Pawn Stars is the most successful reality show that History Channel has ever produced. It’s currently in its 16th season (as of March 2019) and breaking all sorts of TV records in the process. It spawned short-lived offshoots (Cajun Pawn Stars) and longer-lasting spin-offs (Counting Cars, American Restoration), and made the Harrison family both famous and wealthy. Thanks to the show, Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas went from having 80 customers a day to over 1,000, with a line around the block at all times.
Rick Harrison and his son, Corey, don’t even regularly work at the pawn shop these days because it’s become so crowded. But when a big potential buy comes into the shop, you can guarantee they’ll be front and center of the cameras, eager to haggle. The show continues this year with the notable absence of the Old Man, after his unfortunate passing last year.
Cars tend to be dubious prospects to pawn because you’re never too sure what can go wrong with them, if the parts are original, or if the estimated value of a car is what you’ll actually get at auction. There are many times when Rick buys one of these big-ticket items that he quickly learns the restoration costs involved and finds himself in a hole. Actually, more often than not, it seems like buying cars isn’t the best purchase a pawn shop can make.
But people love cars. And people love Pawn Stars. So every once in a while, Rick will make a big buy and sale that will negate the losses he might’ve made in the past. Here are 15 times that the Pawn Stars crew lost money on cars they bought, and 5 times when they came up big.
If you ask most people under a certain age these days what cars “Imperial” has made, they’ll look at you blankly. The Imperial Crown was originally the name of a Chrysler model, but it became its own brand in 1955. This stunning car was a huge success. We’re not sure how much the car cost the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop at the outset but apparent,ly it took “The Old Man” a full 15 years to convince the seller to sell it to him. That’s already a loss since it went to the Old Man and not the shop, but then there were $10,000 in damages done to the car after its engine went kaput one day, which puts the shop in the hole even more.
The Shelby GT350 is a legendary car, there’s no doubt about it. When it came into the Pawn Stars shop, Rick and the gang knew they had to have it. And they spent a pretty penny to get it. They spent $100,000 in fact, which seemed like a lot. It took a while to get rid of but didn’t need any fix-ups, and ended up selling on eBay for $133,000, which was just $1,900 less than the original price on the auction website. It only had 62,000 miles on the clock, was completely original with its 289 K Code Hi-Performance V8 engine and four-speed transmission, and was a good buy and sell for the Pawn Stars.
One of the most expensive car purchases on Pawn Stars came from this limited edition 2014 Ford Mustang Hertz Penske GT, of which only 150 were ever made. It came when Hertz’s “Rent-A-Racer” program which was a partnership with Roger Penske. This was also one of the first 10 built, with a six-speed manual transmission, and had never been rented, so it was in pristine condition. The seller asked for $85,000 and got $60,000, which it turned out was too much (even though Rick’s car expert valued the car at $75,000). Despite its rarity, Rick had problems selling it for a long time and many fans believe he overspent on this one.
This beautiful, Sunflower Yellow 1951 Chevrolet Styleline Deluxe was once owned by Steve McQueen. Giving it celebrity provenance boosts the value, of course, and it ended up fetching a price far above average at an auction event in 2013. It was used on screen in McQueen’s last film, The Hunter, and was bought by Rick Harrison for $37,000. It was price-valued somewhere between $50,000 and $60,000, which would already be a good profit for Rick, but he ended up selling it at the auction for $88,000, thanks to the previous celebrity owner of the car. It still sported its original 92-hp, 216.5ci Stovebolt six-cylinder engine and column-shifted three-speed transmission and had been restored about 10 years earlier.
This one was an impulse buy from Corey Harrison, Rick’s son, and it actually didn’t take place at the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop at all. No, this car was put in a raffle at the Golden Gate and D Casino Hotel in Las Vegas, which Corey attended. He didn’t win the raffle but knew he wasn’t walking away without the car. A crowd formed around the winner and Corey Harrison, who had walked up to haggle with the man after he won it. Corey ended up getting it for $80,000. The fastest Dodge ever made, with 707 horsepower and a 2.3-second 0-60 mile per hour sprint time, this car is easily worth about $150-180,000, so even though it was an impulse buy, it wasn’t a bad one.
At first glance, this seems like a terrific buy for the Pawn Stars crew: the 1987 Jaguar XJ6 is a pretty good looking car in that classic Jaguar sense. It had 113,000 miles on it when it was brought into the shop, and the owner wanted $5,000 for it. Rick offered $2,200, then $2,500, and that was the selling price. Good work. Then he brought it to Danny Koker of Count’s Kustoms and threw another $3,500 into for new chrome wheels, a fix-up, and a new two-colored paint job with a pinstripe on the hood. So they only sunk $6,000 into this one and could have sold it for more, but the big loss came when Rick turned around and gave it to the Old Man!
There was a lot of dubious speculation when this beautiful 1965 Shelby Cobra came into the shop—and for good reason. Many original Cobras sell for seven figures at auctions these days, so why should this one be any different? Well, because it’s a CSX4000 model, which means it’s an original Cobra but not one of the OG originals. Also, it wasn’t the whole car: it had an unfinished aluminum body, without the powertrain, brakes, or interior. It was a CSX designation with no serial number on it. The questions started to mount but Rick got it for just $37,000. And even after getting it restored, he managed to sell it for $130,000, meaning he definitely made a nice profit.
Rick found this classic icon with his son, Corey. It was a hot rod designed by Henry Ford himself, with 500 horsepower, a folding convertible top, and roll-up windows. The only problem was the owner was asking $105,000 for it. Rick’s experts put the value between $70,000 and $75,000 and they finally whittled the price down to $68,250 (not a great buy, even at that valuation). However, afterward, other experts said the car, which was a hot-rod mod of the original, would probably only be worth about $50,000 in its current condition, which meant they’d need to spend money on getting it worked on and even then wouldn’t be guaranteed a profit.
This one has a pretty unique history in the Pawn Stars almanac, not because of the price or profit gained, but because of the way it was bought. During the episode where this car sold, Rick made the owner a special offer: this 1932 Lincoln Roadster was actually swapped for $95,000 worth of gold bullion! The owner obviously walked away happy because that gold is probably worth more than the cash. And Rick walked away happy because he could sell this thing for $120,000 to $130,000 as it was, or up to $170,000 restored. It ended up being a memorable moment for the show and everyone walked away a winner.
There’s no doubt that the Pawn Stars team has it in for Mustangs: they tend to buy them all the time, especially older models, because they’re popular, legendary, and usually fetch a good price. But that was not the case for this 1968 Mustang GT. It was ugly and rusty when it came in and Danny Koker estimated its current worth between $12,000 and $15,000, without any repairs. Rick got the car for $12,500 (already biting into his expected profits), and to make matters worse (and Koker probably knew this), the repair costs were exorbitant, making it very difficult for Rick and his family to make a profit on it.
Who wouldn’t want to own a Back to the Future car? This is another iconic car that gearheads simply love because of the history, not because it was a great car (and it wasn’t—it was slow and lethargic and cost too much). But it had sentimental value for the Pawn Stars boys, which was the first rule of business they broke: buying based on emotion. Rick bought the car for $24,000 from the owner and despite it being a head-turner, that’s simply too much if you hope to sell this dud on four wheels for a profit. In fact, you can easily find DMC-12s online right now for $17,500 to $22,000!
While this late-50s Chevy looks awesome and has tons of history, it was an absolute horrible buy for the Pawn Stars group. This black 150 was at the center of a series of crossover shows on Pawn Stars: it was originally found and bought by the crew on American Pickers for $6,500. It was then sold to the Pawn Stars group for a small profit, then featured on American Restoration, where they paid a surprising $70,000 to restore it! The icing on the cake was that it was then gifted to the Old Man. In all, the Rick and his group were out almost $80,000, and to make matters worse, that $70,000 restoration didn’t include fireproofing, which was evident when the car later lit up!
The little Lotus Europa is a great car that was popular during its day. Back in the 1970s, it was one of the best sports cars around. Only 9,300 were produced between 1966 and 1975, and this one that showed up in the Pawn Stars shop was bought by them for $13,000. Despite its popularity, however, the car sat in the shop for a year, with Rick eventually trying to sell it for $1,000 less than he got it for. They brought the car to eBay eventually, where it sold for $15,350, but with shipping costs to the bid winner, the profit was marginal or possibly even negative.
Another customized early-generation Ford model that has huge sentimental value for any gearhead, this Model T “Taxi” showed up at Gold & Silver, had an estimated valuation of $29,000 by Danny Koker, and was bought by Rick for $21,000. That seems okay, at first, but it wasn’t. First, it had an unoriginal four-cylinder Chevy engine in it, a modern turn-key ignition system, and a built-in CD player. None of these are original accessories, which is a bad thing for a car this old. In the end, it did sell for $29,700 at a Barrett-Jackson auction. After commissions, the seller got $23,760, from a sale price of $25,826, which left a profit of just $2,760. But then there were storage, transportation, taxes, transfer, and fix-up costs to consider and this was a bust.
The Austin-Healey Sprite BRG was such a popular car in its day that it even has a forum dedicated to it. Another cool little car from the UK, this Austin-Healey Sprite BRG looked beautiful when it showed up to the shop, but the engine wouldn’t start. The owner said it must have been a dead battery and Rick agreed (big mistake). The owner wanted $10,000 for the car but settled for $5,000. When Rick took it to his mechanic, he found out that he was looking at $6,000 in repairs, making this car cost more than he could sell it for, as many of these cars sell for less than $10,000.
The Hudson Commodore 8 was a very futuristic looking car for its day (and even today) and this particular one was given much praise when it showed up at Gold & Silver. This beige Commodore was a top of the line luxury car in its day but there was one glaring omission here: this one didn’t have the original dashboard—the original factory woodgrain dash had been painted over with solid beige. The owner said he’d paid $10,500 for it three years earlier, and he sold it to Rick for $20,000 (giving the owner a nice profit). Rick overspent by about $5,000, as you can find Commodores on Hemmings for $15,000 to $25,000 today.
Late 1960s Chevy and Ford muscle cars are hard to turn away for the Pawn Stars group. There’s a big market for them, they look awesome, and people love these cars. This 1969 Chevy Camaro Z28 was bought by Corey for $40,000 and he spent so much on it because he wanted to personally own the car. Rick nixed that idea and complained about his son’s lavish spending habits and then he tried to sell the car for $65,000 on various venues, then went down to $50,000, but it just wouldn’t sell. Even today, Hagerty values the car only at $36,000, and you can find it and rent it just by doing a quick Google search of the car.
Here’s another muscle car that the Pawn Stars crew just had to have and that ended up being a not-so-good purchase. This one is by the defunct Plymouth company and it was spotted by Corey at a Florida auction that he and Rick were attending. They ended up buying the car (another impulse buy) and driving it back to Vegas (not a smart idea to grind the engine so hard if you’re trying to sell it). Rick bought the car for $45,000, though it didn’t have the original engine. It had a pro-built 417 Hemi stroker engine instead. They then spent $7,800 on commission fees and couldn’t sell it. Even if they could, you can find Road Runners on Hemmings for $30,000 to $50,000 right now, which is less than they spent on this one.
We aren’t sure how much Rick Harrison spent, originally, on this 1940s Indian motorcycle, which is a classic by all accounts, but we do know how much he lost on the bike. It was part of his world-class loss at an auction in which he was trying to turn a quick profit but ended up taking a big hit. Such is the nature of his business. He took this Indian with a sidecar, a Vic Flick-owned Stratocaster guitar, and some other items, and took them to Julien’s Auctions in LA. He told the Indy Channel that he ended up losing $100,000 that day: $29,000 on the motorcycle, $35,000 on the guitar, and various other losses. Ouch.
This last car looks very typical in the Old Man’s custody and that’s why it was a bad buy for Pawn Stars: not because it’s a bad car but because they didn’t make any money on it. This 1962 Lincoln Continental came into the store and Rick spent $9,500 to get it. He then spent a whopping $15,000 more on getting the interior redone, so that’s $24,500 in all. And after all of that, it was given to the Old Man as a present. Maybe he knew that he’d eventually be able to sell the thing once the Old Man was gone—but we sincerely doubt Rick Harrison is that cynical or morbid.
Sources: Coin Talk, Automobile Magazine, Hemmings, and Vegas News.