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LICENSE TO PAWN by Rick Harrison


Deals, Steals, and My Life at the Gold & Silver

by Rick Harrison with Tim Keown

Pub Date: June 7th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4013-2430-8
Publisher: Hyperion

Host of the History Channel’s Pawn Stars unsentimentally breaks down the curious world of buying and selling pre-owned merchandise.

Harrison’s straight-shooting business style adapts well to the pages of a memoir brimming with stories of his 20-plus years at the family-run World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas. Before dropping out of school in the 10th grade, the author recalls a San Diego childhood spent people-watching and reading, yet marred by debilitating grand mal seizures and “fatalistic” drug abuse that led to rehab at age 14. Since his father (“Old Man”) was a gold dealer and his “new-era” mother dabbled in real estate, both livelihoods honed his interest in commercial commerce. When the family relocated to Las Vegas, the author was hooked. Trolling swap meets fed a need to unearth the “overlooked treasures” of estate sales, and once his father opened his dream pawn shop, Harrison and Keown dictate a continuous strand of stories about the customers pawning their frequently odd sale items at Harrison’s “poor person’s bank” (there’s a 10 percent monthly interest rate). Desperation takes many forms. Twenty bucks can sell a pair of alligator cowboy boots or a Gucci bag, but more lucrative (and outlandish) sales feature a gold tooth (extracted on-site) or one of the shop’s prized possessions: authentic Iwo Jima battle plans hand-drawn in color. Throughout his career, Harrison has balanced failed business endeavors (in-house gold refinement) with impeccable negotiation skills and eagle-eye appraisals that have prevented the acquisition of fake Confederate swords and Rolex watches. The author lives and breathes his subject matter, but his voice, too-often oscillating between a hard-nosed tradesman and a starry-eyed TV personality, lacks the immediacy of his on-camera persona. Fans of unorthodox trades will find his tales shocking yet tastefully delivered, yet lacking the punch of the visual medium.

A fascinating guided tour of what Harrison calls “the greatest business in the world.”