The back room of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop looks exactly as “Pawn Stars” fans might expect, with one very notable exception: one massive wall is lined, floor to ceiling, with boxes and boxes (and boxes) of t-shirts. Since the debut of the hugely popular reality show “Pawn Stars” (Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on History) in 2009, it seems everyone wants to walk around with images of fan favorite Chumlee emblazoned across their chests.
He’s the resident clown of the most famous little pawn shop on Las Vegas Boulevard and has become an unlikely pop culture icon, with sales of all Chumlee-related merchandise far surpassing everyone else’s. Rick Harrison, the affable pawnbroker who anchors the show, has his own theory that might explain Chumlee’s mass appeal: “Kids love Chumlee because he’s the adult that they’re smarter than,” he quipped with a laugh to The Huffington Post at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas.
Rick’s son Corey, another fixture on the show, agrees. “People love to see that a guy like Chumlee made it,” he said. “Everybody loves an underdog.”
The beloved show has attracted a loyal audience that spans multiple demographics. People tune in to see everything from what kind of rare artifacts will come through the door to what sassy new insult The Old Man has in store for Chumlee. “He talks like he’s in the Navy,” said Chumlee of the Old Man’s frequent barbs directed towards him.
As we dive into the sixth season, we’ve compiled a list of 13 things you probably didn’t know about the “Pawn Stars” with a little help from Rick, Corey, Chumlee and Rick’s book, “License to Pawn.” (Sadly, The Old Man wasn’t around during our visit.)
1. “Pawn Stars” is the no. 2 most-watched reality show in North America. (“Jersey Shore” holds the top spot.)
2. The guys can’t actually work the counter anymore because of privacy laws. Since they’ve become celebrities, people are constantly taking pictures of them, compromising the privacy of whoever’s at the pawn counter. “Now I’ll meet a guy in the hallway,” said Corey.
3. PBS did a documentary on Rick and the shop in 2001. “I’ve always been a media whore,” Rick said, laughing. When business spiked after the special aired, Rick started to shop the idea of a TV show around. HBO expressed interest early on and even developed a pilot, but their focus was on the more depressing side of the pawn business, which wasn’t the angle Rick wanted to pursue.
4. Corey and Chumlee have personal assistants now. “I do a lot of desert racing. My assistant empties out the septic tank of the trailer when I go! It’s a little weird asking somebody to do that for you,” said Corey with a laugh.
5. Chumlee’s done a lot of dumb things on camera, but his dumbest move of all time (according to Corey) happened before the show’s inception. After someone came in to pawn a stand-up bass, Chumlee leaned it against a shelf and walked away. The bass fell and shattered into pieces. Chumlee put the pieces into a box, and put the pawn number on the box. When the man came to pick it up, he opened the box and saw his bass in pieces. “He started freaking out,” Corey recalled. “He pawned it for $700, and it wound up costing us $20,000 because it turned out to be rare.” Chumlee, for his part, can’t explain his actions. “I don’t know what I was thinking,” he said.
6. Rick has always been a serial entrepreneur. At one point, he even bought a Quizno’s franchise that Corey and Chumlee ran together.
7. Corey’s brother Adam used to work at the shop, too — but you’re probably not going to see him on the show anytime soon. “Most likely not. He’s a plumber now,” Corey said. Is Adam envious of Corey’s newfound fame? “I think there has to be some type of jealousy,” Corey mused.
8. The most dangerous thing Chumlee has ever tested? One of the blunderbusses. “A flame shot out, and I did get burned up my arm,” Chumlee recalled.
9. “Pawn Stars” was originally set to be called “Pawning History,” until someone at the production company threw out its current name.
10. “Pawn Stars” has become an international phenomenon, airing in dozens of countries around the world, from Singapore to Serbia. Fun fact: In Germany, the show is called “Die Drei vom Pfandhaus” (“The Three of the Pawnshop”).
11. Chumlee has pretty awesome taste in TV shows: He doesn’t miss “Boardwalk Empire,” “Sons of Anarchy” or “Breaking Bad.” Rick, on the other hand, would rather be reading. “Television is so mind-numbing to me,” he said.
12. Jon Bon Jovi once requested to meet the guys. “We went to his meet n’ greet to meet his kids because they wanted a picture with us,” said Chumlee. “He gave us front row tickets. That was pretty cool. When does Bon Jovi personally invite you to his show?”
13. Since the show debuted, Rick gets shooed away from a lot of garage sales and swap meets because people are worried about his shrewd negotiating skills. “Last year I stopped by a yard sale and asked a lady about a painting,” he said. “She recognized who I was and took it away and said, ‘It’s not for sale!’ [Laughs.]