“Hardcore Pawn” is a former reality series that chronicled the day-to-day activities of the pawnshop and broker entitled American Jewelry and Loan, owned and operated by the Gold family, located in Detroit, Michigan USA. “Hardcore Pawn” was produced by Zodiak USA and Richard Dominick Productions, and premiered in August 2010 to over two million viewers, making it the most-watched series premiere on truTV. The show’s format is relatively similar to that of “Pawn Stars,”- various people arrive at the pawnshop, usually intending to sell unique or exciting pieces and merchandise. After running for nine seasons, the show was canceled in April 2015.

About the American Jewelry and Loan

The third-generation pawnbroker and businessman Leslie ‘Les’ Gold opened American Jewelry and Loan in 1978 at the Green Eight Shopping Center on 8 Mile Road in Oak Park, later moving to Detroit’s 8 Mile Corridor.

The shop provides customers with short-term pawn loans with moderate interest rates and storage fees. American Jewelry and Loan is also a premiere pawnshop where customers can sell and purchase various items and merchandise. Besides Detroit, Les also has stores at other locations such as Pontiac, Hazel Park, Southgate, and Lincoln Park, Michigan.

Who is in the show’s cast?

The show’s cast includes several Gold family members and other workers of the American Jewelry and Loan: those are Leslie, Seth, Lili and Gold Ashley Gold Broad, Karen Mitchell, Bobby Janiec, Byron, Hook, Joe, Felix, Rich Pyle, Jeff,  Robo, Darren McCarty, Bryan Cranston, Niki, Amber and Christina. However, over the show’s nine-season run, several members left the show or were fired from the shop, such as Christina and Joe, while Felix’s departure was never addressed in the series.

Who is Leslie ‘Les’ Gold?

Leslie is also a TV star, media personality, and author. He was born in Detroit on 20 June 1950 to Jewish parents.

His grandfather was a pawnbroker and owner of the company “Sam’s Loans” in Detroit, which later went under, but where Les made his first sale at the age of seven. He later dipped his toes in business when he was 12, when he began buying pizzas and reselling them to fellow students at Hebrew School. After opening his shop in 1978, he proved his ingenuity and knack for negotiating, and successfully running a business.

Following the rise of the “Hardcore Pawn” series, in June 2013 he published his autobiography entitled “For What It’s Worth: Business Wisdom from a Pawnbroker”.

The book tells Les’ story of how he built a successful business, his personal experience tackling the challenges with details and advice for his readers. It’s also meant to incite the readers to “think like a pawnbroker” in any field. Promoting his book, Les appeared in the ABC’s “Good Morning America” and talked about ‘three simple steps to successful negotiation.’

Regarding his personal life, he’s been married to Lili since 1975, with who he’s welcomed two children, Seth and Ashley. Since Les opened the store, Lili has worked as an American Jewelry and Loan office manager, but only appeared a couple of times during the first season, and then went under the radar.

Who are Seth Gold and Ashley Gold?

Son Seth is a TV star, producer, writer, and motivational speaker, who also co-owns the pawnshop with his father and sister, Ashley. After graduating from the University of Michigan, he joined his father’s business, handling the store’s marketing division. While on the show, he disclosed that if it were not for him, the shop’s only advertising would be “an ad with Yellow Pages.”

Ashley Gold holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Michigan State University. She also has a diamond certification from the Gemological Institute of America, which explains why she was the head of the Jewelry Department at the shop. The rivalry between Ashley and Seth is a very common element of the show.

Why was “Hardcore Pawn” cancelled?

After the show’s ninth season, the cable channel truTV chose not to order and film any more episodes as the network changed its direction, wanting to focus more on comedy programs, and figured that “Hardcore Pawn” did not relate to that schedule. Furthermore, no other networks were interested in continuing the series, so the production was officially halted in 2014.

Why was Joe let go from the show?

Pawnshops are a hot zone when it comes to taking security measures, but it’s still not uncommon to see a few amateur thieves try their luck every now and again. However, your employees naturally are the last people you would suspect of such a thing, especially your security, who was supposed to protect you from such incidents. In 2013, during the sixth season finale, Joel ‘Joe’ Shannon was arrested for theft after police were brought in and shown several tapes of Joe stealing jewelry pieces off Jeff’s desk on multiple occasions.

After Ashley and Les escorted him to the main room where the police officers were waiting, Joe admitted to his wrongdoings, and was subsequently arrested. Joe’s stealing and arrest was a twist no one saw coming, and according to statements of show’s viewers, Joe was one of the most popular characters on the show, so it must have been a shock to see him depart on such terms. In the seventh season, they introduced a new head of security called Byron.

Who else was caught stealing on the show?

Unfortunately, Joe was not the only employee to engage in theft. During season four, a new jewelry counter employee named Teresa attempted a similar swindle. Even though Ashley hired her, there was some bad blood between the two, and Teresa didn’t last an episode before she was caught taking items out of storage and placing them online for sale. So naturally, the two women got into a scuffle, and after the confrontation, Teresa was fired.

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In the eighth season, window clerk Christina landed in hot water after Les caught her pawning fake items under her name, and taking the money for them. In the episode, heartbroken Les said: ‘Christina has worked for me for seven years. I hired her, I trained her, I even treated her like family. and this is how I get paid back? Can’t trust anybody, can you?’ Apparently, she had been stealing for a year, and took over $1000 from the pawnshop. Christina was escorted off the property in handcuffs.

Why was Rich fired from the show?

Hardcore fans remember the long-time store manager and friend Rich Pyle, for his lovable character, sense of humor, and eccentric hairstyle. Others might know him for his abrupt departure from the show, after a melodramatic ending in season five. Rich worked for nearly 25 years in Les’ shop.

On this particular day, Rich was in a bad mood, and after a couple of slip-ups, Les invited him for a chat and disclosed: ‘I told everybody the next person that f*ck ups is gonna be fired. You put me in a position that you are the next to go. If I don’t go forward with the things that I threatened everybody with nobody will take me seriously. You were on the floor doing nothing.’

However, a fans’ theory circulated that Rich was allegedly fired because he became the star of the show and shop, upstaging Les, Ashley, and Seth. Despite this inconvenience, Rich got back on his feet relatively quickly after Nation Geographic asked him to star in the reality show called “Meltdown.” Talking to a media outlet, Rich said: ‘I decided to take it on the road and find things. Everybody is doing these gold-selling parties now, so I decided to find a new twist on that.’

“Hardcore Pawn” VS “Pawn Stars”

After the enormous success of the reality series “Pawn Stars,” it did not a surprise that many tried to emulate the show’s concept, including “Hardcore Pawn.”

According to several critics, “Hardcore Pawn” is a blatant copy of the “Pawn Stars,” with several differences. Both shows chronicle the activities of a pawns shop; however, “Pawn Stars” have almost a didactic element as the show’s cast provides exciting information regarding some historical, social, or cultural events and items.

“Hardcore Pawn,” on the other hand, focuses heavily on controversy, scandals, and sensationalism, with myriad instances of verbal and physical altercations to boost the show’s popularity. Additionally, the shows have different clientele, and pursue differing items while buying or selling.

In 2012, Les talked to a radio host who asked him about the relationship with the cast of “Pawn Stars,” and he mentioned the feud. Reportedly, Les wanted to collaborate with the “Pawn Stars” while staying in Vegas but was harshly ignored; Les disclosed: ‘We went there once, called them [saying that] we were coming, and they never waited for us. I think they’re scared of us. We’re badder than they are. And more fit.”

Miss this week's SEASON FINALE of #HardcorePawn? Then you missed Les shooting a potato gun, Karen dressed up as a ring…

Posted by Hardcore Pawn on Friday, April 10, 2015

Les Gold Bought Dr. Death’s Euthanasia Van

Probably one of the most-watched and remembered moments on the show was when Les bought the Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s Euthanasia Van, used as a mobile office for assisted suicides in the 90s. If you are not familiar with Dr. Kevorkian, he was a pathologist and euthanasia proponent known as “Dr. Death”, who advocated for the patient’s right to die by physician-assisted suicide. Operating his medically-equipped white 1969 Volkswagen Microbus, he assisted in over 130 suicides, making headlines all over the US.

Les bought it for $20,000 even though it was heavily rusted out and dysfunctional. The van owner provided the paperwork, which revealed that Dr. Kevorkian sold it in 1997 for $150 to a parts yard. Later, Les said that he sold it to Zak Bagan of Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures for $32,500.

A Million Dollar Stolen Art Controversy

As it seems, drama and illicit activities were common elements in the show.

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For example, during the show’s eighth season, the Gold family was caught in a controversy regarding stolen art worth over $1 million. Two individuals, Tony and Dina, came to the pawnshop with the intention of selling the paintings without the owner’s knowledge of it. For some reason, the two told the owner that they were family friends with Les, and he offered them a good deal on the art pieces.

The owner called Les’ office and disclosed the information, while Les, Ashley, and Seth listened in shock. Additionally, Tony and Dina tried to con the owner by reporting a lesser amount for the paintings than that offered by Les.

What is Les Gold’s net worth?

Given that Les has been running the shop since the late 70’s, it’s believed that his wealth is in the range of $5 million. Seth’s net worth is estimated at $1 million, similar to his sister’s.

Controversy on the show

Compared to other reality shows, “Hardcore Pawns” probably received the most criticism for being scripted and fake. Not only that they portray daily activities as overly dramatic, but the Gold family was also accused of poor ‘acting’, and exaggerating their reactions and behavior. Even though many viewers still keep the show as a fond memory, other are convinced that most of the altercations and the employees’ run-ins with the law were staged and unauthentic. Contrary to the public’s opinion, Les swore that the show was not scripted. Given it was a popular show, it attracted a lot of customers who played-up to gain 15 minutes of fame by causing problems in the shop.

This was not the only issue with the show. Reportedly, many resented how the Detroit customers were portrayed, especially African Americans, as hair triggers, aggressive, and uncultured. Additionally, most of the scenes of unpleasant experiences with customers were heavily edited so that customers appeared silly, peculiar, and stereotypical.

Why did Ashley leave the family’s pawnshop?

After the series concluded, Ashley left the pawnshop, leaving it to her brother and father. It initially raised questions from fans who began speculating that she left due to ongoing clashes with her brother. In fact, Ashley broke out on her own and launched an online jewelry pawning business, additionally starting a podcast. Ashley revealed: ‘It’s true, I left the pawnshop. This is my thing now — I’m the pawn chick. I was born and raised in a pawn shop, [so] I know jewelry. Everyone has always seen the rough and tumble side of me, but now people will see a new side of me.’

In her words, she left the pawnshop due to health issues, and to focus on her marriage and children, disclosing: ‘There’s not a lot of women in the pawn shop industry, so I’m sure I always stood out in that sense.’

Rumors about Gold’s bankruptcy

In 2019, several media outlets noted that Les filed for bankruptcy. However, upon further investigation it proved to be a hoax, as they still operate several shops in Michigan.

Is there ever a dull moment in the pawn business!?

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