Pawn Stars (lost PBS documentary featuring World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop; existence unconfirmed; 2001)

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Pawn Stars logo.

Status: Existence Unconfirmed

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.[1][2][3][4] 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.[1][2] 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.[1][2][4]

Before 2009, Rick was keen to have a television show based around his pawn shop.[5][6][3] 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.[3][6] 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.[5][3][6] 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.[5] After initially receiving interest from HBO and NBC Universal, a pilot was initially filmed with the latter.[5][3] This ultimately came to nothing, as Rick was unhappy with the pilot's focus on the darker nature surrounding pawn shops.[5][3] Instead, a sizzle reel produced with Leftfield Pictures helped secure a television deal with History in 2009.[4][5][3]

However, the aforementioned Huffington Post list claims the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop was also featured in a PBS documentary that aired in 2001.[3][6] Unlike the other pre-Pawn Stars television spots, very little is known surrounding the documentary.[6] 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.[3][6] It added that HBO and other television stations became aware of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop following the special's broadcast, and this was what led to them contacting Harrison.[3]


If the PBS documentary did indeed exist, it would mark the oldest televised appearance of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop.[6][3] But while this supposed documentary has been referenced briefly on various entertainment websites, it appeared none had elaborated further than the Huffington Post source.[6] Additionally, the claim's validity has been called into question.[6] To authenticate its claim, the source linked to a Documentary Television post detailing the creation of Pawn Stars.[7][3][6] However, upon viewing the archived web page, no mention of this documentary was ever made.[7][6] Another issue concerns the fact Rick himself never discussed this documentary in his 2011 book License to Pawn.[5][6] He also contradicts The Huffington Post's claim by stating HBO and NBC Universal actually became interested following the Los Angeles television channel airing.[5] This confirmed Los Angeles broadcast is also lost media.

An r/lostmedia discussion suggested Rick's appearance at the 2011 GIA International Gemological Symposium.[6] However, talk regarding the rumoured PBS documentary ceased afterwards. But in April 2023, prominent lost media-centric YouTuber LSuperSonicQ viewed this very Lost Media Wiki article, and subsequently began his own research on the supposed documentary.[8] He initially attempted to find the "media whore" quote Rick supposedly made, but found no results beyond the Wiki and Huffington Post articles.[8] Therefore, he concentrated on the 2011 GIA International Gemological Symposium claim and came across an article published by Hedda Schupak of jewellery news website The Centurion on 1st June 2011.[9][8] The article not only reported on Rick's recent appearance at GIA but noted the PBS documentary and how it convinced Rick to propose a reality show to networks like HBO.[9][8] Schupak also briefly interviewed Rick, the latter claiming that one needs originality combined with top quality to survive and thrive in the jewellery industry.[9]

While the Centurion Jewellery predated the Huffington Post list, LSuperSonicQ noted the article never sourced its PBS documentary claim.[8] The page raised the plausibility that Rick's quote originated at GIA, but a complete lack of video footage from the event makes it impossible to verify.[9][8] LSuperSonicQ additionally searched archived pages of the PBS website but found nothing of interest.[8] LSuperSonicQ discussed his findings in the video "Does This Lost Media Exist?", uploaded on 27th October 2023. But as of the publishing of that video, the 2001 PBS documentary remains not only lost, but its existence is still questionable at best.



Hedda Schupak's brief interview with Harrison.

LSuperSonicQ's video on the rumoured documentary (12:50-17:39).

Three minutes of the sizzle reel.

Rick Harrison in a 2003 Insomniac segment.

The HBO pilot.

See Also