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The Real Reason Pawn Stars Requires Descriptions Of Potential Sellers

In March, the History channel show Pawn Stars will return from a 10-week hiatus, with the last episode having aired January 11 and the next new episode slated to air on March 22. Now in its 18th season, the hit reality show follows the business of the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, a Las Vegas pawn shop run by three generations of the Harrison family: Rick and his son Corey, who were preceded by and worked alongside Corey's grandfather Richard, until he died in 2018. Viewers learn about the real-life intricacies of the oft-cinematized pawn industry through watching the Harrisons assess the authenticity and value of items ranging from a 16th-century samurai sword, to a Super Bowl ring, to a Picasso painting, and more.

One thing viewers learn is the many rules pawn shop owners — including the Harrisons — must follow. This includes a rule that shop owners must record a detailed physical description of all potential sellers. Descriptions must include things like the hair color, skin color, and facial appearance of the seller. Where the show's concerned, that's based on Nevada state regulations, but it's effectively a nationwide policy all pawn shops must adhere to, and there's a good reason for that.

Why do pawn shops require descriptions of sellers?

The policy is about making it easier for law enforcement officials to do their job. If there are any legal issues with a seller or a pawned item, police can respond more easily if pawn shops note what sellers looked like. It protects pawn shops and could potentially help in law enforcement cases that don't involve the pawn shops themselves but seedy sellers.

You'll find the "description of seller" stipulation across the country, though each municipality might include their own unique exemptions or specifications. For example, it's found under Chapter 646 of Nevada state laws, mandating that each pawnbroker in the state must keep a record of sellers' names, addresses, and ages, as well as descriptions of their appearance, among other things. This specific law notes that if the pawnbroker personally knows the seller, they can note that in the record, in lieu of a description or identification document number.

With the city of Auburn, Illinois, the "description of seller" regulation falls under Chapter 26 (Resale/Pawn Shop Regulations) of the city's Code of Ordinances. The language is similar to that of Nevada's code but also notes that a driver's license number can be recorded in lieu of a written description. In the Code Book for Gloucester Township in New Jersey, it's specified that the description and other details must be entered into an electronic database within 48 hours of a pawn shop purchase (Section III of Chapter 63A). On the national level, the policy is linked to several federal regulations involving business operations and law enforcement. This includes the Patriot Act and Truth in Lending Act.

The Harrison family is not above the law. Even when sellers appear on camera for the Pawn Stars show, the Harrisons must log a formal business record of the sellers' descriptions. After all, even though it's television, it's also reality, and written records will always be the legal star of the real-life business.