Hardcore Pawn is an American reality television series produced by RDF USA (later Zodiak USA) and Richard Dominick Productions for truTV about the day-to-day operations of American Jewelry and Loan, a family-owned and operated pawn shop in Detroit, Michigan's 8 Mile Road corridor.
American Jewelry and Loan is owned by Leslie "Les" Gold, the grandson of a pawnbroker who once owned Sam's Loans, a now-defunct pawnshop on Michigan Avenue in Detroit. Les first opened American Jewelry at the Green Eight Shopping Center on 8 Mile Road in Oak Park in 1978, moving to its present location in 1993.
In 2011, American Jewelry expanded to its second location when it acquired Premier Jewelry and Loan in Pontiac; the new location was featured in the first few episodes of Hardcore Pawn's fifth season, and in two episodes of the sixth season, where Seth attempts to sell the Pontiac location behind Les's back.
Les's business partner and only son, Seth, is an alumnus of the University of Michigan and has been a co-owner of American Jewelry since graduating from school. Seth handles the shop's marketing and claims that if it was not for him, the shop's only marketing would be "an ad in the Yellow Pages". Les's daughter, Ashley, has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Michigan State University and earned her graduate diamond certification from the Gemological Institute of America. She is a co-owner of American Jewelry and has been working there for more than fifteen years, although she took three years off at one point for maternity leave. The sibling rivalry between her and Seth is a common element of many episodes.
The show averaged 2.6 million viewers during its sixth season.
- Leslie "Les" Gold, owner
- Seth Gold, Les' son, co-owner
- Ashley Gold Broad, Les' daughter, co-owner
- Karen Mitchel, Les' niece, co-manager—jewelry department
- Bobby Janiec ("Bobby J"), store employee
- Byron, head of security
- Hook, security
- Rich, Manager in Electronics
Comparison to Pawn Stars
The show has been largely compared to Pawn Stars on History, but in the vein of similar programs (Operation Repo and Lizard Lick Towing for example), the focus is mainly on the human aspects of drama, rather than the significance of the items being brought into the shop.
Due to similarities to Pawn Stars, Hardcore Pawn has been described as simply being a knock-off and a capitalization on the breakout success of Pawn Stars. Les Gold claims that his show is a true representation of what a pawn shop does, focusing on the human element and showing that people are suffering tough times and need money for food and rent.
According to Marc Juris of truTV, any similarities between the shows are coincidental. He also noted that Hardcore Pawn was in development for more than a year and two test episodes aired in December 2009. Regarding the initial identical time slot of Monday nights at 10 pm ET, opposite Pawn Stars at the time, Juris claimed the choice was made because Hardcore Pawn fit well with Operation Repo. The second season debuted in December 2010, in the Tuesday at 9 pm ET timeslot.
Reality versus scripting
Owner Les Gold said at the launch of the show that there would be no staged antics, products or characters on the show. However, New York Post writer Linda Stasi has opined that some situations in Hardcore Pawn are set up.
|First aired||Last aired|
|Pilot episodes||2||December 21, 2009|
|1||8||August 16, 2010||September 27, 2010|
|2||8||December 28, 2010||February 8, 2011|
|3||13||February 15, 2011||May 24, 2011|
|4||13||June 21, 2011||October 4, 2011|
|5||26||November 15, 2011||June 19, 2012|
|6||26||July 10, 2012||February 5, 2013|
|7||26||March 26, 2013||November 5, 2013|
|8||27||December 17, 2013||August 20, 2014|
|9||13||December 29, 2014||April 6, 2015|
As of April 6, 2015, 162 episodes (including the pilots and specials) have aired over nine seasons. Repeats of Hardcore Pawn are also seen on occasion on TNT.
Hardcore Pawn has generated two spinoffs:
- Combat Pawn, a series about the employees and customers at Guns Plus, a gun shop located near the Fort Bragg military installation in North Carolina. Originally developed under the title "Hardcore Pawn: Fort Bragg", Combat Pawn debuted on truTV on Sunday July 15, 2012 at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT.
- Hardcore Pawn: Chicago, which features Chicago's Royal Pawn Shop, a pawn shop owned by two brothers, Randy and Wayne Cohen, whose family has been in the business for over 100 years. The series debuted January 1, 2013 and is produced for truTV by Bischoff-Hervey Entertainment, with Eric Bischoff and Jason Hervey as executive producers.
In addition, Rich Pyle, one of the American Jewelry clerks who was featured in many episodes of Hardcore Pawn, has since left the show and became host of another television series for the National Geographic Channel, Meltdown, a series focusing on the recycling of precious metals. That series debuted on National Geographic on October 31, 2013.