Why Pawn Stars is totally fake

Pawn Stars is one of the biggest successes in reality television. The daily goings-on at the massive, family-owned Gold & Silver Pawn in Las Vegas combine the gruff family dynamics and good ol' boy vibe of Duck Dynasty with the treasure-hunting thrills of Antiques Roadshow and the potential for scandal that goes along with everything in Sin City. But behind the scenes, things are not exactly as they appear on camera.

While the items you see on TV maybe be legitimately valuable, how authentic are the interactions among the show's stars, customers, and experts? If you dropped by the shop, could you really wheel and deal with one of the guys? They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but we've done some digging to dish on the reasons Pawn Stars is totally fake.

Going to the real pawn shop is like visiting a Hard Rock Café

Gold & Silver Pawn is a real, working pawn shop in Las Vegas, open every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with a small window open 24/7 to trade in stuff for cash to fund any and all illicit Sin City adventures. But since the show has taken off, the shop has become much more of a tourist attraction than a place to hock old coins and family heirlooms. If you visit, you're far more likely to run into a dozen or more tourists taking pictures than you are to see the stars of the show. It's more akin to a visit to a TV set or a pop culture museum than it is a pawn shop. (Which is good…because real pawn shops are pretty seedy.)

The deals are arranged beforehand

When a scene starts and some guy comes in off the street to pawn some Civil War-era blunderbuss or what have you, it's anything but spontaneous. Each customer that comes in to trade has already signed a release form consenting to the use of their image and voice. Furthermore, their item for sale has already been screened, vetted, examined, and cleaned up for TV. Pawn Stars isn't going to just put any item on TV—only the good, valuable stuff is going to make it onto the air, or even get filmed in the first place. By the time the interaction is recorded, the value of the item has been predetermined, and the back and forth between the employees and the customer has all been lightly scripted so as to arrive at the agreed upon price point.

You won't run into the stars of the show

Unless they're taping, where all of the sales have been carefully mapped out, the stars of the show don't work the counters waiting for business. Tourists in the shop are so eager to get a picture of them that they can't risk it—if some other customer is accidentally photographed in the process, it's a violation of Nevada's privacy laws. Nevertheless, there are 50 other employees at the store who do the bulk of the day-in, day-out pawn shop stuff. The stars of Pawn Stars, if they're on the premises at all when taping isn't happening, are generally somewhere in a back room signing autographed photos…which are then sold at the store for $25 each.

It's all about the merch

The shop looks almost exactly like it does on TV, but with a few exceptions. The show is carefully shot at angles so as not to show the huge amounts of souvenir merchandise the store sells. (The back room is loaded from floor to ceiling with boxes of T-shirts, for example.) Gold & Silver Pawn makes just as much money, if not more, from the sales of merchandise. (The Chumlee stuff sells the best.)

The customers aren't always random strangers

Beyond even the pre-approved items to ensure good television, not every sale comes from a regular Joe. On one episode, an elderly woman brought in a '50s-vintage Gibson electric guitar, which she claimed had been sitting under a bed for the past five decades. Rick called in a guitar expert, who said it was the real deal—but he didn't actually inspect it the way a legitimate guitar appraiser would. (He doesn't remove the pickups, for example.) As it turns out, the guitar was supposedly already on sale in that same expert's guitar store, and the woman was reportedly the mother of an employee.

The product placement

The show's production company earns a lot of money through blatant product placement. One of the biggest Pawn Stars sponsors is Subway. That explains why the staff are always eating Subway, or perfectly crafted sandwiches in Subway wrappers are sitting around, or why Subway sandwiches are discussed by their full menu name. You know, just like in real life.