Pawn Stars (partially found sizzle reel of History reality television show; 2009)

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Pawn Stars logo.

Status: Partially Found

Pawn Stars is a History reality television show. Airing new episodes since 2009, it depicts the dealings and dramas occurring within the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas. To convince History executives to pick up the show, production company Leftfield Pictures recorded a seven-minute "sizzle reel" that was completed by January 2009.


Pawn Stars details the business, relationships, and dramas occurring within the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop.[1][2] Having been opened in 1989 by Rick Harrison and his father Richard "The Old Man" Harrison, Rick's son Corey "Big Hoss" Harrison and his friend Austin "Chumlee" Russell also became key employees and Pawn Stars mainstays.[3][2][1] A typical episode will feature customers bringing in a variety of items with the intent to either pawn or sell them.[1][2] The show has an educational side, as the four pawnbrokers will provide key facts about the artifact's history.[1] Often, this involves contacting an expert to evaluate the item further, authenticate it, and determine its retail value.[1] The segment ends with the customer and pawnbroker haggling for a deal.[1] The show also features occasional road trips, restorations, and conflict between the main cast.[1][2]

Since opening the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, Rick Harrison had aspirations to create a reality TV show based on it.[4][3] Initially, he succeeded in attaining local news segments, while in 2001, a supposed PBS documentary on the Pawn Shop was broadcast.[5][6][4][3] In 2003, Rick also appeared on the Dave Attell show Insomniac.[6] In the mid-2000s, a Los Angeles television channel listed the Pawn Shop as one of the ten best Las Vegas shops.[4] This resulted in Harrison receiving at least fifteen calls to discuss establishing a possible reality show.[4] Among interested parties included HBO, who wanted to pitch a pawn shop equivalent of its hidden camera show Taxicab Confessions.[4][1][5] While a pilot was filmed, creative differences prevented a full series from being created.[4][1][5] Rick hated the pilot, as he felt it overly focused on the darker side of the pawning business.[4][5]

The Sizzle Reel

In November 2008, Leftfield Pictures contacted Harrison to discuss creating a "sizzle reel", which is a type of short promotional video.[7][4] Leftfield Pictures' Brent Montgomery was in Las Vegas attending his business partner's bachelor party, where he and a producer agreed the company needed to produce a show in the city.[7][4] Eventually, consensus formed that a show on a family-run pawn shop could be viable, and Leftfield promptly made contact with the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop.[7][4] While Rick was intrigued, his previous busts and the fact Leftfield only wanted to start filming three months later left him sceptical.[4][7] After feigning that NBC Universal were also in negotiations, Harrison was able to quickly secure a sizzle reel with Leftfield.[7][4]

By January 2009, the sizzle reel was complete and was uploaded to YouTube.[8][7] Initially, the reel faced issues, as filming was set to occur on Saturday, which was the Old Man's day off.[3] The Old Man was reluctant to star in a television show; upon receiving a call from Rick pleading for him to come in that day, he yelled to his son "RICK! YOU ARE NEVER GETTING A DAMN TV SHOW!".[3][4] Eventually, the Old Man relented, allowing filming to commence.[3][4] Featuring Rick, the Old Man, and Corey, the three pawnbrokers discussed the pros and cons of working in a family business and the basic principles of a pawn shop. One scene featured Corey haggling with and later criticising two men for their lack of intelligence and common sense after they brought in a broken guitar and a snowboard into a Las Vegas pawn shop. Filmed over a weekend, the shoot cost around $15,000-$20,000, and required two weeks of editing to establish a seven-minute package.[7]

The full sizzle reel was screened in front of History executives.[3][8][7] Drama emerged when the chosen DVD player malfunctioned, forcing an emergency replacement.[3] Despite the calamities, History executives loved the show and offered a full pilot for March 2009, and later a 13-episode series.[7][3][8] After initially toying with titles such as "Pawning History", the name Pawn Stars coined by a Leftfield intern received universal acclaim and was naturally selected.[7][8][4][1] Since then, and despite the passing of Richard Harrison on 25th June 2018,[9] the show has remained one of History's most successful and longest-running shows, airing for 23 series as of 2023.[10][3]


Of the seven-minute video, just under three minutes have been uploaded to YouTube in 2012 by Leftfield Pictures.[10][7][6] The company had originally uploaded sizzle reel footage in 2009; speculation suggests the full reel was available, but said video has since been taken down.[8][6] It is unclear why Leftfield only provided a "cut-down" version of the reel for YouTube, but it means four minutes are consequently not publicly available.[6][10][7]



Three minutes of the sizzle reel.

Rick Harrison in a 2003 Insomniac segment.

The HBO pilot.

See Also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Archived USA Today summarising Pawn Stars and its main segments. Retrieved 21st Mar '23
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Las Vegas Weekly detailing the show's success and key aspects of filming. Retrieved 21st Mar '23
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop summarising the pawn shop's history and the sizzle reel. Retrieved 21st Mar '23
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 License to Pawn where Rick discussed various pitches for a reality show, including the HBO pilot and the sizzle reel. Retrieved 21st Mar '23
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 The Huffington Post summarising the supposed 2001 PBS documentary and the failed HBO pilot. Retrieved 21st Mar '23
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 r/lostmedia discussing the supposed PBS documentary and the sizzle reel. Retrieved 21st Mar '23
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 Archived Documentary Television detailing the filming of the sizzle reel. Retrieved 21st Mar '23
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 TV Tango reporting on the sizzle reel being uploaded to YouTube in January 2009, and its success in bringing a full series to History. Retrieved 21st Mar '23
  9. USA Today reporting on the death of Richard "The Old Man" Harrison. Retrieved 21st Mar '23
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Archived Documentary Television noting the show's success on History, and announcing it uploaded a "cut-down" version of the reel to YouTube. Retrieved 21st Mar '23