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The series premiered on August 16, 2010, delivering two million viewers, setting a record as truTV's most-watched series premiere ever. Production was halted in 2014.
American Jewelry and Loan is owned by Les Gold, a third generation pawnbroker and businessman, and 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;[a] 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 Les's son and co-owner/employee Seth attempts to sell the Pontiac location behind Les's back.
Les's 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 store's marketing division and claims that if it was not for him, the shop's only marketing campaign 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. Ashley 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.
Ashley Gold Broad, Les' daughter, co-owner, head of Jewelry department. Left the pawn shop after series concluded to start her own online jewelry business
Lili Gold, Les' wife and office manager. Appears occasionally in the background during the first season, but is never seen or mentioned thereafter
Karen Mitchel, Les' niece, co-manager--jewelry department (Seasons 8-9)
Bobby Janiec ("Bobby J"), store employee. Left pawn shop early in 2016 and has since posted in various social media accounts that he feels he was taken advantage of by owner Les Gold.
Byron, security (Season 6 then became head of security in Episode 1 of Season 7 after Joe was caught stealing)
Hook, security (Seasons 1-9)
Joe, head of security (Seasons 1-6) arrested then fired for getting caught on camera stealing scrap gold. Incident aired on season six finale.
Felix, security (Seasons 1-6). Known for long thick beard. Left for unknown reasons. Departure not addressed on show
Rich, Store Manager (Seasons 1-6). Store Manager for 25 years. Plays in a rock band on the side. Was sent home by Les in a controversial episode for an apparently a minor dispute. He returned to the store the next day and apologized, but he was eventually written out of the show and left the pawn shop altogether. It is believed by many of the shows fans[who?] that Rich was fired because he was becoming a more popular character on the show than the Gold family thus upstaging them.
Robo, Head of Security (Season 1-Episode 1) In series premiere, he was the long time head of security. However he was sent home for inappropriately kissing an employee. It was thought to be a temporary suspension but he never appeared on the show again.
Jeff, Jewelry technician. Responsible for setting diamonds, melting gold etc.. it was his desk that former security guard Joe was caught stealing from.
Nikki, Amber, Christina- window clerks. Christina was caught stealing and arrested in a season 8 episode.
Darren McCarty, former NHL hockey player for Detroit Red Wings who appeared on the show initially to sell taxidermy animals but wound up being offered a job as an entry level pawnbroker. Initially makes the mistake of overpaying for a couple of Red Wing jerseys but makes up for it by signing them thereby increasing their value.
Brian, store manager, second in command after the Gold family members after the departure of Rich.
Comparison to Pawn Stars
The show has been largely compared to similar reality program Pawn Stars on History, but in the vein of similar programs also on truTV (Operation Repo and Lizard Lick Towing for example), where it differs however is the focus being mainly on the human aspects of drama and interaction, rather than the actual 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 defends the show with 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 basic necessities like 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
The first season put an emphasis on the sad stories of people pawning their possessions and on the Golds' need to arm and otherwise protect themselves in dangerous Detroit. But this was too dark for television, and from the second season all mention of danger was dropped and pawn stories downplayed in favor of people selling unusual things and Les bargaining them down in price. 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. For example, every episode features moments when Les, who is not normally behind a counter, happens to be there when someone brings in something unusual to sell. The shows are also obviously edited to follow a regular format, with every episode featuring two unruly customers being thrown out, one trip to the parking lot for a car or truck for sale, and usually some argument between Ashley and Seth.
During season 9, truTV decided not to order more episodes because of the network's new direction. truTV was concentrating on comedy programming and it was decided that Hardcore Pawn did not relate properly to other programs in the network's schedule. No other television networks showed interest in the series, and production was halted in 2014.
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.