Not all famous people have been born into rich families and had connections to help them reach fame at a young age. Some of them had to be business savvy for decades before managing to achieve their little fortune. This was the case of “The Pawn Star” patriarch, Richard Benjamin Harrison. How did this person from a small town manage to rise to stardom, and was that road easy?
Early life and education
Richard Benjamin Harrison Jr. was born on 4 March 1941 in Danville, Virginia USA, of part-Irish descent. He is said to have been related to the former US presidents Benjamin Harrison and William Henry Harrison, but Harrison himself never commented on these rumors. He passed away in 2018.
View this post on Instagram
HOY EN LA HISTORIA Nació Richard Benjamin Harrison; "El Viejo" Un día como hoy pero del año 1941, nacía Richard Benjamín Harrison, también conocido como The Old Man (El Viejo), co-propietario, junto a su hijo Rick, de la tienda de empeños de oro y plata Gold & Silver Pawn Shop alrededor de la cual gira el programa El Precio de la Historia, que emite History desde 2009. Nació en Danville, Virginia, aunque terminó convirtiéndose en un hombre de Las Vegas: luego de retirarse de la Armada de los Estados Unidos, intentó sin éxito dedicarse al mercado inmobiliario, y finalmente se instaló en Las Vegas en 1981, donde siete años más tarde fundaría la tienda de empeño con la cual se consiguió el éxito e incluso la fama. Es un hombre serio y apasionado: se levanta todos los días a las cuatro de la mañana y no ha faltado a la tienda un solo día desde 1994. Su otra gran pasión, además de su trabajo, son los coches, especialmente los modelos antiguos; tiene una devoción particular por su Chrysler Imperial negro de 1957. #RichardBenjaminHarrison #ElViejo #PreciodelaHistoria #paseotablado
When he was just a toddler, his family moved to Peacock Avenue in Lexington, North Carolina US. He enrolled at Lexington High School but dropped out during his junior school because his family barely had enough money to survive. He worked as a bus driver since he was 14 years old, which included late-night work hours for a minimum wage of just a few dollars a week.
Military Life and Marriage
At 17 years of age, Harrison met the daughter of a country judge, Joseph Rhue, named Joanne Rhue, and they soon started dating. However, in early 1960, Harrison was involved in a car theft and was arrested. Before the court date, he and Rhue married, and Rhue became pregnant just several weeks later.
To avoid a prison sentence, Harrison accepted the judge’s offer to join the military. While he was in the army, his wife gave birth to their first child, Sherry, who was born with downs syndrome. A year and a half later, he left the Navy, but just 14 months later he re-enlisted, as the expenses of his daughter’s medical care were too high, especially when the couple welcomed their second and third children, Joseph Kent Harrison and Richard Kevin “Rick” Harrison, who was born in 1965. Despite their efforts, Sherry died in 1966.
Harrison ended up serving in the US Navy for more than 20 years, and achieved the rank of First Class Petty Officer. He was transferred to San Diego, California US, in 1967, and his wife and children followed.
In 1970, Rhue got her real estate license and opened her own business, then their fourth child, Chris Harrison, was born in 1971. When he was discharged from the Military, Harrison worked for his wife part-time, taking care of the children and the house in his spare time. It was during this time that he got his nickname, The Old Man’, despite being only 38 years old. However, the value of the real estate started falling, and the Harrisons soon found themselves in $1 million of debt, that caused their business to collapse in 1981.
After the shut-down of their business, Harrison and his family moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he opened the Gold and Silver Coin Shop together with his oldest son, Rick.
Just five years later, they relocated the business as they required the bigger space, and he obtained a license to buy and re-sell pre-owned goods in 1987, but next year their business lease had expired.
In 1989, Harrison’s son opened the now worldwide known Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, located in Las Vegas Boulevard South, only about a mile distance from the famous Las Vegas Strip. The shop’s popularity quickly grew, and they soon became one of the biggest second-hand resellers in the whole US.
The Gold and Silver Pawn Shop was first featured on TV in 2001, when a PBS documentary did an episode with the Harrison family and their business.
In July of 2009, Harrison and Rick were joined by Rick’s son Richard Corey ‘The Big Boss’ Harrison and his good friend Austin ‘Chumlee’ Russell, and started their own reality TV show, “Pawn Stars”, which aired on the History Channel. Harrison was often portrayed as a grumpy old man, and he himself has said that his ‘role on the show is to be an old grump. Just a few months after its debut, “Pawn Stars” was the most-watched show on the channel, and the only reality show that had a higher rating was “Jersey Shore”. In that time period, the number of daily customers in Gold and Silver Pawn store increased more than 10 times. By the beginning of 2012, the store had several thousands of customers daily.
The shop and the Harrison family were subjects of several lawsuits – one time they were even sued by their former manager – but nothing stopped or declined the success of their reality program and their business.
For his business success, Harrison won numerous prestigious awards and recognitions.
In 2010 himself, Rick Harrison, Corey Harrison and Austin Russell received the key to the City of Las Vegas from the Mayor himself.
All cast of the “Pawn Stars” were grand marshals for the NASCAR race held on 26th May 2012 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, and just several days later, Harrison was awarded the key to his hometown of Lexington, on the day that was renamed “Richard Harrison’s Day”.
17th July 2012 was declared the “Gold and Silver Pawn Day” by the Clark County Commission, and Harrison made a $1000 donation to the Clark County Museum and even borrowed the US Senate chair to the museum to be part of the display. The chair was previously used by Senator Patrick McCarran himself!
One of Harrison’s biggest passions weas vintage cars. He owned many old-timers, including the 1966 Imperial Crown – he spent more than 15 years trying to convince the previous owner to sell him the vehicle – a 1957 Chevy 150, and the B&Z Electra-King electric car from the mid-1960s that he used as a golf cart.
Harrison reportedly never missed a day at a shop due to illness, from 1994 until his death.
Harrison’s death was announced on Gold and Silver Pawn Shop website on 25th June 2018 at the age of 77. He died from the effects of Parkinson’s disease, and although the place of his death wasn’t disclosed, he was said to be surrounded by his family and friends at the moment of his passing. The webpage also asked everyone to make a donation to The Epilepsy Foundation in his honor.
At the time of his death in 2018, Harrison’s net worth was estimated at around $5 million. This was a huge leap, as he invested only $10,000 into the opening of his shop.
As of April 2020, the shop makes monthly revenue of around $750,000! His son, Rick, has an estimated net worth of $8 million, which makes him the richest star on the show, and his grandson Corey, has a net worth of around $4 million – Corey is known to invest in other avenues, and will often leave tips which are higher than $1000.
Richard Benjamin Harrison had a height of 6 feet (1.89m) and a weight of approximately 202 pounds (92kms). He was born with brown hair color, but during his time on TV his hair was grey. He had blue eyes, and was known for always having a frown on his face.