Pawn Stars (lost PBS documentary featuring World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop; existence unconfirmed; 2001)
Pawn Stars is a long-running History reality show that has been airing new series since 2009. Depicting life at the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas, the shop itself was featured in several television segments prior to 2009. Among these included a supposed PBS documentary that aired in 2001.
Pawn Stars primarily centres around the business and conflict surrounding the family-owned World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, which has operated since 1989. It features the four main pawnbrokers, Rick Harrison, Richard "The Old Man" Harrison, Corey "Big Hoss" Harrison, and Austin "Chumlee" Russell, haggling with customers and imparting their knowledge on historical artifacts brought into the shop. Combined with segments involving family conflict, restorations, and road trips, the show has been continually airing since 2009 and has become one of History's most successful shows.
Before 2009, Rick was keen to have a television show based around his pawn shop. In a 2012 Huffington Post list, Rick reportedly admitted in great humour that "I've always been a media whore", and so sought media attention where possible. This included local news segments, an appearance on the Dave Attell show Insomniac in 2003, and having his shop be listed as among the top ten best shops according to a Los Angeles television channel. The latter appearance prompted a surge in the shop's popularity and numerous offers from television producers eager to produce pilots for possible television shows around it. After initially receiving interest from HBO and NBC Universal, a pilot was initially filmed with the latter. This ultimately came to nothing, as Rick was unhappy with the pilot's focus on the darker nature surrounding pawn shops. Instead, a sizzle reel produced with Leftfield Pictures helped secure a television deal with History in 2009.
However, as stated in the aforementioned Huffington Post list, the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop also apparently featured in a PBS documentary that aired in 2001. Unlike the other pre-Pawn Stars television spots, very little is known surrounding the documentary. The Huffington Post does claim that it was a "special" featuring the shop, and its success inspired Rick to consider the possibilities of a full television show. It added that HBO and other television stations became aware of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop following the special's broadcast, and was what led to them contacting Harrison.
If the PBS documentary did indeed exist, it would mark the oldest televised appearance of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. But while this supposed documentary has been referenced briefly on various entertainment websites, none have elaborated further than the original Huffington Post source. Additionally, the validity of the claim has been called into question. To authenticate its claim, the source linked to a Documentary Television post detailing the creation of Pawn Stars. However, upon viewing the archived web page, no mention of this documentary was ever made. Another issue concerns the fact Rick himself never discussed this documentary in his 2011 book License to Pawn. He also contradicts The Huffington Post's claim by stating HBO and NBC Universal actually became interested following the Los Angeles television channel airing. This confirmed broadcast is also lost media.
A search of Rick's "media whore" quote yielded no results beyond The Huffington Post list and reposts of it. It is possible that the quote arose during Rick's appearance at the 2011 GIA Symposium, but no video proof of this exists. Hence, the 2001 PBS documentary is not only lost, but its existence is questionable at best.
- Archived USA Today summarising Pawn Stars and its main segments. Retrieved 22nd Mar '23
- Las Vegas Weekly detailing the show's success and key aspects of filming. Retrieved 22nd Mar '23
- The Huffington Post summarising the supposed 2001 PBS documentary. Retrieved 22nd Mar '23
- Archived Documentary Television detailing the sizzle reel. Retrieved 22nd Mar '23
- License to Pawn where Rick discussed pre-Pawn Stars TV show appearances, but making no mention of the PBS documentary. Retrieved 22nd Mar '23
- r/lostmedia discussing the supposed PBS documentary and the sizzle reel. Retrieved 22nd Mar '23
- Archived Documentary Television page that The Huffington Post article linked to. Retrieved 22nd Mar '23