What The Cameras Never Showed You On Pawn Stars

Take four seemingly average, middle class men and watch them at work, buying and selling unique items in a pawn shop. Doesn't sound too exciting, right? And yet, millions of people have been tuning in across more than 150 countries to watch History Channel's reality show "Pawn Stars" since it premiered in 2009!

"Pawn Stars," which features Rick Harrison, his son Corey Harrison, and Austin "Chumlee" Russell, highlights the daily inner workings of the world famous Gold & Silver Pawn shop in Las Vegas, Nevada and is in its 20th season as of this writing. Rick owns the shop, which he opened in 1989 with his father, Richard Harrison — fondly referred to as "The Old Man" — who was also co-owner and on the show until his death in June 2018.

As you can imagine, the show brought in tons of business, but also droves of tourists, wanting to get a glimpse of the shop and the pawn "stars" featured on the show. But for those who take the time to travel to the Gold & Silver Pawn shop, they'll most likely find that it's not exactly what they expected. Though "Pawn Stars" is a reality show, some things about the staff and the shop are not what producers want viewers to know. So just what are some of the things the cameras never showed on "Pawn Stars"? 

Pawn Stars is not as real as you might think

While the shop on "Pawn Stars" is an actual pawn shop with real customers that come and go, anyone selling an item on the show has been vetted by producers ahead of time. 

Travis Benton, Gold & Silver Pawn's general manager who works behind the scenes, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2014 about the process, explaining that not only does the item need to be something "worthy" of being on camera, but the customer needs to be coachable and appear relaxed during the interaction. The price negotiation part is also something that is worked out ahead of time, according to a Vital Vegas article, which claims there is a price agreed upon before filming starts so any haggling is just for show.

The article also claims that — due to the visibility the show gave the shop — filming became too challenging with the crowds, so a duplicate shop stage was built, replicating Gold & Silver Pawn. This way they could control who is in the shot and even employ extras for the background. According to Vital Vegas, if you look closely enough, you can see differences in the door and the signage at the entrance.

Don't expect to be served by the stars themselves

Given that Gold & Silver Pawn workers were now doubling as TV stars, it makes sense that customers who are not vetted for the show will rarely be served by Rick Harrison, Austin "Chumlee" Russell, Corey Harrison, or The Old Man (when he was still around to give the boys hell), though Travis Benton did share with the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the stars were often around to shake hands and sign autographs, a job unto itself, as Benton reported there is typically a long line to just get into the shop for a hope of seeing them. In 2011, when "Pawn Stars" was still new, Rick told David Letterman that the shop got 2,000-4,000 visitors a day. "It's the single biggest attraction in Las Vegas. I mean people line up for miles," Letterman agreed. And though Rick's there almost every day, he's usually working from the back office.

Russell told Global News in 2013 that they were surprised by the show's success. "We're going to have a cool story to tell our friends ... until everyone forgets about us," he shared about their discussions after shooting the first season.

After 20 seasons, the show and the shop are still very popular. A 2022 Wander Wisdom article detailed the author's recent visit to the pawn shop, and — although none of the stars were onsite that day — there were life-size cutouts of Rick and his father to snap a selfie with.

Some of the pawn stars have side businesses

Rick Harrison has been doing business since he was 13 years old, as he told David Letterman in 2011. He also shared with Mark Levin on Life, Liberty & Levin that he only went to school through the ninth grade before he dropped out, becoming self-educated by reading books. The pawn shop in Las Vegas was his first official business, and though "Pawn Stars" took that business to another level, he didn't want to stop there. In 2015, Rick opened Pawn Plaza, a container shopping center adjacent to the pawn shop, though it's not affiliated with the show. According to Eater Las Vegas, Rick's Tavern and Rick's Rollin' Smoke were two new tenants in the plaza, though it appears by their website that the two businesses have since merged.

In 2014, Rick's son, Corey Harrison, made an unexpected move and bought into a chain of salons called Beauty Bar, which also has a nightclub inside. He and a friend bought the Las Vegas location, but in 2018, the two jumped ship, which was likely a smart move, given that store would be closed down a year later.

Perhaps less surprising is Austin "Chumlee" Russell's dive into entrepreneurship. In 2017, along with his brother, Sage Russell, Chumlee opened up a candy shop in Palm Plaza, located next to the pawn shop. He indicated in his intro video that he would be working at the store, which is called Chumlee's Candy on the Boulevard.

Rick and Corey Harrison have five marriages between them

When Richard "The Old Man" Harrison died in 2018, he left behind his wife of 58 years, JoAnne Harrison. Unfortunately, his son, Rick Harrison, and his grandson, Corey Harrison, weren't quite as lucky in the marriage department. Rick made his first go at marriage with Kim Harrison, who is Corey's mother, in 1982. They had another son, Adam, in 1984, and then divorced in 1985. 

The following year, Rick married Tracy Harrison, whom The U.S. Sun reported he met on a blind date, and the couple welcomed a son, Jake, in 2003. While that union only lasted eight more years, Rick wouldn't stay single for long, soon marrying his third wife, Deanna Burditt, in 2013. In 2012, he told People of his new fiancée, "It's perfect symmetry. I've got three boys. She's got three girls. We're basically the Brady Bunch." A quick Google search of Rick still lists Burditt as his current wife, but an article from The U.S. Sun reports they secretly divorced in 2020.

Corey married his high school sweetheart, Charlene Harrison, in 2009. According to Married Biography, they worked together at the Gold & Silver Pawn shop while they were married, but divorced in 2015. Corey then tied the knot with Korina "Kiki" Harrison in 2018. According to an announcement in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the newlyweds were expecting their first child. Sadly, the two divorced in 2019, and there was no further mention of the pregnancy.

The boys faced some legal troubles

Austin "Chumlee" Russell isn't related to the Harrisons, but he's basically treated like family — if you count the teasing and scolding he often endures. Still, the man can hold his own and will often surprise his co-workers and viewers with his knowledge and occasional ability to pull off a sweet deal. 

Unfortunately, that judgment failed him off-screen. The Associated Press (via USA Today) reported that, in 2016, Russell was arrested for charges including possession of an unlicensed firearm and drugs. He was taken into custody after police searched his home as part of a sexual assault investigation. By May 2016, CBS News reported Russell would take a plea and serve no jail time. Surprisingly, the whole thing was kept tightly wrapped and, as the show had already concluded filming that season, per Fox News, there was no mention of his legal troubles on TV. Rick Harrison told the outlet: "We don't have details yet, but we are here to help Chumlee any way we can."

Meanwhile, Corey Harrison has had his own trouble with the law. In 2011, TMZ reported that he was arrested on suspicion of battery and resisting arrest, reportedly stemming from a dispute between Corey and another patron at a bar. In 2014, an intoxicated Corey was accused of urinating on a stool in a bar, and he issued an apology, telling People, "Not my finest moment, obviously. I sincerely apologize to everyone for my behavior. I am truly sorry."

The shop was under suspicion for melting stolen coins

Buying and selling merchandise from a pawn shop obviously has its risks and rewards. But there are also laws in place to safeguard against some of those risks — like the chance that someone is trying to sell stolen merchandise. Nevada has a law that pawnbrokers have to hold on to items purchased for 30-90 days before selling or disposing of them. However, this doesn't apply to coins, which was the reason the guys of "Pawn Stars" ended up in a bit of hot water.

In 2013, a woman came into Gold & Silver Pawn to sell some gold coins, which the shop paid about $12,000 for. Unbeknownst to them, she had allegedly taken the coins from her uncle, who had reported them stolen. Per ABC News, the owner of the coins, David Walters, filed a suit with the Clark County Justice Court to get the coins back. Unfortunately, the police didn't make it to the pawn shop in time and were told they'd already been melted down, something that was common practice.

While the general public might have certain misconceptions about merchandise taken into a pawn shop being stolen, the Harrison family maintains that's not how they do business. Early on in the series, Rick Harrison stated, "If something's stolen, I don't want it in my shop," while Corey Harrison added, "I work very closely with Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Their computers are hooked right into mine."

Olivia Black is taking legal action over her firing

Olivia Black was a new addition to Gold & Silver Pawn and to "Pawn Stars," appearing in Season 5. The tattooed, sole female among the male stars quickly became popular with fans and seemed to get along well with the Harrison family, as well as with Chumlee Russell, who may have had a little crush on her. But at some point in the season, provocative photos of her that were posted to a pinup site came to light. Because "Pawn Stars" was somewhat family oriented, the producers decided she wasn't right for the show. While it was rumored that Rick Harrison fired Black, he told Fox 411 News, "I never fired her. ... It's just the production company did not want her working there anymore. What she does in her personal life ... is her business."

In fact, Rick allowed Black to continue working at the shop as long as they weren't filming, per Screen Rant, although she didn't stay long. In a lengthy Reddit thread, Black declared she had no hard feelings for the crew and dished out compliments as she answered questions. "He is a lot more intelligent then [sic] they give him credit for," she said of Russell.

Still, Black wasn't as forgiving of the production company. Fox News reported Black was advised to sue Leftfield Pictures, and, though the outcome of the suit was not revealed, Black seems to have done well for herself after moving on.

Former agents have sued them

Who would have thought some guys working at a pawn shop would become big stars with a hit TV show? Apparently, at least a few people, who took credit for the show and felt screwed over when they were iced out of their positions — so they took action in what appeared to be two different lawsuits against various individuals and organizations in the "Pawn Stars" world. 

First, ex-manager Wayne Jeffries, TMZ reported, claimed he was let go over a leaked story he had been given permission to share. Jeffries was going after damages from Richard Harrison, Rick Harrison, Corey Harrison, and Chumlee Russell, as well as A&E, the History Channel, and other execs. This occurred during the sixth season of the show, when it was already wildly successful.

Just two months later, Venture IAB filed suits as well, claiming they had contracts with the four stars as early as 2007 (before the show) and that they worked on the deal that started it all, getting "Pawn Stars" on the air in 2009. Per The Hollywood Reporter, this suit alleged that show execs Nancy Dubuc and Mary Donahue intentionally got between the stars and the agency and claimed the stars were convinced to end their contract with Venture IAB. The agency was seeking $5 million in damages. No further details about these cases are available at this time.

Corey Harrison almost quit

Corey "Big Hoss" Harrison basically grew up inside Gold & Silver Pawn and has been on the show since it premiered in 2009. In a Season 7 episode, Corey walks into the shop wearing a suit. The guys proceed to question him about it, but he diverts from the real reason — he was at a job interview. "I've been asking my dad to take me more serious around here for months, and he just brushes it off," Corey shared in a side interview. Later in the episode, he sat down with his dad and grandfather and explained he wanted 10% of the business and was tired of waiting around, which was why he started looking elsewhere.

Apparently, a month went by with no word from his "bosses," so Corey brought it up again in Episode 13, saying he didn't think they were taking him seriously. The Old Man as well as Chumlee Russell got on Rick Harrison's case to make a decision. "You guys can't let Corey leave," Chumlee said, adding, "He does a lot more than you think he does and you're going to be working twice as hard if you don't keep him."

In the end, Rick countered with 5% and Big Hoss accepted. During a History Channel Q&A the following year, Corey mentioned the incident but didn't share many details. "Five years from now hopefully everything is going the way it is now. I'm happy ... and hopefully it never changes," he said.

They had a deal with Subway

Product placements in movies used to be subtle, but eventually viewers caught on and now — especially with less commercial interruptions — you'll find plenty of product placements on television shows as well. That includes reality shows like "Pawn Stars," who seem to make their product placements rather overt. For example, it's pretty obvious that Subway is one of the show's sponsors, as the guys at the shop are often seen eating a Subway sub, drinking out of a Subway cup, or just having a Subway wrapper on their desk.

Trend Chaser highlighted a Season 2 episode where Chumlee Russell and Corey Harrison actually go to a Subway restaurant to discuss a deal. At one point, Corey uses his meatball sub in an almost sit-com move as a prop to illustrate how an auction works. He then pretended to be accepting bids on the sandwich. If that weren't cheesy enough, Chumlee quipped that it wasn't realistic, adding, "A five-dollar footlong doesn't cost that much."

Could it get any worse? Apparently it could, as Herald Weekly reported that Chumlee, at one point during his dieting journey, stated he could be the next Jared of Subway. Let's hope he wasn't aware how that all turned out.

Rick and his mom had a legal dispute

June 25, 2018 was a tragic day for the Harrison family, the "Pawn Stars" show, and the many fans who loved Richard "The Old Man" Harrison, who had died at the age of 77. His son, Rick Harrison, wrote on Instagram, in part, "He was my hero and I was fortunate to get a very cool 'Old Man' as my dad."

Sadly, this loss would cause the family even more strife when Richard's widow, JoAnne Harrison, filed a suit in 2022 against Rick, who had taken control of the business upon his father's death. According to 8 News Now, JoAnne claims she hasn't been getting her fair share of the business and profits and that Rick blocked her from financial documentation and the family trust. Rick told the outlet, "I can say that the allegations are false and I think that my 81-year old mother is being manipulated by others for their personal gain." She further alleges that in 2000 or 2001, Rick pressured her to sign over her 51% interest in the shop after being in a coma.

In March 2022, KSN reported that JoAnne filed a temporary restraining order against Rick to stop him from cutting her payments off or concealing financial information. The wording on the order clearly shows the emotional aspect of this fight, starting, "While Rick enjoys his comfortable life as a celebrity firmly in control of all the family businesses and finances, JoAnne is left frightened."

What do the stars make?

When it comes down to it, Rick Harrison is a businessman and has been working since he was a child, so it's no surprise he knows how to make a buck and has quite a few in his bank account. However, being famous for a wildly popular reality show probably doesn't hurt, either.  

As of this writing, Rick has an estimated net worth of $9 million, according to Vegas Food & Fun. Surprisingly, per Insider, as of 2018, Rick only makes $15,000 per episode, while Chumlee Russell makes $25,000 per episode. Russell's net worth is estimated at $5 million, which matches the estimated net worth of Corey Harrison and Richard Harrison while he was still alive. Rick's net worth being higher makes sense, as he holds majority ownership in the pawn shop, but he's also diversified, getting into real estate, book deals, and speaking engagements, per The Things. Of course, Russell and Corey make side money as well and both are staples of the "Pawn Stars" meet and greets. 

Then there's the merchandise. One look at the Gold & Silver Pawn shop website, and one can see the crew is big on selling stuff with their faces on it. According to The Travel, "Pawn Stars" merch is their biggest money-maker. With thousands of tourists visiting daily, it makes sense many of them would want a souvenir — like a signed T-shirt from Chumlee, a Rick sticker, a Big Hoss hat, or "The Old Man" bobblehead.