I recently talked with Arizona resident and former work colleague Ron Sparks who comes to Las Vegas once or twice a year. I mentioned to Ron that I had just taken a behind-the-scenes tour of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, the setting for the long-running “Pawn Stars” TV show. “I’ve been there many times,” he said. “I’ve met all the stars: Rick, Chumlee, the Old Man. Great place, yes?”
Well I’ll be. I’ve lived in Las Vegas almost 20 years and last week’s behind-the-scene tour of the “World Famous” Gold & Silver Pawn Shop was my first serious visit. Always before I had seen long lines outside the shop and briefly went inside only once years ago. The occasion last week was friend Libby Hoover’s winning bid in a Hope Link charity auction. She bid and won a “Behind the Scenes Tour and a Meet and Greet.” Libby invited me to go along and I’m glad she did. Our host was Jeffrey Von Tobel whose main job at the shop is online orders and shipments, but who is a great guide as well.
Libby and I loved our visit. We were introduced to store owner (and TV celebrity) Rick Harrison who looks and sounds just as he does on TV. Harrison told us, when I asked if the store customers (some 3500 people visit the store each day) buy a lot of products or are just there to look around. “Yes they buy, especially t-shirts” (Pawn shop t-shirts range in price from $25 to @335), he said. “But due to supply problems, we’re having difficultie getting t-shirts these days. We also have problems getting bags for the shirts as well.” (In a call later to the shop, a lovely young lady revealed that the t-shirt shortage has forced the removal of some shirts and sizes from online offerings.)
Harrison posed for photos and Libby and I then toured behind the scenes. I learned that the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop had its own frame shop and its own jeweler. We were also told about several storage rooms that were full of items. One room keeps pawned items for 90 days awaiting a repayment of money loaned on the items. Items purchased by the shop are in another area for 30 days in case items with serial numbers have been reported stolen and the police call on area pawn shops for the item; and items seen on the TV show are held until the TV segment is aired which, in a some cases, can be as long as a year after purchase.
The shop has some 40 employees. Daytime hours are 10:00 am. to 5:00 p.m (free parking is available), but a “pawn” window is open 24 hours a day. Several times a week Annie Bananie Las Vegas Tours come through the shop; we encountered a tour group (seemed like a large group) as we exited. This tour group also visits Count’s Custom shop.
Where are visitors and online buyers from? All over the world. Von Tobel told us the TV show airs in 136 countries and he’s heard the show is the number one pirated show in China. Online buyers, spending millions of dollars a year, came from throughout the world as well. Von Tobel said, “Only last week we sent a sculpture worth $50,000 to a customer in England.”
I noticed the pristine condition of the pawn shop display cases and Rick Harrison commented that he must replace the display cases at least once a year because of scratches ad other damages. Every inch of wall space is used to display items for sale, and the display cases are full. I was surprised at the number of paintings by artists like Dali and Picasso that were available for sale. A number of posters had been purchased from the former Hard Rock Casino Hotel as well. A life-size cardboard picture of Rick Harrison is at the far end of the shop, and families and individuals love to pose for pictures there. More good P.R.
Lesson learned: If you take part in a charity auction and have a chance to bid on a Behind the Scenes Tour and Meet & Greet at the Gold & Silver Pawn shop, make a bid. You’ll have an interesting time AND…if you are lucky (and we were) you’ll get a t-shirt signed by Rick Harrison.
Ain’t Las Vegas grand?