George Knapp goes one-on-one with Pawn Stars' Rick Harrison

LAS VEGAS - Las Vegas is known as a mecca for world-class entertainers and a playground for the rich and famous, but many of the best-known celebrities are residents, not visitors, and one of the most famous of them all isn't a singer or actor.  Pawn Stars star Rick Harrison owns a pawn shop on Las Vegas Boulevard.

George Knapp: "Is it still fun?"
Harrison: "Oh yeah. It's a blast! I love it! I'm at a point in my life where, if I don't like it, I don't have to do it."

Although Harrison is a bonafide tv star thanks to the runaway success of his reality series,  he is at heart still a pawnbroker; a grown-up version of the kid nicknamed spotter, who loved buying and selling stuff.

Harrison: "But I get a lot more weird stuff, I'll tell you that."
Knapp: "Like what?"
Harrison: "Ahh, everything.  Everything from like 200-year-old Japanese porn to -- I have maps of the island of California. I bought a 200-year-old Viking bracelet once. It just never ends."

It's not every pawn shop that hangs original Picassos on its walls or paintings by other masters, but Gold and Silver Pawn is still a working pawn shop, dealing in coins and jewelry as any pawn dealer would, but tv fame has raised the bar.

Harrison: "I try to rotate it out. I got so much weird stuff. I mean, I've got Benny Binion's hat over there."
Knapp: "How much for that?"
Harrison: "I'm not selling it. I have a Samurai sword from 1493 over there. I have Super Bowl rings. I have Olympic medals. I have..."
Knapp: "Super Bowl rings you got from the athletes?

"Well, no no no. It's from when I was in the Super Bowl, and I won," Harrison said with a laugh.  "No, I literally get them from the athletes."

Harrison is a history buff and sometimes would rather horde than sell.

Knapp: "How much of it do you just want to take home?"
Harrison: "There's only so much stuff you can fit in your home.  I also have a wife that says, 'no, that's not going to be on my wall.'"

Who would have thought, to quote Harrison, that a tv show about four fat guys in a Las Vegas pawn shop would be such a hit?"  But it was and still is a hit all over the world. 

Take their tour to Asia:  The Pawns Stars were greeted as if they were the reunited Beatles.

Harrison's wedding a few years ago was a magnet for paparazzi in helicopters.

"I mean, look behind you, your life is different," Knapp said as he referenced the crowd standing around watching.

"Oh Yeah. It's deeply weird. I've been mobbed in Kuala Lumpur," Harrison said.  "For years, I pitched a reality show because I thought it would be good for business. For lack of a better term, I was always just a media whore, and whenever I got national press, it was good for business. I never thought it would turn into this."

Pawn Stars has inspired dozens of spin-offs and knock-offs. It airs in 150 countries and 38 languages.  Season 14 is now in production. 

Harrison has been honored by the pawn industry for helping to transform the image of a business often characterized as shady. Even his Las Vegas competitors have benefitted from his show's success.

Harrison said he's had to expand his shop a dozen times and build an adjacent mall with other stores and food outlets.

The pawn stars are now millionaires and don't really get to work the counter anymore.  But, they do make time to interact with customers and fans and are active with charities.

Politicians know they can get media attention by showing up. In a city known for dazzling attractions and billion dollar Shangri-la's, so who would think that a little pawn shop would generate lines longer than airport security? 

Every day, 4000 people line up and drop by Gold and SIlver Pawn via taxi or tour bus.

Knapp: "It's an empire. It's not only 14 seasons but the business outside; it's a tourist attraction.

Harrison: "Yeah, I compete with the "Welcome To Las Vegas" sign for the number one non-gaming tourist attraction in Las Vegas. I get more visitors than the Hoover Dam."

You can see more of George Knapp's interview with Rick Harrison of Pawn Stars Saturday, Dec. 31.  It'll air in the 8 News NOW New Year's Eve Special which starts at 9 p.m.

 


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