And Buyers Are Lightly Scripted
By the time it comes to the negotiation between Rick and a seller, the value of the item will already have been worked out with a price agreed between the two parties. The negotiation that appears in the show is a lightly scripted scene that is only meant for television purposes. It is not a genuine discussion between the two sides. The outcome will have been agreed beforehand with dialogue more or less laid out for the scene.
10 Real: Most Of The Items Are Real
Almost everything that is brought on Pawn Stars is a genuine item that is for sale. Visiting the store in person proves this as you can actually buy the items that have been featured on the show. In fact, going to the official website also means you can purchase some memorable things such as Super Bowl rings and rare guitars.
9 Fake: The Stars Hardly Ever Work Behind The Counter
None of the main cast members from Pawn Stars are likely to be found working behind the counter during normal hours. Following the success of the TV show, they can usually only be found in-store during filming or for other important business. They leave the normal work to the other employees at Gold & Silver Pawn.
8 Real: Sometimes They Get Ripped Off
Although the cast of Pawn Stars isn’t afraid to severely undervalue an item and pay a seller a lot less than they might deserve, the opposite can also be true. Some individuals have managed to sell forgeries and fakes to Rick & his workers. Some of these were simply misunderstandings, but in other cases, they were purposely misled and lost out after spending big money on something that was not authentic.
7 Fake: They Don’t Just Sell Pawn Gear But Lots Of Merchandise
As the success of Pawn Stars has grown, the people involved have started to take advantage of that success by selling all kinds of swag and promotional gear in the store. The official site for the store even contains a section specifically for merchandise. Here they sell everything from t-shirts to fridge magnets. Fans can also by hats, caps, teddy bears, Bobbleheads, and keychains.
6 Real: They Can Lose Money On What They Buy
Despite all the effort that Gold & Silver Pawn goes into ensuring they only buy at the right price, they can still lose money. They can make mistakes or see the value of an item suddenly drop. In these cases, they will lose money and with the types of items that they often buy, the losses can be much larger than you might expect.
5 Fake: Not All Sellers Are Random Members Of The Public
While sellers are often pre-approved by producers, some of them are even known to the stars in the show. There have been documented cases where family members or friends of experts and associates of the show have brought in items specifically because they would make good television, rather than because they're genuinely looking to pawn it.
4 Real: The Store Has To Shut For Filming To Take Place
Privacy law and the fact that the producers want to control the action inside the store during filming means that Gold & Silver Pawn closes a lot during a normal working week. Episodes are usually filmed in small chunks, meaning that anyone inside when a scene is about to take place is forced outside until shooting has finished. This allows the cast, sellers, and extras to get to work without members of the public around.
3 Fake: Product Placement Is A Major Part Of The Show
There is lots of product placement in Pawn Stars. The cast probably don’t eat Subway sandwiches round the clock, but you’d think they did from the number of times the brand shows up in almost every episode. It’s clear that Subway sponsors the series in some capacity. The main problem is that the product placement is incredibly obvious. In one scene, the cast even explains how an auction works using a Subway sandwich.
2 Real: Some Of The Stars Have Been In Trouble With The Law
It has not been all smooth sailing for the cast of Pawn Stars. Several of them have had some legal troubles, with Chumlee being the most blatant example. After a police raid on his home, he was charged with a number of crimes. This included owning a prohibited firearm and attempted possession of a controlled substance. He avoided jail by pleading guilty and agreeing to attend counseling.
1 Fake: Some People Are Actors Or Are Found By Producers
Not everyone who appears on the show is a random person off the street who has arrived of their own accord. In fact, many people have stories of either themselves or friends being hired to show up on screen. There are even reports that the experts who come in to help appraise items are not actually friends of Rick, but are found and supplied by the producers of the show.
Sources: Deadline, NY Times, History, NPR