When Hyperion, the publishers of License to Pawn: Deals, Steals, and My Life at the Gold & Silver (by Rick Harrison, of History’s Pawn Stars, and Tim Keown, a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine) offered me the chance to receive a review copy of the book, I jumped at it — I’m a huge fan of the show!
License To Pawn isn’t a “how to” in terms of opening or running a pawn shop, but the book contains more information on the business side of things than I had previously known or even thought of before; it takes a lot more than money to invest to enter and remain in the business.
License To Pawn isn’t a “how to” for collectors, dealers or buyers, but there are tips on how to negotiate, what affects the antiques and collectibles market, etc. Like the show, Rick bluntly lays down the realities.
Yes, there are stories about interesting objects (and persons) who come into the shop (most of the stories about objects are those already seen in show episodes), but that’s not what License To Pawn is really about either.
What License To Pawn really is, is the stories of the men behind the counters at the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. And that’s far more entertaining and inspirational than even I, a huge fan, thought!
The book focuses on Rick, but even if Big Hoss, The Old Man, and Chumlee didn’t have their own individual chapters, which they do, each is included in Rick’s stories; it’s a family business, after all. However, Rick (even without my serious girl crush) remains the focus of the book.
While I am a fan of the show, I’m not one who stalks, even in terms of internet reading and media stories about celebrities so I had no idea that Rick suffered from epilepsy (grand mal seizures) as a child. This led to his belief that he wouldn’t survive to adulthood — and an eventual drug problem. But those seizures, which he eventually did outgrow, led to something else wonderful.
[The seizures] altered my life in nearly every way. Whenever one hit, I would be out of school for as long as ten days. The muscle pulls were so painful and severe that ai could do nothing but lay in bed with ice packs on my hamstrings and quadriceps.
It was there, in that bed in our suburban home in the Mission Valley section of San Diego , that my life changed again. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t move more than a few inches without pain. I didn’t have a television in my room. Video games and iPads hadn’t been invented. I was left to my own devices.
So I read books.
A lot of books.
…I have a very analytical, mathematical, calculating mind. I know I’m not supposed to believe in things like karma. But certain things have happened in my life that can’t be explained by simple coincidence. How else can you explain the sequence of events and circumstances that led to me turning those bedridden hours — which should have been the worst hours of my life — into something that would provide a foundation for a life of curiosity and fun?
That’s what happened. That’s how profound the discovery of books was in my life. I didn’t like school, but I loved books. Reading has been the basis of just about everything that came after. In that bed, I fell in love not only with books but with knowledge. The experience tapped into something I might never have found without the trying circumstances that led up to it. So much of the enjoyment I’ve gained from life has stemmed from a book — either researching some arcane item or reading to learn how to do something practical with my hands.
(Is there anything sexier than a man who loves to read — and research yet!)
And then there are the Horatio Alger-esque stories of each member of the Pawn Stars cast’s rise from humble backgrounds to lives of security and comfort through hard work and determination. Passion and skills into profit, yes; but even more than that, the stories in this book are about finding yourself even when you do your very best to get in your own way. Overcoming obstacles — internal and external — with responsibility for personal accountability, education, and a dedicated pursuit of goals. There’s even a “be careful what you wish for” story; now that the show’s made the cast and the store so popular, Rick can’t be out on the floor, doing what he loves. All things worth reading. Even if they weren’t mixed in with stories about antiques and collectibles — and the unique individuals who buy and sell them.
I only have two complaints about this book…
One, Hyperion is often noted for their “strike while the iron is hot” approach to publishing. This makes sense, but I couldn’t help but feel that this book would have benefited from at least one more round of editing; there were several awkward phrasings, etc., which would have been simple fixes to make the book a bit more polished. And I do mean editing — this is not a slight towards Rick or any of the Pawn Stars themselves (or even Keown); another pair of professional editor eyes would have caught the small problems. Something that bothered me more than a bit for Rick, the reader!
Two, my kids are a fan of this show and while I think there are incredible personal stories my children would benefit from reading, I don’t feel comfortable giving them the book to read due to one adult joke. While reading about prostitutes across the street is certainly less shocking than the plethora of police and crime shows on mainstream prime-time television (not to mention song lyrics on the radio), a joke about oral sex is a bit too much for me to feel comfortable letting the 11 year old read the book.
Overall, License To Pawn is easy to read, charms with great stories, and offers an entertaining look at the world of pawn shops as well as the cast of the show and the cast of characters and objects one is likely to find at pawn shops. It’s definitely worth the read.
As noted above, I received a free review copy from Hyperion; this did not affect my review or even guarantee publication of my review.