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License to Pawn: Deals, Steals, and My Life at the Gold & Silver

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In Las Vegas, there's a family-owned business called the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, run by three generations of the Harrison Rick; his son, Big Hoss; and Rick's dad, the Old Man. Now License to Pawn takes readers behind the scenes of the hit History show Pawn Stars and shares the fascinating life story of its star, Rick Harrison, and the equally intriguing story behind the shop, the customers, and the items for sale.

Rick hasn't had it easy. He was a math whiz at an early age, but developed a similarly uncanny ability to find ever-deepening trouble that nearly ruined his life. With the birth of his son, he sobered up, reconnected with his dad, and they started their booming business together.

License to Pawn also offers an entertaining walk through the pawn shop's history. It's a captivating look into how the Gold & Silver works, with incredible stories about the crazy customers and the one-of-a-kind items that the shop sells. Rick isn't only a businessman; he's also a historian and keen observer of human nature. For instance, did you know that pimps wear lots of jewelry for a reason? It's because if they're arrested, jewelry doesn't get confiscated like cash does, and ready money will be available for bail. Or that WWII bomber jackets and Zippo lighters can sell for a freakishly high price in Japan? Have you ever heard that the makers of Ormolu clocks, which Rick sells for as much as $15,000 apiece, frequently died before forty thanks to the mercury in the paint?

Rick also reveals the items he loves so much he'll never sell. The shop has three Olympic bronze medals, a Patriots Super Bowl ring, a Samurai sword from 1490, and an original Iwo Jima battle plan. Each object has an incredible story behind it, of course. Rick shares them all, and so much more--there's an irresistible treasure trove of history behind both the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop and the life of Rick Harrison.

256 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2011

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About the author

Rick Harrison

1 book2 followers
American businessman and owner of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. Star of Pawn Stars reality television series.

There are multiple authors with this name in this data base. This one is Rick^^Harrison.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 275 reviews
Profile Image for Marisa.
6 reviews8 followers
February 5, 2012
I have to say, I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this book! I read it in two days. I'm a big fan of Rick's show, Pawn Stars, but I figured this was going to be just one of those strike-while-the-iron-is-hot deals.
This book was a lot deeper than I was expecting. I got to know the Harrison family and Chumlee as people, aside from their TV personas. I had no idea of the struggles Old Man, Rick, Big Hoss and Chumlee had faced in their lives. I didn't realize how hard they worked to overcome their setbacks and how persistent Rick had to be to even get a pawn shop license! He is a very smart, driven guy and I don't think people necessarily pick that up from the show. I assumed he and the others were being fed lines about the items that came in. Little did I know that Rick is a bookworm who not only tried refining his own gold, but attempted cold fusion in his garage. Yes. You read that right.
Old Man, Big Hoss and Chumlee also have their own little sections where they give their back stories, all of which were very honest and touching. There is definitely a lot of humor mixed in, just like the show itself. Reading about the night window and some of the unforgettable customers that have appeared at it was eye-opening, to say the least.
For anyone who's been down and out and thinks they can't make anything of themselves, read this book. It perfectly illustrates that the only real failure is not trying.

Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,271 reviews555 followers
September 2, 2022
This gets 5 stars for teaching me the reality of pawning and selling. I thought I knew but I truly didn't.

That's what I love about non-fiction. It teaches you. What you see on TV is not the pawning, but the buying/selling aspects. Pawning is entirely different. And storage needed to do this is multiple, multiples beyond the sizes and spaces of the pawnshop or front desk or displays etc. It's massive. Pawned OR bought items have to be listed and police searched item by item for 1 month before they are even "stored" for the next part of the resale or 6 month wait to see if the pawn customer comes back to pay his bill/interest and/or retrieve her/his items. It's complicated. And very, very register and legal aspects heavy. EVERY item has to be searched for the multiple reasons of being stolen or illegal or whatever else the police decide makes it "theirs". (Patriot Act made this even more lengthy and invasive a process.) He is the credit source for all the people who cannot afford a bank account or have zero credit available to them. Banks and money available for the bankless. And are there RULES. You do need to have a good number ability in your head to even begin this process. Costs are mighty for all that storage. In Vegas it is not air conditioned either- huge warehouse. And he doesn't make Chumlee go back to work there either- that's just a joke used on the program. Although both younger members you see have worked all the hard jobs. Over night window duty for years too each. Which is tricky and alone. You are behind a huge glass enclosed bullet proof extension with one slot to get things through. ALL NIGHT from closing to 6 am in the morning. And that wasn't the hardest jobs. Not easy work.

Rick is a superb writer for memory and for exchanges. He also has HUGE historic or manufacturing history knowledge. He knows more about power tools or grinders than he does about jewelry. And about jewelry he knows a TON. The book and kindle contains some 6 star photos of his "keepers". Strange choices, very interesting.

I had no idea that they saw all types of humans and in every condition you could imagine or begin to describe. Or that the 4 main people you see on tv can no longer work any front desk (not since show 1 either) because pawning is a "privacy protected" action by law. What you see is sales. Very different. And they are staged with the shop being closed and just a few random customers allowed to roam and look. This was written in 2011 and his Dad has passed since then. There is a short section written by his Dad and two others by Corey and Chumlee. They both have harrowing tales to tell too, as their lives were NOT the silver spoon variety. Not at all. Both had biological mothers who left with no forwarding address. Their sections were as interesting as Rick's was. Corey spent 5 "lost" years- you have to hear this tale.

Great stories. Rick proves the old adage that the worst childhoods often insure the most incredible success outcomes. I've seen this in at least 10 people personally. Terrible at school, filled with sickness and disability- you name it. Parents that are workaholics and don't much supervise is also a huge plus for some people who know what they want and how to do it young. No stoppers. Rick had grand mal seizures and temporary (but he didn't know that at all) blindness repeatedly at 16. He spent days a month at doctors (from 8 to 17) waiting in Armed Services (Navy, his dad) lines for different blood tests or whatever else they were going to try or evaluate. He missed at least 1 week a month from school. Usually 2. And he didn't finish h.s. And yet he read constantly. Do the people of Goodreads, understand THAT. Don't even talk to him about government medicine systems.

Strongly recommend reading this book. His people tales are IMMENSE lessons for how people live their lives the way they WANT TO LIVE THEIR lives. And all the roads to happy are NOT the safe, nor the fully responsible either. Gambling itself is a tremendous middle part here of this book. It made me think very differently than what I assumed about gamblers. Or even the ones I've known who seldom stop. Very informative.

Could I drop all sentimentality as this family has with "stuff"? I doubt it. But I love to watch the show (and History channel in general too) and especially historic antiques. I just had no idea how many power saws you can get during a building recession or complete housing collapse market. Or what you have to "eat" when 2000 grinders or tile cutters are cleared by everyone and then 2 years later you find they were employee stolen but never reported. And now you have to pay for all of them sold and return the rest.

And you got to watch all of yours too. MANY employees now, and for 15 years at least. Closely. There are just as many cameras and security at Gold & Silver than there are in the casinos. Some days, even more.

Great read. And I always have known those permits (even the lottery ones) that cities supposedly give fairly for licensing are 90% fixed. You donate to the politician is the first step. Rick had to call every week for years and years first thing in the morning to get the first one that came up with residency counts changing constantly because for decades there was status quo limit. And it took a court case to get it made official after the first issue too, on top of it. The big pawn chains were in the fix. And the shop is in a bad neighborhood. Visitors are always shocked at what's next door.
Profile Image for Traci.
883 reviews39 followers
June 20, 2011
If you've never flipped over to "Pawn Stars" on the History Channel, then you probably have no idea who Rick Harrison is. Or the Old Man, or Big Hoss, or Chumlee. Do yourself a favor and watch an episode or two, then pick up this book.

Normally when a book is released in conjunction with a TV show, I find myself sort of flipping/skipping through it. The "author" never has much to say that hasn't already been covered on the show, and it's usually not written too well, either. Well, surprise! Harrison has done an excellent job of making this just as entertaining and informative as the show. (A big sign that this is a guy who knows what he's doing - his name is the only one listed as the author, not Rick Harrison "with" or "and").

For example, I'm always amazed that everyone on the show wants to sell their items. Um, it's a pawn shop, right? So why no clips with anyone pawning anything? There's a very good reason, as it turns out: pawn transactions are considered loans, and all loan information is privileged and private. When someone comes in to sell an item, that's a plain old business transaction, and there is no expectation of privacy. See, you learn something new every day! Also, when Rick calls in his experts, it's often for educational purposes. Most of the time, he's already got a very good idea of what the object is and how much it's worth (the educational part was the History Channel's idea - they wanted an "Antiques Roadshow with attitude").

I think the most interesting part of the book was Rick's story. He's a 10th-grade dropout, but he's a genius. Literally. He also has epilespy, and as a child, he had grand mal seizures that were so bad he had to stay home from school for a week or more at a time. His way to cope with the loneliness and uncertainty of life? BOOKS! He read just about everything he could get his hands on, including a lot of math and science books (he still reads a lot of that genre "for fun"). This is why he knows as much as he does about the things that come into the shop - he's a voracious reader and he retains lots of little factoids. If you learn anything from this book, it should be the power of the written word!

There are chapters written by Rick's dad, Old Man; his son, Corey (aka Big Hoss); and of course, Corey's long-time friend, Austin (aka Chumlee). You'll find out Rick's rules of negotiation, the history of the store, and why none of the main characters can work the floor anymore. Chumlee leads the pack in "swag" sales - all the t-shirts, shot glasses, etc with pictures of each of the leads. And there are lots of stories about how pawning items works, why people pawn, and the sort of characters they get in the store.

Probably the neatest thing I realized reading this book was that a pawn store is a lot like a library. Now, before you laugh, there's a reason I say this! As Rick points out, he doesn't judge people by what they bring in to pawn, nor does he care why they want/need the money. And he will work with anyone who walks in the door, unless it's extremely obvious that what they're bringing in has been stolen. The library does pretty much the same thing - it's a public institution available to all, and we don't care what you check out as long as your account is in good standing. The only bummer for the library is that we don't really have a way to recoup our loss if you take off with our item; Rick can hold onto the pawned item and then sell it if the pawner never picks it up again. Both places see all types, from the completely downtrodden to the well-to-do. And the stories we could tell about our clientel would probably sound awfully similar....

"License to Pawn" is a very good book, and I highly recommend it. Probably the closest you'll be able to get to the store now that they're famous!
Profile Image for Eric_W.
1,920 reviews354 followers
January 14, 2012
I am a huge fan of the History Channel’s Pawn Stars. It has wit, familial relations, historical trivia, old stuff and weird stuff. Rick Harrison is the owner of the pawn shop located in Las Vegas, and the show’s popularity has meant they have added thousands of square feet to the store and hired an additional thirty employees. They used to have about 100 customers per day; they now have over a thousand.

Harrison has an interesting background. He suffered from grand mal seizures as a child which made him think he wouldn’t live to adulthood and provided a justification in his mind for just being a reprobate. He was constantly in trouble, but he was also extremely bright. Testing off the charts in math and a constant reader, school was exceedingly boring and lacked challenge so after the ninth grade he just decided he didn’t need it any more. Nobody could figure me out. I was a tenth-grade dropout who read and studied more than most college students. I could be a raging, partying guy on Friday night and then get up Saturday morning, pack three or four physics books into a backpack, hop on a motorcycle, and drive into the desert. I’d sit on the side of a mountain all day long reading them. No wonder nobody knew what to make of me. I wasn’t always sure, either. He drops hints of interesting history and physics books. (I've already added them to my collection.)

I knew very little about how pawn shops operate, and was startled to learn that 25% of the population does not qualify for a bank account so pawn shops operate as a no questions asked source of cash. One very hard working man made his living for comparing prices at various pawn shops, buying and then pawning and redeeming assorted items, the difference in prices being his income. He raised six children this way. Another tidbit: 80-90% of pawns (depending on the economy) are ultimately redeemed, a much higher figure than I would have imagined. People like their stuff.

Scattered amidst Rick’s observations are chapters by Old Man (a thorough curmudgeon if there ever was one), Corey (he had a terrible time with crystal meth as a teenager but credits his dad with not enabling and forcing him to get off of it which he did with sterling will power and cheeseburgers with bacon) and Chumlee (no where near as dumb as portrayed on the show and quite the entrepreneur himself.) Rick never judges; it would be the death of his business, nor does he harbor any sentimentality toward “stuff,” a refreshing attitude. As he notes, a sociologist could learn a great deal working the night window. Another tidbit, Pimps buy a lot of jewelry from me, and the bigger the better. It’s not fake, either. They insist on real gold and they’re willing to pay a good amount for it. And here’s why: If they get arrested, the cops will confiscate their cash but not their jewelry. They can give their jewelry to one of their girls, and she’ll take it directly to the pawn shop to get money for bail. It makes perfect sense if you look at it from their perspective. The jewelry is not just an accessory.

One little tidbit about the effect of the show. Rick, his dad, Corey and Chumlee can no longer work the counter because with all the tourists snapping pictures, a pawn; confidentiality would be compromised, something that’s illegal. Besides, I had never watched a reality show until I was starring in one. When people ask me what I think about all this attention, I tell them the same thing every time: We’ll ride this horse till it dies, and then we’ll cut a steak off its ass.

The book itself is not a literary masterpiece. He writes much the way he talks on the show and you can hear his incessant laughter and delight in what he finds behind every sentence. BTW, he delights in his use of the word, “fuck,” so those who can’t bear to see that in print will probably want to avoid the book. Their loss.
Profile Image for Deborah.
417 reviews246 followers
July 20, 2011
Quite often my sweet husband takes a nosedive into the unknown and takes up with a new adventure/obsession with something “strange.” I found this serendipitous oddity a very attractive characteristic when we first met (I know…red flag??), and frankly, it’s had its ups and downs on my last nerve over the years. All in all; however, there’s never a dull moment with Anthony if you just sit back and brace yourself.

The show is mind-boggling. As I sit in my little apple green recliner writing reviews while DH watches “his” shows, I’m wont to look up once in a while to see what’s going on.

Against my better judgement, sometimes I’m captured by the absurdities of men: Men in the greater outdoors hunting with lots of equipment (guns, bows & steel tipped arrows, whistles, bright florescent suits, misshapen, weird hats & assorted other “gear”), excavating big mountains with equipment they don’t know how to maneuver & in icy weather, clambering about and becoming lost without food in crumbling old caves with their teen aged daughters, panning for gold in muddy streams and gleefully coming up with minute particles which value is less than the cost of the pan, or pulling up by hand man-eating fish in mosquito infested jungles… Recently, I’ve been pulled in by pawn shops on the Tube! Ugh! This wars against every bone in my WASPish, DAR body, and would disgrace my family. It’s really tantamount to watching a strip show!

Primary among such shows is Rick Harrison’s straight from Las Vegas “Pawn Stars.” Pawn Stars is a fabulous program! I love it, and it’s become my latest dirty little secret…now out in the open! We’ve agreed it’s the only pawn show we’ll watch.

Rick is an intelligent, witty and well-informed guy who actually makes wise choices about some seriously fabulous items brought to his shop. The experts Rick brings in to evaluate some of the items are so learned they add a dimension of knowledge and intelligence that rivals experts I’ve seen and heard from auction houses and museums in Boston. A couple of them are experienced in museum collections and authentic documents of early America and England…so interesting to hear and watch. I have learned a good deal from Rick, his dad and these experts.

One of the most fetching (did I use that word?) and hilarious things about the show is Chumly, Rick’s doofus nephew. Chum is a complete novice at pawn, and life, it seems. He has no idea what’s “good” and what’s “fake,” what are stolen goods, what’s trash and what’s treasure. He is a guy whose life is chockful of accidents and mishaps; i.e., nearly everything he touches falls apart, breaks down, or costs the shop money. In fact, Chum nearly costs his grandad more money than the shop brings in on some days! In the latest episode, Chumly test flies a valuable, antique kite and snags it on a highwire electrical tower…you flew it–you can’t get it down–you bought it! And, poor Chum is always shocked by these manifistations of Murphy’s Law in his life.

Chumly is the fall guy for the show, and makes it all worthwhile to watch…just for the hilarity of it. Rick’s dad is also sooo funny as he glumly and stoically mumbles his way through all the trials and troubles of the shop and Chum. And, Big Hoss, Rick’s son, who is assigned to watch over and teach Chum, as well as to be the Ass’t Mgr., lumbers along making a couple of wise choices on the way, but mostly watching Chumly mess up and telling on him. Honestly, Chum is the best comedic character on tv.

All this to give you some kind of intro. into Rick Harrison’s new book “License To Pawn” which I wholeheartedly recommend for your sweethearts and you when you want a different ride on the wild side.

Visit my book reviews blog to see live video trailer & more about this book: http://www.abookishlibraria.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Khairul Hezry.
688 reviews117 followers
August 11, 2012
Only two reasons why I even bothered with this book. Firstly, I'm sort of a fan of the show. I like history and some of the items that are featured are very interesting. Second, the book was like 60% off at Amazon. Can't resist a bargain.

The book is surprisingly good. Just like the show, it has a bit of humour and Rick is a natural storyteller. It's not difficult to tell stories I suppose when a lot of zany characters walk through your door looking for some quick cash. In fact, from what Rick tells us the show is a sanitized version of a typical day at the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. Practically ignored while he was growing up because his parents were too busy working, Rick Harrison feared as a child that he would never see adulthood because of his seizures that would relegate him to the bed for days. This was where he would spend his days reading any books he could get his hands on and he credits those days as his real education. He also has a natural gift for numbers. So the bald overweight guy with the smoker's laugh isn't actually a dumbass.

His employee Chumlee though isn't as book smart and looks it while his son Big Hoss is smart but doesn't look the part. They both get to tell their stories (they were meth addicts in their teens and cleaned up their lives while their other meth buddied didn't). Rick's dad The Old Man also pitched in nut it's Rick's book so he gets most of the pages.

The most interesting part of the book for me was when he describes some of the characters he has encountered in the twenty years he's been working in the pawn shop. There's the billionaire who browses in his shop without buying anything ever but everytime he comes in, there's a new girl by his side. There's the Asian lady who looked like a bag lady but took out a roll of hundred dollar bills from her sock to make a purchase. The family who live their lives as professional gamblers and visit the Gold & Silver whenever they need cash for the casinos and the thieves and conmen who sometimes get away with their scams and causes Rick to lose thousands of dollars.

It is a well written book. A Tim Keown is credited as author with Rick Harrison and I'm guessing he's the ghost writer. I usually avoid ghost written memoirs but Rick's voice comes out loud enough in this book that I believe that Rick actually did the writing while Mr. Keown merely polished the rough manuscript.

A surprisingly deep book about a hustler with a heart.
Profile Image for Megan.
393 reviews7 followers
October 13, 2011
I love Pawn Stars, and I have always been curious about the darker/seedier side of the business, which I knew must be present. Everything on the show is nice, clean, and orderly, but I knew any Las Vegas pawn shop open 24 hours had to see some crazy things. This is definitely the book to read if you are curious about that side of the store - and it made me wish History Channel might show a little more of it.

This book follows mainly Rick, but it contains chapters from the Old Man, Corey, and Chumlee as well. As a result, the biographical/background information ends up being a little repetitive, but it's neat to see each person's side of the story.

There's some really interesting stuff in here about history, marketing fads and haggling. I think an entire book could be written by these guys about the seedier side of history (like why pimps wear so much jewelry). And a lot of stuff about regular customers and crazy customers.

And luckily, not a Subway ad in sight.
219 reviews3 followers
September 18, 2012
What a pleasant surprise. I've watched PAWN STARS reality show from time to time..enough to know the main participants in this pawn shop. I've even visited the actual WORLD FAMOUS GOLD AND SILVER PAWN SHOP in Las Vegas.
This book tells the back stories about the Old Man, Rick Harrison, Corey ~ his son and Chumlee. Their story isn't an easy one. They all had struggles and made decisions over the years that brought them to where they are now. They all love their jobs and enjoy going to work every day. The only drawback of all their success and in particular, the television show, is that they can't work on the floor as often because people just want to take photos and talk. So what did they do to cash in on all the success?...they sell t-shirts with their images, keychains, mugs and other small items. The book has chapters narrated by each person. And there are stories....stories about the people who come to the shop to pawn or sell their possessions. This is a very fast-paced book and it will keep your interest.
Profile Image for Dierdra McGill.
251 reviews60 followers
September 9, 2013
I really loved the show, Pawn Stars so I was excited about reading this book. I am not really sure what I expected the book to be like, but there were a lot more stories then I thought there would be. The storys were intresting enough, but it would have maybe come off better in an audio version with Rick Harrison reading it.
Overall it was an intresting read. If you enjoy the show you will most likely enjoy the book. I learned a little and killed some time.
Profile Image for Bob.
73 reviews
January 25, 2018
If you've always wanted to know how and what a pawn shop does in the business world, look no further. If you're interested in what makes the fabulously successful television show "Pawn Stars" so interesting in the first place, this is the book to read.
Rick Harrison does a good job narrating his biography, and how he, his father and son managed to get The Gold and Silver Pawnshop off the ground in Las Vegas.
Starting from his medically challenged childhood all the way through the decisions, and negotiations that marked him as a dyed-in-the-wool hustler, Harrison has all the true stories that will educate and entertain the reader. He compares "real life" pawn shop business to the one we get to see on the History Channel, and why it's different.
Harrison also delves into the social milieu of Vegas and why all the teeming masses of humanity wind up at his store 24/7, 365 days a year.
This provides a truly interesting view in the life of the Pawnshop that can't be captured on the t.v. series.
A few of the chapters are written by Rick's father (Old Man), his son, Corey, and Corey's lifelong friend, Austin Russell ( better known as Chumlee); each have their own colorful contribution to the book.
Over all, this was an informative read, and done with wit, wisdom and a dash of laugh-out loud humor.
Profile Image for Andrew.
142 reviews6 followers
July 23, 2020
My brother first introduced me to 'Pawn Stars' about 10 years ago--and I've watched a lot of episodes ever since. This book is just a little grittier than the television show--but all their personalities come through--especially Rick's, who narrates most of the book. If you're a fan of the TV show, you will definitely be satisfied with this book.
Profile Image for Rod Hansen.
44 reviews1 follower
February 14, 2020
“Anyway, she finally shows up at the window with her mouth full of toilet paper. She drops the gold tooth and the pliers through the slot.

“A gold tooth covered in blood.

For $40.”

This is one of the many startling, and strangely enlightening tales to unfold in LICENSE TO PAWN, a memoir from Rick Harrison of the History Channel’s Pawn Stars. No mere TV tie-in or celebrity puff piece, LICENSE TO PAWN is a freewheeling account of back alley financing, ghetto economics, and harvesting trash into treasure.

The above Tale of the Bloody Gold Tooth comes from a chapter told by Rick’s son Corey, one of his TV co-stars and employee of the family’s World Famous Gold and Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas. This was early in Corey’s pawn career and he was working the Night Window, a spot the truly desperate use very often to finance a drug or gambling habit (this is, after all, Vega$, baby.)

“Do you buy gold teeth?” the woman asks Corey.

“We do,” he answers.

“Do you have a pair of pliers?”

The night window. The seedy backdrop of many tales in these pages to feature pimps, hustlers, gamblers and tweakers. In fact, when Harrison first proffered the idea of a pawn shop-set reality show to the entertainment world, HBO bit on the idea of a “Taxicab Confessions” - style peep into the Neon City’s underbelly via the Night Window.

Harrison saw the flaw in this plan immediately. Rather than exhibit his customers like circus freaks, he chose to highlight the unique items offered at his counter. The guns (only antique firearms allowed here, folks). The once-clamored-for novelty items (a Pet Rock still bids high, provided it’s in the original packaging.) Anything and everything, some valued in the thousands for nothing more than a good story.

This was the approach embraced by the History Channel, back when its programming earned it the dismissive label “The Hitler Channel.” Here was an idea to entertain and educate an audience of all ages. An “Antiques Roadshow” with attitude.

Along with the history angle, Pawn Stars also serves as a workplace comedy. The cast has been steady from the beginning: Rick himself, a 10th grade dropout with encyclopedic knowledge of everything from physics to pimp wardrobe. Corey, a former crystal meth addict who relates his struggles in one of the book’s most harrowing chapters. Chumlee, the lovable oaf nicknamed for a cartoon walrus. And of course The Old Man, still alive during this book’s writing, whose nearly every sentence begins with the words, “Dammit, Rick…”

The stories here are by turns heartbreaking, inspiring and laugh-out-loud funny. The insights conveyed make it a five-star read because, as Rick himself will tell you, “You never know what’s gonna come through that door.”
Profile Image for Sara.
1,178 reviews48 followers
August 15, 2014
This bio of Rick Harrison's life at the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop was quick, enjoyable, and informative. I watch the show sometimes and I've learned a few things when people sell their antiques. I saw this book for sale at the shop when I went there a couple of years ago, but decided against buying it at the time. I've since borrowed it from the library and finally I've read it.

The book gives background on The Old Man, Corey, and Chumlee (who all write chapters in the book). That was interesting and fun. The book talks a lot about life running a pawn shop in all it's "glory" - that includes the seedy underbelly of Las Vegas and a whole host of interesting characters. More interesting, maybe, then the actual show on the History channel. My conclusion? I'm glad I don't run a pawn shop!

Wish I had Rick's penchant (and drive) for making a buck. More power to him for making all of this work.

I'd recommend this book for anyone who is a fan of the show, although most of the book is not about the show - it's about the day to day operations of the pawn shop - the side you don't see in the TV show. Also info on their lives, if you like that sort of thing. I do. It's rated 4 stars for keeping my interest and for the fact that I had to tell everyone all sorts of things I read in the book. No, it's not great literature, but I think I've enjoyed reading this book more than some of the other books I've read recently.
Profile Image for Quentin Stewart.
222 reviews5 followers
October 23, 2011
A fun book to read and to help the viewers of the show 'Pawn Stars" understand the personalities that they see each week on their TV screens. Rick does an excellent job of explaining his background and makes no excuses for the things he got into as a youngster. We see in his story the struggle that many families had to make ends meet and to raise a family. "Old Man" struggled in raising a family and Rick had problems in his personal life after marriage, but it did not stop either of them in trying to scratch out a living for the family. It has been through that hard work and tenacity that has made Rick the Pawn Star that he is. He worked hard in educating himself in the areas of what he was dealing in. His success has trickled down to his son "Big Hoss" and others that work for him.

In "License to Pawn" Rick explains what the pawn business is important for different segments of society and it has been for years. The stories he relates are interesting to give people outside of the business and understanding of why people are willing to give up their "stuff" at times for money to tide them over. I found the story of "Bizzle" to be an extremely interesting and touching story. I would recommend the book to people who are viewers of the TV show and anyone who is interested in learning about the pawn business. ( )
Profile Image for DelGal.
369 reviews2 followers
October 23, 2012
I thought that this memoir was going to be one of those poorly written ones that come zipping out after someone makes it big in a reality show and wants to capitalize on their fame. I was pleasantly surprised how wrong I was, not only was it well written, (sure he had a writer, but sometimes even those writers are terrible!) but it sounded like Mr, Harrison and his family really had their voices heard throughout. This was an easy read and quite enjoyable for two reasons. One, everyone in the book was quite frank and open about their not-so-perfect lives, which I felt made them appear to be more real, likable and even endearing. I also really liked the many stories about the pawn business because it was not only just simply funny or shocking, but it helped shed light on and educate the masses about a business most of us know little to nothing about. Readers can't help sharing in Mr. Harrison's enthusiasm over his job, and to me that was also wonderful to experience since so many of us are anything but enthused about the daily drudgery of our work life. The only part I thought was a bit wonky throughout the book was the seemingly random chapters written from his family and Chumlee's perspective. I liked the chapters, but they were a bit disjointed and shoved in the book with no rhyme or reason - perhaps if they were all grouped in one section it would have made a bit more sense.
Profile Image for Jerry B.
1,388 reviews118 followers
September 26, 2016
We’re longtime fans of History Channel’s “Pawn Stars” show, and have even visited the actual (surprisingly small!) shop during a Las Vegas vacation. So Rick Harrison’s book, mostly autobiographical, was both interesting and entertaining as of course we knew him and dad “Old Man”, son “Big Hoss,” and the clownish “Chumlee” pretty well from years of the TV episodes. We were surprised to learn of Rick’s troubled upbringing, during which first he was severely epileptic, which played havoc with his school attendance; and then later a drug addict for several years, interestingly as were both his son Corey and friend Chumlee. But Rick was intrinsically a genius and eventually squared away his life – and like his dad, turned his attention to making money. How they got started in the pawn business was fascinating as was their endeavor to sell Rick’s ideas for a reality TV show.

A few chapters were first person from the other three “stars”, “Old Man”, Corey and Chumlee, which serves to add to the background of their characters as they later appear on the show. Surprisingly, way more of the transactions are really just secured loans, as opposed to the outright sales of unique items featured on the show. But all-in-all, “License to Pawn” is a quick read that fans of the TV series should thoroughly enjoy.
Profile Image for Tracey.
2,031 reviews47 followers
July 18, 2012
I'll admit to watching Pawn Stars, American Pickers and even the occasional episode of Storage Wars - so when I found out about this book, I thought I'd check it out from the library.

I was a little surprised at how non-fluffy this memoir was; not only does Rick talk about his early life and how his family got into the pawn business, he also shares the spotlight with Cory, Chumlee and The Old Man - they each get a chapter or two to tell their stories and are willing to talk about the bad times as well as the good. They've faced some hard times, both financially and personally; Cory got addicted to meth and hit bottom pretty badly before turning things around, with the help of Chumlee, of all people.

Rick also discusses the ins and outs of the business, getting almost philosophic at times. He comes across in print pretty much as he does on the show - a bit of a smart-ass, but he backs that up with actual knowledge. Yeah, you know that you're not seeing the whole story; but that's OK. Keown may have done the heavy lifting in putting the book together, but Rick's "voice" seems pretty authentic and provides some interesting insights into Las Vegas and the pawn business.
Profile Image for Colleen.
596 reviews2 followers
August 25, 2011
I bought this for my husband since he's obsessed with the show. Of course, just like his obsession means I watch a lot of episodes of Pawn Stars, since he enjoyed the book I wound up reading it too. The main surprise is how much more gritty it is than the show--which makes sense, on the one hand, but on the other, I have huge respect for the Harrisons for keeping the show focused on the main point: the neat stuff that comes into the store. Any other show on any other channel would have romped in the sordid 'drug addiction stories' that each character could have held up for the TV viewing audience. Instead, they're handled in a sober, fair-minded way here, as part and parcel of who the characters--and the store--are in the larger context.

This book reads as though the touristy Las Vegas of the show and the seedy, scummy Las Vegas of the darker side of real life had a charmingly rough-edged baby. A fun light read.
Profile Image for Lori.
58 reviews3 followers
May 8, 2015
This is a great book for fans of Pawn Stars. I loved learning about the family, including Rick's rough childhood, and Corey's troubled adolescence. I also enjoyed reading about how they turned down HBO, who wanted to focus on the more raunchy customers who pawn their stuff. The focus on the historical items that come into the store makes for much more interesting tv. I hate how TruTV's Hardcore Pawn shows the worst side of the business, so much that they have to bleep out every other word. With Pawn Stars, you still get the dynamic of the relationships between Rick, old man, Corey, and Chumley:) I love how each of them wrote a chapter for the book, so it is not only Rick's point of view.

Profile Image for Ellen.
20 reviews
July 5, 2012
I love Pawn Stars, so the book was loads of fun to read, and each person had a story of their own to tell. Rick, old man, Corey and Chumlee.
Rick overcame a lot and went through a lot as did Corey . It was interesting to see the pictures and to hear more about the family . Everyone who enjoys this show will enjoy the book I'm sure
Profile Image for Jay French.
2,041 reviews74 followers
September 29, 2012
Entertaining book covering the people, the history, the deals, the dealing, and the odd stuff at the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. I actually most enjoyed the author talking about his father's Navy life, his childhood epilepsy, and Corree and Chumlee's frank talks (everyone gets to write a chapter) about their drug use and subsequent steps to move on.
Profile Image for SouthWestZippy.
1,912 reviews8 followers
January 16, 2016
I just could not put the book down. Great stories about what goes on at a pawn shop and what happen after the TV show started. I am impressed with Rick with the way he overcame his demons and is the first to tell you he messed up. Included stories from family and friends. I am giving it four stars because in a few places it does repeat itself. I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Robin.
1,433 reviews36 followers
November 4, 2012
This was a fun fast read, especially if you enjoy the TV show. It got a little repetitive at times but it has some fascintating information and the most interesting is why jewelry store staff are always offering to clean your rings.
Profile Image for Jayne.
8 reviews2 followers
December 31, 2014
Very entertaining

I'm a recent big fan of the show as I just started watching it this year. I now find myself with 20 episodes of Pawn Stars on TiVo and binge watching them. I loved the book and read it in one afternoon. If you like the show I would recommend the book.
Profile Image for Ava Davis.
2 reviews15 followers
April 16, 2013
this is the only good book ever when I die I want to be buried with this book
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