Sean Rich rose to prominence as one of the antique warfare experts on cable television due to “Pawn Stars”, not in the main cast of the History Channel’s weekly hit series but a recurring guest, who since its TV premiere in 2009, has appeared in close to 60 episodes. There was a time when he was conspicuously absent from the show in 2012 and 2013, and speculation as to the reason why surfaced online. He returned in 2014 and stayed with the show until he made his last appearance in 2016, to the subsequent dismay of his fans.
- 1 All about “Pawn Stars”
- 2 Sean Rich, one of the “Pawn Stars” resident experts
- 3 Highlights on Sean’s time in “Pawn Stars”
- 4 Sean had limited appearances to none in “Pawn Stars” for two years
- 5 “Lords of War” at National Geographic Channel
- 6 The antique armory specialist was back in the TV show in 2014
- 7 Update on Sean Rich’s whereabouts
All about “Pawn Stars”
Everyone could apply for a loan in a bank, but getting approval was an entirely different matter. The pawn shop had been a great alternative for cash-strapped people even way before banks were established. This had been the front and center of the business establishment called Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, and the transactions there were documented in the reality-TV show, “Pawn Stars.”
Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, the background of the show
Artwork, collectibles, antiques, or anything deemed valuable would be expertly appraised in the pawn shop, and clients had the option to pawn or sell the items. This had been the Gold & Silver’s standard operating procedure, which was how it grew successfully over the years. It all started in 1980, when Richard B. Harrison, a retired US Navy sailor, transferred his residence from San Diego to Las Vegas. To feed his family, he established a coin store, but it wasn’t enough for his ambitious son, Rick Harrison, who thought of expanding the business to a pawn shop.
However, back then, the Las Vegas city council decided that no more business licenses would be given, at least not until the city had around 250,000 residents. Rick recalled, ‘When they made this law, there were only 25,000 people in Vegas; they never thought it was going to happen.’ Apparently, a sale back then would amount to something like $500,000 to $700,000. Rick would diligently reach out to the official city statistician to get the monthly numbers. It took them several years before the city accumulated the required population count, and it happened a month after Rick celebrated his 23rd birthday. He immediately applied for the business license, and it was one of the first few granted in Las Vegas’ since the population had grown.
Why was Gold & Silver uniquely different from other pawn shops?
To be competitive in the world of pawn shops in which there were several branches scattered in different parts of the country, Rick knew that he needed to offer something more to the clients with his new shop. He delved into rare and unique memorabilia, including weaponry and artwork instead of just focusing on the usual items that were pawned in other shops. He also made sure that a Picasso painting was on his wall, and that his staff would be the best in the field. This strategy gained him more clients, boosted the reputation of Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, and made the business popular.
From Gold & Silver Pawn Shop to “Pawn Stars”
There are several stories on how the pawn shop evolved into the reality-TV series, “Pawn Stars,” depending on who was telling the story. Rick Harrison, who wanted any type of promotion for his shop, was interested in having a reality-TV show documenting their daily activities. He acquired help from Leftfield Productions to film a test or pilot episode, and present it to the TV networks. His father, popularly known as “The Old Man” in the show, didn’t want to be part of it, especially since they chose to film on a Saturday, which was his day off. Rick pleaded until he was able to get his father on the same page.
Pawn Stars Gold & Silver Pawn shop has an adjacent green screen stage for filming. pic.twitter.com/dvfFkJ68tZ
— Ed McDonough (@Digucator) April 23, 2016
Rick’s problems didn’t end there because when it was time to pitch the idea to one of the junior executives in the History Channel corporate offices, the DVD player was broken; they had to go around the office to fing one that worked. Rick said that it was fortunate that along the way, they met the VP of programming, a decision maker, who helped them play the reel, and after viewing it, decided to create a show for them. Initially, it had the working title, “Pawning History,” but someone from Leftfield said that “Pawn Stars” would not only fit better with what the show was offering, but catchy as well because it was a wordplay to ‘porn stars.’ It’s now had 20 seasons since it first aired on 19 July 2009.
Sean Rich, one of the “Pawn Stars” resident experts
Arms and armory artifacts had been Sean Rich’s expertise, and it was the main reason why the reality-TV show, “Pawn Stars,” hired him to appraise antique weaponry items. Not many people knew that before he became a popular expert in the show, he was a land and nautical archaeologist; he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Anthropology from Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island. Aside from being a known 16th-19th century expert on Arms and Armor, he was also a master antique gunsmith, a classical numismatist, a jeweler, and an historian. Due to his extensive knowledge of many types of antiquities, he became a consultant and supplier of props to the motion picture industry. When he wasn’t busy on TV and movie projects, he managed the operations of Tortuga Trading Inc. in Encinitas, California, a known antique arms and armor supply store.
Highlights on Sean’s time in “Pawn Stars”
One of the reasons Sean Rich accumulated fans through the show was because of his genuine appreciation of the rare and unique items he saw in the pawn shop, as well as his knowledge of antique armory. Here are just some of the most fascinating times he was in the show:
A 1750 French Double-Barrel Coach Gun used by noblemen
In the fourth episode of the second season, Rick was confronted with a mid-1700s French double-barrel musket coach gun from a client. It was supposedly owned by wealthy aristocrats in the past, and it originally took several months to produce a single item, as it was more ornate than the usual flintlock shotgun. Rick had seen many antique guns in the past, but nothing that was so exquisitely detailed and beautifully engraved with gold inscriptions. He recognized that it was a high-end gun, but he needed an expert’s opinion so he called Sean to appraise it.
"In the 18th century noblemen traveled by coach across the country and this is what they carried. I get a lot of antique…
After Sean examined the gun, he said that it screamed authenticity. It had a side-by-side flintlock, which was already unique, but it also had a spring band, which made it even more amazing. He said that it was made around 1750, and there were three proof marks on the barrel flats or stamped on the tubes such as a crown for GP (gun maker’s proof), a crown over V (viewed mark), and a crown for F (foreigner’s mark) to signify that it wasn’t only inspected but also tested. The most intriguing aspect of the rare French weapon was that it had English proof markings. Apparently, the gun was originally manufactured in France, but modified in England. Noblemen in the 18th century traveled by coach, and for protection against highwaymen, they took with them these guns. The gold inscription was an indication that it had a rifled barrel, and back in the day, meant that it was made with high-quality steel. In an auction, it would fetch around $10,000. After Sean left, Rick and the client haggled and reached a deal. The client wanted a high-quality guitar as a trade-in for the gun, so he accepted an original, no dents or scratches, 1952 First Gibson Les Paul guitar.
A long 1777 French Musket turned out to be a movie prop gun
In the episode entitled “Bumpy Ride” during the second season of “Pawn Stars,” a long-barreled gun known as a Charleville musket, used from 1717 to 1815 by French infantry, was brought in by a badass biker hoping to sell it. It had been passed down to him by his father, who received it as a gift from his grandfather. Rick wanted to purchase the gun immediately as long as it was an authentic French musket, but had some concerns, so before he made an offer, he needed Sean’s expertise opinion on it.
When Sean saw it, he said that it looked like a 1777 French infantry musket, most of them having been imported to the US for the UK-American War in 1812. The musket was made too long because the makers back then thought that the longer the barrel, the more accurate it would be, but it was proven later on that this wasn’t always the case. The musket that was brought to the shop had a lot of grind on it, and at first glance, it had obviously been used extensively. However, upon closer inspection, Sean revealed that those were put there purposely, which meant that it was made to look that way artificially.
Rick was right in his concerns, because it turned out that it was just a movie prop gun, and if they tried to fire it, it would only blow-up right on their faces. On the brighter side, it was well crafted but made without the intention of firing it. Rick told the client that if he had some papers that it was used by a popular actor in the past such as John Wayne, he could get a few thousand for it.
An 18th-century gambling and killing kit made for a popular gambler
Sean appeared once again in the “Ace in the Hole” episode of the third season of the TV show. An antique gambling box kit was brought to the pawn shop by a client who had bought it for $500 20 years previously – it was the first time something like this featured in “Pawn Stars.” Rick was instantly impressed by it, because he was familiar with the popular notorious Scottish gambler, J.D. Borthwick, who originally owned the kit and wrote a book about gambling. He went around California via stage coaches and boats and gambled using this kit. It had everything including cards, dice, poker chips, roulette, markers, and the original key to open the kit. What was quite fascinating about it was that it doubled as a killing kit, because under the gambling materials, it had a hidden compartment for a gun and a knife. Back then, it was a dangerous business to gamble in places where it was illegal to do so, as the loser could easily refuse to pay.
From the get-go, Sean said that he knew the name of the gambler but he wasn’t familiar with his complete background. However, he could check if the markers and materials used in the gambling kit were consistent with the time it was supposed to have been made. He said that gambling was a huge industry back then, especially during the time of the gold rush. There had been many kits assembled to look as if they were made back in the day, when another famous gambler, Doc Holliday, would have used them.
After examining the kit, he said that everything about it looked genuine. Even the weapons under it, a Colt Model 1862 revolver and a Joseph Allen & Sons bowie knife, were quite authentic, as well with all the engraved markings, and they had legitimate aging. He admitted that he wasn’t sure of the financial value but it could be around $7000 to $10,000. He advised them not to separate the items inside the kit, because if they did, they would have a hard time putting it back together. When the client learned how much it was worth, he refused to sell it and wanted to hold on to it even if Rick offered him $6,000 for the whole thing.
Sean had limited appearances to none in “Pawn Stars” for two years
There were a couple of seasons of “Pawn Stars” in which the fans noticed that Sean’s didn’t make any appearances, without any explanation. Another expert was called to appraise antique weaponry in the episodes when Sean was needed. Some of the loyal fans discussed this online, and said that they found it quite strange that a curator of the Clark County Museum System was the one assigned to appraise a Civil War pistol, when it wasn’t his specialty. Initially, some thought that Sean was about to get his own reality-TV show on History Channel, as had happened to Rick Dale, also a go-to expert seen in the pawn shop. However, Sean didn’t have a traditional commercial store for Tortuga Trading Inc. back then, so they discounted that theory.
Others thought that his prolonged absence was because he was busy with movie projects, as he worked with the production of the blockbuster hit franchise series, “Pirates of the Caribbean.” He was a consultant for the 18th-century weaponry used by the cast, and also supplied them with artifacts. Another rumor was that he’d had a falling out with History Channel producers, who wanted him exclusively in their shows, but didn’t offer him enough compensation. They said that Sean refused the offer, so he was replaced, and so viewers were short-changed.
“Lords of War” at National Geographic Channel
In 2013, the National Geographic Channel released a documentary called “Lords of War”, with Sean Rich as the main host. He was with a group of experts on arms and armory, as they traveled the country in search of the most efficient antique or historic weaponry. It lasted for a season, and some fans wondered if this was the reason why he was absent from “Pawn Stars”, and which also triggered the producers to offer him an exclusive contract.
The antique armory specialist was back in the TV show in 2014
In October 2014, “Pawn Stars” fans were surprised when they watched an episode in which Rick called Sean Rich to help him appraise an antique Colt gun; there was no explanation whatsoever for his recent absence. The show treated it as if he was never gone, and everyone in the cast pretended as well. He was in the TV show doing the same thing for another two years, but bowed out in 2016, again with no explanation given.
Update on Sean Rich’s whereabouts
Sean had been quite busy since his “Pawn Stars” stint, continuing to supply antique props for movie productions, including another sequel of Johnny Depp’s franchise, “Pirates of the Caribbean 5: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” He also became an executive producer for TV projects such as “Forgotten” and “Galleon Quest.” In 2017, he had an exhibition at the Comic Con in Palm Springs called “Sean Rich Traveling Museum,” which featured most of the props used in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies. A year after that, he was involved in Discovery Channel’s “Master of Arms” as a weapons consulting producer, and then in 2020, he supplied props for Dwayne Johnson’s hit movie, “Jungle Cruise.” When Covid-19 happened, he ceased being involved in any major production, but continued entertaining ideas for new TV shows, and started creating content on YouTube with his Tortuga Productions, LLC.