‘Pawn Stars’: When Did ‘Old Man’ Richard Harrison Start Pawning?

by Chris Haney

Pawn Stars fans loved “Old Man” Richard Harrison for his grumpy demeanor and no-nonsense attitude. Yet many fans of the popular pawn shop show likely don’t know when Harrison and his family began their business.

Sadly, Harrison passed away in 2018 at 77 years old. But his son, Rick Harrison, and his grandson, Corey Harrison, have continued the family business and kept his legacy alive. The hit show has aired on the History channel since 2009 and is one of the network’s most popular shows. Yet way before Pawn Stars turned the Harrison men into reality TV stars, the Old Man simply opened his pawnshop as a means to make a living.

In the 1980s, Harrison decided to change careers and move his family. His foray into the San Diego, California real estate market didn’t go to plan. So they packed up and headed for Las Vegas, Nevada, and pursued a pawn license. That was easier said than done since it had been years since the city had issued one to a new business.

“The good-ol’ boys, back in the ’50s, figured we’ve got our pawn shops, we don’t want any competition,” Rick explained, according to Las Vegas Weekly. “So they passed a law saying that they would issue one more pawn license when there are 250,000 people in the city of Las Vegas. This was when there were only 20,000 people in Las Vegas and nobody ever thought it would get to 250,000. But lo and behold, in 1988, I was the first to get a license.”

‘Pawn Stars’ Shop Owner Rick Harrison Has Been Selling Items His Whole Life

Harrison and his son Rick wanted to open a new pawnshop and were steadfast in their determination to do so. Therefore Rick called the city every week for more than two years to check on its official population count. As Las Vegas’s population broke the 250,000 barrier, Rick pounced.

In 1989, the family business opened what would become the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop that fans know well. It became the first new pawn shop in the city in decades, and it’s located less than two miles from the famous Las Vegas strip. Today, more than 50 pawn shops are scattered around the Las Vegas area.

While the Old Man and his son have been in business since the late ’80s, Rick says he’s technically been making deals for cash since he was a teenager. The family has been in the pawn business for more than three decades now, but their roots to buying and selling date back even longer.

“I discovered at age 13 that if a spoon had ‘Sterling’ on the back, it was worth money,” Rick said. “I’d run around a swap meet and find 20 in a day, make 75 to 100 bucks by finding silver spoons. Yeah, I’ve been doing this my whole life.”