Pawn Stars' Rick Harrison talks retro tech live from CES
Welcome back to CES 2020.
I'm Patrick Caulin.
And next up, we're going to talk about some vintage technology.
And we have the most qualified person to do so.
You know him as the owner of the Golden Silver pawn shop here in Las Vegas.
And the star at the popular TV series Pawnstars.
So put your hands together and welcome Rick Harrison.
I have to say, do you like the shirt?
Yeah I like the shirt.
All right there we go.
You bought it in my giftshop, right?
Yeah, we can talk about that.
I got a good deal on it.
[LAUGH] So we were in your store yesterday and I think maybe it doesn't dawn on a lot of people that you are actually running a business in the store while also filming a TV show.
How do you balance both the physical needs of that but also like the mental needs of that?
Well, it's like a lot of times it's 12-13 hours a day.
But Well, no, I mean, it's sort of like this weird symbiotic relationship.
I mean, I get thousands of people a day at the pawn shop.
It's the number one non gaming and tourist attraction in Las Vegas.
I get more visitors than Hoover Dam.
But if I don't feel the TV show and close down the shop to film, I don't get the tourists.
So like it.
In the end, it works out.
And then where's that?
And we were in the yesterday we saw the space that you originally filmed in the early season and it was not much bigger than our stage here.
How did that work out in those early days?
It was tough and crazy.
But with that, budgets got a little bigger once we were on TV, and I think we're on right now.
150 countries 38 languages.
And we're filming Season 17 right now.
So yesterday we got to talk about some retrotech.
And you had a couple different items for us.
And I wonder if we could talk a little bit about what makes a piece of technology, whether it's old or new, valuable.
Or what are-
Yeah I mean like yesterday when we were filming, like there was this little personal printing press from the 1890s.
So that was like the first personal printer.
But it was high tech.
It wasn't until the 1890s that you could mass produce really precision cast iron pieces.
Before that everything had to be hand finished, hand machined, everything like that.
But the technology for casting iron by the 1890s, it was the plastic of the late.
19th century everything was made out of cast iron.
If you went to Chicago in 1900, there was 1000 smokestacks going and they were all casting something in iron.
And that's the really neat thing about it.
And like I said, talking to you, it's.
You know, every, you know, every decade, people go What an amazing world we're living in and 1890 they were saying can you believe the, the incredible technology that we have now we can go across the Atlantic Ocean in four days.
You know, they really thought they were living in this unbelievably high tech society.
Our children will be laughing about us 30 years from now about the 2020 CES show.
I go, they'll be a little, really?
[LAUGH] What's a foldable screen?
[LAUGH] But I'm also wondering like, I mean when you look at these items, what is inherently valuable about something like that old printing press?
Or you had like a wooden telephone that was, you said the compact version, but I swear it's bigger than my head.
Well, yeah, I mean people.
People love the past.
People love history.
People love the stories.
If you're your father was a printer, maybe you want this little printing press.
If you're selling high tech printers, it's pretty cool to have an old printer.
in your office I have a buddy who has a really large production company He's got a 1915 35mm movie camera in his office.
It's got a crank on the side to wind up the spring that runs it.
And there is no view finder.
[LAUGH] Which is probably why the ->> But it was super high tech for the time.
But I'd say that's probably why a lot of those moves were done in one shot.
But then I wanted to like, I think part of the appeal for the show for me.
There's one there's a lot of appeal, but one of the biggest ones is the stories behind the products, those histories.
And so you have a neat event coming up this spring called history cons.
The first one, he talks about that, yeah, sort of like Comic Con but its history con.
So there's gonna be a lot of people there from history channel and.
Gonna have a lot of lectures that's gonna make it, talk about history and things like that and try and make it fun and not be Professor like and that's one of the reasons why I think people love my TV show.
It's your learn history from your uncle not a professor.
Yeah, and I wanted to like so Comic Con and some of these conferences people cosplay.
I mean, I might be cosplaying a little bit as Yeah.
As a Pawn Star right now.
But what kind of cosplay would people be doing at a history con, do you think?
It would be weird.
Yeah, I just never.
No, I mean it's really weird being a celebrity and stuff like that.
You know what I mean?
I just look at like #RickHarrison on Instagram and then like, on Halloween, there's like thousands of people dressed up, like me for Halloween.
It's kind of weird.
You ever see like a kid dressed up as you?
Yeah, there's little kids.
It's It's just odd, I never became famous till i was 40 years,in my 40s.
And I'm just still like a normal guy, I still work on cars.
And then the whole celebrity thing is wierd.
[LAUGH] Also something I wondered yesterday after I left the conversation was, like I grew up I had like Star Wars toys but i played with them.
And they are worth nothing now because I played with Star Wars toys.
But I am also wondering if I had saved them and never played them as a child and left them in their original packaging, they might be worth something now.
i wonder, how do you balance the need for something being a useful thing as a collectible and using it versus a display item.
People get Nikon cameras and never take a single photo because it's worth something Well I mean it's the different, that's loud.
Yeah well you got a loud.
It's the difference, buying something for an investment or buying something to use.
I'm gonna be buying a Nikon camera this weekend.
I'm not gonna keep it in the package I'm gonna be using it all the time.
But weird things happen every once in awhile.
It's the stuff you think is never gonna be worth something.
That it could be worth something.
Who I mean?
I like comic books when I was a kid, we never took care of, we used to clip baseball cards to the frames on our bicycle.
So they go click, click, click, click, click, we sound like a motorcycle.
So those weird things you'll never know.
It's here's sort of a rule of double wall.
What will be collectible, what was really cool for a guy when he was 16 18 years old.
What he's 50 years old, got some money and wants to relive his youth.
That's what that stuff goes crazy price.
That's why like right now, video games Going for like it.
They pop up all over the place of, especially if they're new, they're sealed still sealed in the box from like Nintendo for the early days.
I offered a guy $100,000 one for one, a few months ago would take it.
For a video game.
It was the first.
First Edition of Mario Brothers sealed in the box.
Well then it makes you wonder if that guy's a weirdo because he never played the game right?
It's one of those things where it was probably like the system got thrown in a closet somewhere and never got used and then Someone realized I probably shouldn't pull this apart.
Maybe I should check out see what it's worth.
So yesterday, something else we were talking about a bit was another entertaining part of the show is the haggle the deal, the negotiator, and you are known as a masterful negotiator.
I'm wondering what makes a good deal for you, when did it click in your head that I want that and how do you
Get it without necessarily showing your hand so to speak.
Well, first off, you always have to look at it as a business deal, not an emotional deal.
And then the number one rule I tell everybody about negotiating, be willing to walk away deals not right deals.
I get that question all the time doing interviews, web, what's that one deal you wish you would have took on, I said non because if the deals not right, the deals not right.
If you start taking.
When you go buy a car, pick up that little information box called your phone.
Find out what you should pay for it, and if they won't sell it to you, leave.
[LAUGH] And then one of the recent ones we talked about yesterday, which I was really excited about, is you bought Kareem Abdul-Jabbars goggles.
The ones he wore in games.
Tell us a little bit about that yet.
Okay, well,>> Any stipulation about it.
It's also the way history goes, like you'll have like Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who was the greatest basketball player of his time.
And then along comes Michael Jordan.
And they're like, everyone like no, Kareem was still better.
well, no, I'm like,
Really super iconic sports people like that are famous people like that.
Anything that was, you know, his toenail clippings are never going to be worth money, okay.
But his goggles that he wore which was like the most iconic thing about him are going to be worth a fortune.
So I gave him 22,000 for his goggles From one pair well, but then again, we got to remember this is the 1970s.
It's not like today where a sports player will have a new pair of goggles every single day.
He wore a pair for a couple months before if they got scratched or something he would replace them.
So, there's very few of these sets out of there.
He's through a lot of them away.
So I gave 22,000 couple years old.
If the collectible market just keeps the way it is for a couple more years, which I think it might, I'll get 50 or 60
And you have like an interesting way to get it delivered to you though, didn't you?
Yeah, I told him I gave him the 22,000 if he brought me to a Lakers game, so That was like, yeah, that's definitely a bucket list thing, sitting third row with Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the Lakers game, is pretty cool.
Did the Lakers win?
Then circling back a little bit, at your shop and stuff we talked about The other side with all the people coming in, I couldn't help but notice people just having the bags and putting on the counter and, and talking to employ.
But would you have advice for people I have to say I'll say two ways.
How can people not waste your time like because I go, hey, I've got to bring these in and somebody's like they're not worth anything.
How can someone figure out they have some
information box, okay, mean, that's in your head.
But then again people just don't know anything.
I mean, like I had a guy come in the shop with like, we're going to we filmed with it yesterday that he thought was this really really important document, I thought it was absolutely amazing, I watched them go like it's yeah, F word.
Xerox copy dude.
Do the best research you can on the internet and unfortunately, that definitely doesn't make you an expert on a lot of things.
That so you would be without a show them because that's some of the most fun parts of stuff, they're not really what
I've been doing this for 40 years.
So Seen just about everything.
So we were talking backstage, or some of us were talking about you backstage and we're like, what don't you know?
It seems like you know everything.
And if you don't, you always have an expert that you become an expert in something.
Well, One of the things my dad taught me is the day you think you know everything, you're not gonna be able to learn anything, okay.
And I was also a really sick kid.
There was times when I was a kid, there'd be times where I couldn't walk for a couple weeks and things like that.
So my dad's in Vietnam, we weren't making a lot of money.
So my mom would just pick me up books at the library.
And I read a lot of books.
And I remember being nine years old and told my older brother, you should read more books and watch less television, and he punched me.
Yeah, but being the nerd made me rich.
Yeah, well that helps, right?
Just, I constantly read and have my whole life.
I learned a lot of weird obscure stuff.
Don't ask me anything about like popular culture.
I mean I've had like mega stars call me up and when I hang out I'm like literally who's this dude.
They're gonna be like big deal.
[LAUGH] At home obviously we're adding technology show there's a lot of smart home stuff.
You said you have some new technology but you also rely quite a bit on old technology and you are off grid for some of the year.
I'm for like five months a year.
I live up in the mountains off the grid.
I have a 1952 Caplin hydro turbine.
So I have my little mini hoover dam that I.
That it's pure brain damage like putting up permanent magnet alternators and doing the diode packs and the rectifier get getting a charge controllers, the work and resistor pack so the turbines don't spin out and I have to try to go from Six phase windmill alternators to rectifying that to DC back to an inverter in the three phase rotary converters and there's always a problem.
There's never time everything's just just working perfect.
Okay, so before the show you're walking around a bit of CES, have you seen anything that caught your eye or you're like, that looks kind of neat.
There's a lot of inner we there was like this 3d and there's a lot of weird stuff you're always you know, under the TV business so, the cameras are just amazing.
I'd be like I'm over the Nikon stand and they have a lens.
That's if you don't really think about f stops on a camera.
That shouldn't exist.
It's 0.9, F.95.
And the math says it can't go below one but they figured out a way to do that.
But yeah, there's like similar like, Kubrick had bought like a some ridiculous something below one f stop lens to film 2001 and they got it off like a satellite from NASA.
Yeah, I mean you know, it's a. But this is a commercial products.
It's not even an asset.
I mean it's amazing the stuff they have now.
I remember in the 90s saying that Bill would never go away because she would, by the laws of physics, you would never be able to look at that many pixels on a sensor.
Yeah, but they found a way around it and there's always that Every year you see stuff amazing.
And then five years later you go remember what we thought that was amazing.
[LAUGH] When I should correct before I went jumps on the line, it was actually Barry Lyndon, he got this Zeiss lens that was used by NASA but it's everything.
He had to get it from NASA we can go buy it in the BestBuy.>>Yeah, you can just go buy it at BestBuy.
Now well that, I talked to the people at Nikon over there.
They're like massive back order on it right now, but it's pretty damn cool.
Was your wallet still full when you left?
Well you where leaving the Nikon booth and stuff like this.
I could just see you wanting to buy all those lenses.
Yeah, it's always incredible here.
It's like technology is great.
It's just like.
Getting, you know, just evolving faster and faster so
And then you've been easy to talk about being in the business for 40 years, what keeps you going
Well, the entire thing about business with technology, everything is evolve or die.
If I was running my business like I did 20, even 10 years ago, I'd be out of business.
You know, never get complacent What you might think it's stupid your customers love, do what your customers love.
And the ball will fall, will fall and don't be complacent.
If I had my [UNKNOWN].
Harrison guide to life.
It sounds like always be reading and learning to be better.
Always evolve my approach to life and business and live off grid and have ridiculous things I have to fix all the time.
I mean to this day I still walk around the pawn shop and if the bathrooms are dirty I freak out.
Cuz you have to be attentive, evolve, that's what keeps a business going.
Okay, always be keep on looking down the road because if you see one of your product lines or something like that it seems to be going, it's going down and you're gonna realize that you're gonna have to realize like this product line is going away come up with something else.
Do you think that like also like, the fact that you're still you're like running a shop and dealing with even mundane things like that.
You seem like a very humble person.
Despite your fame like do you think that helps keep you humble?
I'm pretty honest guy like being honest.
It's just sort of like this the honesty and being in business.
If you rip somebody off by seven degrees of separation, everyone is going to say don't do business with you.
two degrees of separation gets you a few more customers.
Don't be good to your customers doesn't reach out as far as being bad but like there's a reason why the most successful pawn shop in the United States, have a pawn shop with over 100 employees plus all my other businesses and everything like that.
But no Like I said, just you evolve or die.
It's 100% Darwinism.
I like that.
Okay, so the last question I have is, one of the biggest things at this show this year are foldable screens.
We have foldable phones where you'll have a flat screen, so imagine like an iPhone or Android phone being able to fold in half and not have a seam on it.
What do you think about that technology?
And is that something you think will be around for 50 years?
Let's see if it catches on.
Remember 3D televisions were the rage a few years ago.
Yeah, we worked with 3D Tvs.
It's foldable with everything, but is it practical?
I mean, you got to fold it and put it in your pocket?
It seems like if it's like a wallet, I could fit it smaller my pocket, but I would wonder about wear and tear and that's the comic question to have.
Yeah, I mean like
You could fold it, but how many times can you fold it?
Yeah, so it's funny you mentioned so we got one of these Samsung fold.
Folding phones are called the galaxy fold.
And we actually ran it through one of their machines and it didn't quite reach the number.
They said it would split that way,
Give it a year or two, maybe I'll try it out.
Yeah, a little bit like, it's the beautiful thing about capitalism.
Adam Smith wrote in 1776, to the unseen hand will figure it out.
[LAUGH] Well, that's a great place to stop.
I mean, so thank you so much for taking time to talk with me and thank you so much for having to your shop here today, it meant so much more than you know to me.
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