By Hubert Walker for CoinWeek ….
Richard Benjamin Harrison, the patriarch and “Old Man” of the Harrison family pawn shop featured in the long-running History Channel reality show Pawn Stars, died this weekend. He was 77.
Harrison was born in Danville, Virginia on March 4, 1941 but grew up in North Carolina. He met his wife Joanne when they were just teenagers, and the couple married in 1960. Thanks to creative sentencing for a convinction on charges of auto theft, Harrison joined the United States Navy for a stint of almost two years. After his first child was born with Down’s Syndrome, Harrison re-enlisted in 1963 – embarking on a military career that lasted about 20 years.
In 1967 the family moved to the West Coast, relocating to the naval base at San Diego, California. In 1973, Harrison’s wife Joanne opened her own real estate business, having received a license in 1970. When Richard left the Navy in the early 1980s, he joined his wife at her office. Unfortunately, the business faltered in 1981 due to the realities of the market.
With what little capital they had left, the Harrisons moved to Las Vegas, where Richard and his middle son Rick founded the Gold & Silver Coin Shop. The business expanded and was licensed to sell second-hand goods in 1987. Soon after the coin shop’s lease expired, “The Old Man” and his son Rick established the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in 1989, which became the epicenter of the Pawn Stars reality show years later in 2009 (at the time of writing, the series has aired for 15 seasons).
Harrison’s role on the show was that of the wise but cranky elder, a shrewd salesman who did not suffer fools gladly – especially when those fools were his own children and grandchildren (which often drove the “plot” of the episode). The salty personality and business acumen he portrayed on the show endeared him to the television-viewing public, and helped propel Pawn Stars to the top-rated spot among the History Channel’s roster of reality TV shows.
As a result of his success with the television show (not to mention his multimillion-dollar business), “Old Man” Harrison had received numerous awards, including the keys to the City of Las Vegas in 2010.
Rick Harrison is, of course, no stranger to numismatics himself, often starring in coin episodes of Pawn Stars and making appearances at major coin conventions to sign autographs and take pictures with collectors and fans.
A statement from Gold & Silver Pawn said that Harrison “was surrounded by loving family this past weekend and went peacefully.” He had been battling Parkinson’s disease.
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