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Rick Harrison of Pawn Stars' and Pawnography'

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They start lining up outside the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas early every morning. Some bring items for sale with hopes that they might appear on TV. Others are just there to make a pilgrimage to a place they welcome into their home every Thursday night.

The name of the business proved prescient when the History Channel began airing episodes of 'Pawn Stars' in 2009. The show chronicles the daily activities and interaction at the pawn shop and airs each Thursday at 9 p.m.

'Pawn Stars' has become History's highest rated series and has dramatically affected business for owners Rick Harrison, his father Richard 'Old Man' Harrison and Rick's son Corey 'Big Hoss' Harrison.

'I used to get a hundred customers a day,' Rick Harrison told me in a recent phone interview. 'Now I get three to four thousand. In one day during the summer, we had 7,000 people come through those doors.' And as the opening of 'Pawn Stars' indicates, 'You never know what's going to come through that door.'

Hopeful sellers bring everything from historical artifacts to rare books, entertainment memorabilia and antiques of every genre.

'Pawn Stars'' success is based on the element of surprise, the likability of the Harrisons (and Corey's childhood friend 'Chumlee' (Austin Russell), who also works at the shop) and the basic business premise of profit. If the store believes they can find a buyer for the item, and sell it for a reasonable profit, they're likely to buy it from you. Otherwise, you'll be taking it home.

Last year, the Harrisons were approached by History to take part in a 'Pawn Stars' spin-off game show. 'Pawnography' is the result. New episodes of the show, hosted by comedian Christopher Titus, air each Thursday at 10 p.m., following two episodes of 'Pawn Stars.'

'The great thing about Pawnography' is that it's really fun to do,' Harrison said. 'We joke around so much and some of that actually makes it on the show.'

'Pawnography' bills itself as the only game that 'doesn't want you to win.' Contestants compete against each other, as well as Rick and his fellow 'Pawn Stars,' in three rounds of trivia-style questions in hopes of winning cash and coveted items from the Harrisons' shop.

Harrison says we might be surprised at how much of each episode of 'Pawnography' is cut from the program. 'They have to edit out so much of Christopher Titus, Corey and Chum just insulting each other for the entire show,' he told me. 'It's funny, it's fun and I have a really great time doing it. Christopher Titus is one of the coolest guys I've ever met.'

Harrison's favorite categories on 'Pawnography' involve history and science. 'This is how much of a nerd I am. I read The History of Batteries' twice,' he said with a laugh.

According to Harrison, the types of questions that give him a run for his money involve anything to do with popular culture.

'I'll give you an example. Maroon 5 was in town and my daughters wanted to go and meet Adam Levine. I was like, Who's that?' They said, Dad, he's abig deal' (laughing).

'I really don't listen to any music made after 1989, and I don't watch television. I really don't.' Wait - he doesn't even watch 'Pawn Stars' or 'Pawnography?'

'I don't,' he said. 'It just weirds me out. Honestly, I just can't stand to watch myself on television. I haven't seen an episode of 'Pawnography.'

And of the 360-plus episodes of 'Pawn Stars' filmed to date, Harrison says he has only seen two of them.

'We had a big party the night Pawn Stars' premiered. They had a bunch of big-screen TVs going and after 15 minutes, I just walked outside. My son, Corey, came out and said, What's wrong?' I said, 'Nobody's going to watch this.'

Despite the fact that Harrison has traded anonymity for fame and success, he insists that he's the same guy he was before 'Pawn Stars' and 'Pawnography.'

'It hasn't changed me. I still have the same friends I've always had. I still do the same stuff. I still ride my dirt bike. On the weekends, I'm just Dad.' My two youngest are still at home so I just hang out with my kids every weekend.'

'The Big Morning Show with Mike Dow' can be heard on Big 104 FM The Biggest Hits of the '60s, '70s & '80s - airing on 104.7 (Bangor/Belfast), 104.3 (Augusta/Waterville) and 107.7 (Bar Harbor/Ellsworth)

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