Small Business

Business Is Good For 'Pawn Stars' Entrepreneur


If you need another indicator about the state of the economy and consumer finances, look no further than your local pawn shop.

Pawn Star on Growing Addiction to Pawn

Business is booming, Las Vegas pawn shop operator Rick Harrison, star of the "Pawn Stars" reality television show, told CNBC Friday.

Harrison, who has written about his adventures in the book "Licensed to Pawn," said he gets 2,000 to 3,000 people a day at his store, in part because of the TV show, in part because in Las Vegas the need for cash can be pressing.

He's also seeing traffic from people who want to buy goods at what can be a big discount, noting, "people are rediscovering pawn shops."

He sells watches and jewelry and artwork, the strangest of which was some handpainted, 200-year-old Japanese porn, for which he paid $11,000 after he consulted with some of his network of experts.

"I always try to be honest" when deciding how much to give a person bringing in an item. "A professional reputation is very important," Harrison said, but he has to balance a fair price with the expectation of the item's future sale.

You can tell a lot about the economy by what is selling and what isn't, he said. For instance, there's nearly no market for used construction tools because of the lack of jobs in that trade. But "the price of gold has gone through the roof," he said. "People are bringing it in in droves."

And there are more people coming into his shop for the first time.

"It’s just a sign of the times," he said. "The way I look at it, and I explain this to people, it’s a near and dear item to you, it has a lot of sentimental value but you have to remember it’s just stuff. Keeping a roof over your family’s head and feeding the family's a lot more important than stuff."