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The Ancient Roman Token That Sold For A Small Fortune On Pawn Stars

Season 16 of "Pawn Stars" features an unusual coin that makes both Rick Harrison and the seller, Kent, a little uncomfortable. It's an ancient Roman brothel token – from Emperor Tiberius Caesar Augustus' reign, 14-37 CE – depicting a sex worker and her John getting down to business.

Rick tells Kent that brothel tokens were used in larger brothels, where a patron would purchase tokens with numbers on them to indicate the room of the sex worker that he had chosen (this token, in particular, is for Room 5). These brass or bronze tokens were used to keep the flow of money from customer to management to sex worker – rather than from customer to sex worker to management – ensuring that the sex workers would not "steal" money from their bosses or set their own rates.

Kent is a buyer and seller of coins, so he's familiar with all this, but familiarity doesn't prevent him from being a little bit bashful about his coin's original use. In the pre-sale interview, he laughs somewhat defensively, "Brothel tokens aren't something that I collect!" (Rick similarly looks into the camera to tell his wife that he has never been to a brothel.)

Kent informs Rick that the stamp on the coin matches a fresco on the wall of a major Pompeian brothel, and for this reason, he wants $10,000 for it. But before they can enter into negotiations, Rick calls on an expert to make sure the coin isn't a fake.

Rick Harrison learns a lot about ancient Roman brothels

Rick calls in expert David Vagi, director of NGC Ancients, to authenticate the Roman brothel token before he starts negotiating with Seller Kent. David tells Rick that during Tiberius' reign, it was illegal to use coins depicting the emperor's portrait in brothels, so these coins were a necessary part of the business of sex work (the profession itself was legal, although viewed as morally repugnant). David says that the scene on this coin, in particular, is one of at least a dozen and that the numbers on the back ranged from 1 to 16.

All this sounds promising for Kent's coin, but David goes on to say that there were a lot of counterfeits made of the coins. But while much of "Pawn Stars" may be fake, this Roman brothel token is not. And the news gets even better for Kent: David reports that, at their best condition, these coins can be worth up to $30,000! Kent's is in pretty good condition, so it should be worth at least $12,000.

Negotiations over the coin end happily for both Rick and the seller

With the Roman brothel token authenticated, Rick offers Kent $7,000 to take it off his hands. Kent counters with his original asking price of $10,000, but Rick responds by asking what his best price would be – to which the seller replies $9,000. So, Rick tries to talk him down even further, offering $8,000 for the coin, which Kent accepts. In the post-sale interview, Kent reveals that, even though he did not get his $10,000 asking price, he still made more than he initially paid for the brothel token – good deal!

The pawnbrokers on "Pawn Stars" have bought countless coins over the course of the show's 18 seasons – both on air and off – including some chips that were just as shocking and controversial as this Roman Brothel Token. One gold coin from Spanish colonial Peru ended up being worth way more than the seller had initially thought, to Rick's dismay, while another set of coins ended up landing the owners of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in some legal trouble, as they turned out to be stolen but could not be returned to their owner because the pawnbrokers had melted them down soon after buying them. Hopefully, the extent of the scandal of this ancient Roman brothel token is its crude depiction of two Pompeians doing humanity's oldest dance.