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The Picasso Illustrations That Sold For Double Their Asking Price On Pawn Stars

As a pawn shop owner, sometimes you win some, and sometimes you lose some. Rick Harrison, the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop owner, featured in History Channel's Pawn Stars, knows that probably better than anybody else. He and his crew at the Las Vegas shop have been doing this for many years, with 18 seasons of the show to prove it. After over 500 episodes, Harrison has made some bad purchases, which has resulted in him losing some money. Fortunately for him, that's not always the case.

It may not happen all the time, but Harrison will occasionally double his money based on the asking price. This happened once again in season 14 when a man brought in a book featuring several illustrations from Picasso. Hesitant at first, Harrison calls in one of his experts to see how much it's worth, only to be pleasantly surprised. So much so, Harrison becomes a little generous.

The asking price

In season 14, episode 13, "By Land or By Seep," a man approaches Harrison with six original Picasso etchings, featured in an Illustrated edition of "Lysistrata," an ancient Greek comedy by Aristophanes. This story, in short, was about one woman's mission to end the Peloponnesian War by withholding sex from all the men. However, this version presented to Harrison was released by The Limited Editions Club, which combined famous works of literature with renowned artists. This book, published in 1934, is one of 1,500 copies ever made and is "one of the most famous illustrated books in the 21st century," according to the seller. He asked for $5,000.

At first, Harrison questions whether these illustrations have ever been published anywhere else, and they evidently were not. On top of that, Picasso's signature is featured in the back of the book. Of course, Harrison wants to get an expert's opinion. This is a standard practice at Pawn Stars. Something worth this much money needs careful examination to ensure the authenticity.

The expert

Harrison actually calls in two experts for this book but only shows one of them giving their opinion: Rebecca Romney, who specializes in rare books. Romney gives a brief history of artist books, starting with Édouard Manet illustrating Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" in the late 20th century. Ultimately, Romney quickly displays both her knowledge on this subject and the importance of this book.

"As far as conditions go, this is a beautiful copy," Romney says. "It's what I would expect, actually, because this was a deluxe production. The outside materials have a little more wear because the outside is the first part to receive damage, and that's why it's there in the first place."

Before going into how much it is worth, the two have to have an earnest heart-to-heart conversation about what this piece means to history. That's because Rick is tempted to do something that had both the expert and the seller cringe on camera.

The insane thing Rick wanted to do

Before even getting the expert's opinion, Rick Harrison already had a crazy idea in mind. For him, it's all about the money. That means taking the item and using it to its best advantage, hoping that route will gain the most revenue. Harrison didn't see this as a book with six Picasso illustrations inside; he potentially saw it as six stand-alone Picasso illustrations. In other words, Harrison wanted to tear the book apart and sell the illustrations individually.

"From the book perspective, that is heresy, and you kind of fall in between," Romney says.

"I fall where the money's at," Harrison jokingly responded.

Before giving Harrison the price of the item, Romney has to explain to Harrison that destroying this would, in fact, be destroying an ancient artifact. After a stern talk, Romney reveals this book is worth about $10,000. Surprisingly enough, that's how much the art expert valued all the individual illustrations if he had torn them out.

Before leaving, Romney shakes Harrison's hand and tells him she hopes this isn't the last handshake they ever have and leaves the two to their deal. After hearing its worth double the asking price, the seller tries his luck in asking for another grand for the book. After a classic sigh, Harrison considers the offer and shakes the man's hand for $6,000.