The Intellectual Side of Reality TV

While desperately channel surfing for anything remotely entertaining on late night television, I stumbled upon the History Channel’s series, “Pawn Stars.” I’m not a huge fan, but I’ll take it. While I was watching, though, I realized that this incredibly intimidating family, the Harrisons, are actually expert curators. The family has owned their business, the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, for three generations, somewhere in the outskirts of Las Vegas. Run by grandfather Richard Harrison, his son, Rick, Rick’s son, Corey, and Corey’s childhood best friend, Chumlee, these four significantly large and tattooed men curate for a living. Their shop is essentially their own museum. People come to them with hopes of selling their items, and the team carefully assesses the potential value of each, ranging from “items of the commonplace to the truly historic.” Every day they evaluate objects and determine whether they are real or fake, and if they are worth purchasing. At first glance when watching the show, it seems like this is a job almost anyone could do. If you like it or think it can make you money, then go for it. I looked into it a little further and was actually very surprised at how wrong I was and how much goes into their decision-making. The Harrisons have several experts behind them, experts in fields I never would have thought existed, such as vintage stringed instruments and amplifiers, sports memorabilia, military antiques and firearms, entertainment, historical, and sports autographs, historical artifacts and aviation, historic letters and documents, fine art, rare and antiquarian books, and even all forms of magic and magic devices. Many of these experts are owners of museums, and therefore the best of the best when it comes to curating. They help the Harrisons determine authenticity and make the appropriate decision to either buy or not buy whatever comes into their store. Knowing this information, I give the show a little more credit now.

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