Ever wondered what the cast of the History’s Pawn Stars were up to before they became the most famous pawnbrokers in the world? We aren’t just talking about the main crew at the shop either, but also the experts who are brought onto the set to showcase their talents in appraising whatever comes through the door.
We thought it would be fun to raid the Internet and see what we could dig up on all of the people who make this amazing show work so we found some embarrassing photos, interesting details, and fun facts about Rick and the gang.
Shows like Pawn Stars tend to place the attention on what is going on right then, in front of the cameras, but rarely delve into what the people behind the counter were like before they made it big. So if you have ever wondered what Chumlee was up to prior to buying and selling for Rick and his family, this is the list for you. Thanks to the massive amount of time we have on our hands, we decided to find out as much as we could and present it here with these 16 Pawn Stars: Before They Were Famous.
16. RICHARD (RICK) KEVIN HARRISON
Rick wasn’t always the amazing haggler you see, smiling and dropping an asking price by $25,000 with the shake of a hand. He grew up in North Carolina and dropped out of high school so he could sell knock-off Gucci purses for about two grand a week.
By 23, he had enough money to partner with his father and open the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop a couple miles off the Las Vegas Strip in 1989. He unsuccessfully pitched the idea of a reality show for years before it was finally picked up by History.
Since 2011, Pawn Stars consistently maintained the highest ratings on History. Rick has since written a biography called License to Pawn: Deals, Steals, and My Life at the Gold & Silver earning a spot on The New York Times Bestseller List in 2011.
Rick’s net worth is somewhere in the millions now, and it doesn’t look like he’s interested in stopping anytime soon. Rick has embraced his fame and fortune, having amassed over 220,000 fans on his Twitter page alone.
15. RICHARD BENJAMIN (THE OLD MAN) HARRISON
Richard, better known as “The Old Man”, Harrison grew up in such a poor family, he dropped out of high school so he could drive the school bus for other kids and earn about $5 a week.
He stole a car at 19 and ended up in front of a judge who changed his life. He was offered the choice to enlist or go to jail, so he joined the Navy, where he remained for 20 years.
In 1989, he partnered with Rick to open the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop and has been wheelin’ and dealin’ ever since.
Richard is usually sitting or sleeping in his chair, but he knows a thing or two about pretty much everything. He enjoys signing autographs and taking pictures with fans. He settled into the role of the cantankerous old guy on the show, which Chumlee says is pretty much the same in real life. Richard knows his place and has said his role on the show “is to be an old grump.”
14. COREY (BIG HOSS) HARRISON
Corey started working with his dad and grandfather at the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop when he was nine. Rick has been grooming him to eventually take over the business. Corey worked his way up through the ranks to be the manager of the shop and handles most of the administrative responsibilities. Unlike Rick and the Old Man, he graduated from high school. Corey and Chumlee grew up together and have been best friends since as far back as they can remember.
Corey has slipped into the role of a pawn shop owner and was able to get an actual stake in the store after threatening to find work elsewhere. He takes in just about anything and has amassed a greater inventory than any of the other buyers for the shop. He takes a lot of risks on pricey items, but it usually seems to pay off. When the show started, he weighed 365 lbs. He ended up getting gastric lap band surgery in 2010 and since then lost an impressive 190 pounds.
13. AUSTIN (CHUMLEE) RUSSELL
Austin Russell earned the nickname Chumlee from his father, who compared him to the walrus character Chumley from the cartoon Tennessee Tuxedo. He’s been called Chumlee ever since.
Chumlee began at the shop when he was 21. He used to be pretty bad about buying items he intended to keep for himself, which helped him to amass his collection of shoes (more than 200 pairs of Nike and Air Jordans) and vintage pinball machines.
Chumlee’s expertise on pop culture items has brought in new inventory and clientele to the shop. He was arrested in March 2016 after a raid of his home, made via a sexual assault allegation, found 12 firearms, crystal meth, marijuana, Xanax, and evidence of cocaine use on the property. He pled guilty to a felony weapons charge, unlawful possession of a firearm, and misdemeanors related to drug possession.
12. OLIVIA BLACK
Olivia Black was hired to work for the shop in a season 5 episode called “Learning the Ropes”, in January 2012. It was clear from the onset that she was hired by Corey and especially Chumlee because they thought she was attractive. She started working the night shift and was featured regularly on the show while being trained by Chumlee. In December 2012, it was revealed that she did a photo shoot for the adult website SuicideGirls and the producers fired her from the show.
Black continued to work at the shop until October 2013. Shortly after being fired from the production of Pawn Stars, she returned to SuicideGirls for another photo shoot and has developed a following online from her modeling there and elsewhere.
Black has successfully turned her time on the show as well as her modeling career into a full-blown profession. She is often engaged on Twitter with her 28,000 followers and describes herself as an activist, cosplayer, and 18+ Cam model among other things.
11. REBECCA ROMNEY
Rebecca Romney is the definition of a bibliophile. She earned degrees in linguistics and classical studies with a minor in philosophy. Her love of books probably helped her ability to read English, French, Japanese, Ancient Greek, Latin, and Old English.
Rebecca started working at Bauman Rare Books in Las Vegas in 2007 and became the manager in 2010. She started appearing on the show in its fourth season in 2011 and became a regular expert/appraiser having appeared in around 60 episodes.
Romney gained fame from her time on Pawn Stars, but always pushes the attention from her back on the books she loves even saying, “No, no, no, no, the books are great! I don’t know why we’re talking about me” when meeting an admiring fan.
In 2015, she left Las Vegas and moved to Philadelphia to oversee the central operations of Bauman’s rare book department, but left the company a year later to work on other projects like a podcast called Bibliocast, which she produces with her husband.
10. MARK (THE BEARD OF KNOWLEDGE) HALL-PATTON
Mark Hall-Patton loved history and museums so much as a kid, he started creating museum displays in his home for friends and family when he was only eight-years-old. After he got his degree in museum administration, he came to Las Vegas with the dream of pulling folks off the Strip and into his museum. Let’s just say he wasn’t nearly as successful in doing that until he began making cameo appearances as an expert for the show/shop in 2009.
Hall-Patton is highly revered by Rick who described him as, “The guy knows so much stuff; he must have a Xerox machine inside his eyeballs. I’ve got a nickname for him: the Beard of Knowledge.” His work on the show has increased attendance to the museum, which has no advertising budget, by 70 percent since 2012 and he continues to teach and educate people on any era of history.
9. MURRAY SAWCHUCK
Murray SawChuck followed in his father’s footsteps and set out to become a musician, learning to play several instruments by the age of five.
After receiving a Siegfried and Roy magic set from an uncle at the age of seven, he was hooked on magic for life. He began working as a professional magician when he was 11 and got paid to perform at a birthday party. Since then, he has developed his act such that he has labeled himself the “Dennis the Menace of Magic” due to his off-the-wall brand of blended comedy, music, and magic.
SawChuck became a regular expert for Pawn Stars in an episode from 2011 called “Houdini’s Handcuffs”. Since then, he has been the resident expert for anything related to the world of antique magic supplies, props, and the like. He performs regularly at Sin City at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas and also makes appearances on other television shows such as America’s Got Talent and Masters of Illusion in 2016.
8. CRAIG GOTTLIEB
Craig Gottlieb started his life as a philosopher before finally joining the United States Marine Corps where he achieved the rank of major. After leaving the service, he opened Craig Gottlieb Militaria, his professional business of firearms procurement, authentication, and estimates.
Gottlieb has an affinity for historical pieces related to Adolf Hitler and other dictators throughout history. He is the proud owner of the desk Hitler used to sign the Munich Pact of 1938 as well as numerous Nazi pieces he has procured over the years.
Gottlieb first appeared on Pawn Stars in May 2012. Since that time, he has appeared on dozens of episodes to help identify the authenticity and value of rare and unique firearms. His time on Pawn Stars helped to launch a National Geographic series called Nazi War Diggers in March 2014 with Gottlieb as one of the four members of the cast. The show was canceled within a week after archaeologists all over the world criticized the show for treasure hunting and handling the dead with disrespect.
7. SEAN RICH
Rich grew up in Florida where he scoured the beaches, not for shells like most people, but for fossils and Spanish coins. This helped to develop his interest in archaeology and preservation, but it also gave him the itch for treasure hunting. In 2004, Rich formed his business, Tortuga Trading, Inc., which he uses to help him discover ancient artifacts among shipwrecks.
Rich’s expertise has been lent to more than just History’s Pawn Stars. He headlined a show on National Geographic called Lords of War in 2013 and worked as an advisor on two of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean movies as well as other works in Hollywood to ensure the correct weaponry is used on film.
Rich is a certified expert in antique arms and armor so Rick and the gang at Gold & Silver call him in whenever they have something interesting along those lines, but you are more likely to find him scuba-diving around a shipwreck than anywhere near Vegas these days.
6. JESSE AMOROSO
Jesse Amoroso is the lead guitarist for the band Crazy Chief and has worked at Cowtown Guitars in Las Vegas since 2004. Cowtown boasts the largest collection of vintage guitars in the United States. In 2010, he took over the shop with his wife Roxie and has been running it ever since.
Amoroso was previously in the bands Pigasus and The Loud Pipes but performs alongside his wife in Crazy Chief to this day. The couple have three children, one of whom is named Gibson Felix after the guitar manufacturer.
If he is called to the shop, it isn’t for just any ukelele or electric guitar, it’s going to be for something unique and valuable. If you thought you could bring a Les Paul into the shop with some new parts, he will recognize them immediately.
Amoroso is more than happy to take apart any instrument down to its base and estimate each and every part, which could make the difference between a few thousand bucks and a pass by the guys at the shop.
5. BRETT K. MALY
Brett K. Maly is one of the art society’s most highly-revered appraisers. He is the Director for Art Encounters as well as the president since 2010. He earned his Bachelors at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in 1996 and was certified in Appraisal Studies in Fine and Decorative Arts at the University of California, Irvine, in 2004. He has been appraising fine art ever since and was singled out by the producers of Pawn Stars for his expertise.
When Maly is called into the shop, it’s because someone has brought in what they might claim to be an original Picasso or Andy Warhol. He meticulously scans every square inch of a painting and determines if it is truly a masterpiece, a work by a master’s apprentice, or a forgery.
In “Brush with Greatness” in 2013, Maly came into the shop to validate a painting by none other than Muhammad Ali. Since his first appearance on the show in 2010, Maly has been the go-to guy for anything related to paint on a canvas.
4. MATTHEW C. SHORTHAL
Marine Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Shorthal earned his Bachelors in Accountancy at the University of Illinois thanks to a Naval ROTC scholarship. Soon after graduation, then Second Lieutenant Shorthal began his career in the USMC where he began training as a naval aviator. The guy is basically Tom Cruise from the movie Top Gun... and he is an accountant! We say that because he is a graduate of the Navy’s TOPGUN school (Yes, that one).
Over the course of his career, Shorthal has logged more than 3,000 flight hours and was even a member of the prestigious Blue Angels as the representative from the Marine Corps. In the Blue Angels, he performed at 132 air shows around the world.
When Shortal shows up at the Gold & Silver, you know it’s for something unique and interesting. In an episode called “Missile Attack”, Shortal was brought on to check out a Cold War era heat-seeking missile guidance system. One of Rick’s concerns was the legality of owning something like that, but not to worry, it was legit!
3. STEVE GRAD
Steve Grad didn’t begin his career figuring out other peoples’ autographs but attempted to make it big so he could scribble his own. He started his professional career in radio and majored in Broadcast Journalism at Columbia. He worked in the industry as an anchor for seven years where his love of sports helped him present on a sporting news radio station. His time behind the microphone increased his interest in sports history and he began collecting autographs, which ultimately led to the profession he continues today.
After leaving radio, he became a professional appraiser and autograph certifier who lives in California but will hop on a plane whenever the show’s producers give him a call. Ironically, he said that he was never recognized when he worked in radio, but since he appeared on the show, he gets stopped usually 2-3 times a day.
2. STUART LUTZ
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that an expert hired by History to authenticate documents and autographs is a history nerd, but that’s exactly what Stuart Lutz is.
Lutz earned his Bachelors in American History at John Hopkins in 1992. He wrote his senior thesis on the revival of flag-waving patriotism in the 1980s and has since had it condensed and published in American Heritage magazine. He has a passion for old documents, especially those that have something to do with an American President.
Throughout his 15 years career in the game, Lutz has authenticated and sold documents owned or signed by every American President. He has also worked with artifacts handled by most of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence.
Lutz has benefited from his time on Pawn Stars and has seen a boost in business. He has been interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered and has written and published a book, The Last Leaf, which consists of interviews with people who were the final survivors or eyewitnesses of historic events.
1. DR. PHINEAS T. KASTLE
Doctor Phineas T. Kastle, Gentleman Extraordinaire, has been an avid Steampunk cosplayer for most of his adult life. As a child, his mother introduced him to the world of music and dance, which branched off into acting in the 1950s. He has been wearing various Steampunk getups ever since and has created quite the persona along the way.
You might not think it to look at the guy, but he does hold a Ph.D. and is a Professor of World Antiquities, Asian Art, Indian, Chinese, Egyptian, European, and Native American antiquities.
Rick gives Kastle a ring whenever he has an item that he can’t figure out. If it’s some form of pottery or just a weird contraption, the Doc is called onto the case. His experience and expertise have helped to identify several strange items. He “was born to educate, entertain, and lift the bar for the students as a historian.”
He is almost always wearing Steampunk clothing when he appears in the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop – as well as pretty much every day.
What do you think of these Pawn Stars‘ lives prior to fame? Do you know any interesting details about these folks we missed? Let us know in the comments!
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