How 'Pawn Stars' Was Born
Creator Brent Montgomery on why men like the show and the weird things he witnesses at Gold & Silver.
How did you decide which pawn shop to feature in the show?
We found one owned by a Greek mother and daughter in Vegas, but we weren't really able to understand them on the phone. And then we found the Gold & Silver shop. As soon as I saw them, it was like, "Bam!" We shot a sizzle reel with Rick Harrison telling me about this death clock that had mercury in it, and everybody who made them started dying all of a sudden. And I'm like, "Wow, you know a lot of shit," and he's like: "Yeah. It doesn't really make me any money." And I'm like, "Well, maybe it will now."
What's the weirdest thing you've ever seen a person try to sell?
We were shooting at 6 a.m., and they're not technically open at 6 a.m. It's Vegas, so after dark, it still gets a little rough. I'd left the door unlocked accidentally and this guy comes in, and he's like, "I have part of a meteorite." And he had this giant rock-looking thing, and he wanted to sell it. I'm totally cracking up, and the guys are like, "Bring it back after 10." He looked like the kind of guy that would come in with part of a meteorite.
How can you tell if someone is lying about the authenticity of an item?
We don't want to press on people, whether or not they're telling a fib or they just got bad information. And you do see it, the guys are very skeptical because -- it's kinda like a tow lot -- a lot of people come in there with a story to tell, and most of the time that story is meant to up the price of their object. We try to work with the people who have the coolest historical stuff. They always seem to be a little more straightforward.
Why do you think the show has been such a giant hit?
Great characters, obviously. The format is fun and digestible. I think it skews to guys, of course, but guys like humor and guys like information. You're able to laugh and learn at the same time, which, I think, are the two things that guys like to do most -- other than things that I can't mention, of course. But, really, when producers like Jon Murray and Thom Beers say it's the one show they wish they had, it doesn't get any better of a compliment than that. I'm also thrilled to hear that Fox's Mike Darnell is addicted to the show.
What do you say when people ask, "Uh, why is this show on the History channel?"
I think Ice Road Truckers and Ax Men paved the way for this new wave of history. They've showed that fun can work on the network. I mean, the title Pawn Stars isn't what you'd expect to see on History, but the information is just like in college. It's a learning show, and we're able to give kind of a barber-shop feel. … It's guys being guys and talking trash. That's what our guys do. They're gonna be loyal and love each other, but they're never gonna say it.
How has the exposure affected the shop?
They used to have 70 people a day; now it's upward of three thousand. They have a doorman; they have a velvet rope. It's one of the biggest tourist spots in Vegas. And it makes it hard to shoot the show, but the guys are there every day, Monday through Friday. They're doing really well. They had a very successful business long before we showed up, and this has just magnified it.