Light. Only took about 3-4 hours to read. Recommended for hard core fans of the show who want to know more, perhaps even a bit too much, about the guys on the show.
Why talk about it here? Despite the classic movie focus this is primarily a collectibles site and Pawn Stars is a show that not only features some fantastic collectibles but also shows dealer negotiation better than anyone else (Watch Rick vary the patterns of his offers, he's completely unpredictable).
I'm no fan of reality TV and so I came to Pawn Stars late, after Season 1, completely thanks to recommendation of my pal Deanna at Inherited Values. I instantly fell in love with the show. No, I've never owned or operated a pawn shop, but as a lifelong collectibles dealer this is still my world and I connect with the way these guys run their business much more than any of the other shows of this type. These guys are hustlers and the book definitely cements that idea.
Written by Rick Harrison with Tim Keown and including a guest chapter each from the Old Man, Corey aka Big Hoss, and Chumlee, we're told several stories of personal struggle and addiction plus given a complete history of how the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop came to be.
Rick writes that the book also naturally becomes a history of Las Vegas during his time there as well, and while that idea is a bit overstated there's no doubt that it is a history of the immediate vicinity of their shop during their time there. We're told about derelicts and gamblers, pimps and prostitutes, even hustlers who use the shop as their own personal bank, and those are some of the best stories in License to Pawn. Did we need a chapter about Bizzle? Probably not, but it does add color and you get the idea that the story is being told because the guys had a real fondness for the strange outcast who is subject of the chapter.
Where I was disappointed was in the stories about the specific items. The items written about in License to Pawn are almost all items we've already seen discussed on TV. That gives them some familiarity to the reader, but at the same time the background of each item is basically parroted from the show. There is some mention of Rick's having taken advantage of fads past, ie: Zippo Lighters, Bomber Jackets, Baseball Cards, and Furbys, however there's no focus on fantastic individual documents or centuries old weaponry that we haven't already heard about*.
*Correction, there is a story about the late Diego Corrales pawning his World Championship boxing belt that anyone who saw his all-time classic bout vs Jose Luis Castillo will appreciate!
I'm left feeling that while there's no doubt that the Harrisons were always hustling for a buck, the really cool stuff didn't start coming through until the cameras arrived and they became Pawn Stars. Now I bet that's not at all true, but the book left me wondering if it might be so.
My best guess is that Tim Keown interviewed Rick and the others about their lives but didn't go much beyond available episodes of Pawn Stars in gathering info about their deals and steals. Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and has previously co-authored books with sports stars Dennis Rodman and Josh Hamilton (which probably explains the inclusion of the Diego Corrales story that I liked up above!)
And this is all fine. License to Pawn is at its heart a book about the guys much more than a book about the business. If you're a collectibles dealer like me you're much more likely to relate to the tales told within than you are to learn much from them. But License to Pawn isn't aimed at collectibles dealers, the target is the mass mainstream audience which has made the Pawn Stars television show such a hit. License to Pawn will satisfy them.
All in all it's not the book I had expected, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. The full title of this book is License to Pawn: Deals, Steals, and My Life at the Gold & Silver--I definitely know Rick and the other Pawn Stars personalities much better now as their lives are covered extremely well, but tales of Deals and Steals were a bit lacking by my expectations.
License to Pawn: Deals, Steals, and My Life at the Gold & Silver is by Rick Harrison with Tim Keown. 256 pages plus 8 pages of color photos (which will show you what all of the fellows looked like when they were younger). Published by Hyperion out of New York, 2011.
October 14, 2011: Deanna at Inherited Values has recently posted a detailed review of this same title. Check it out here!