Since 2009, viewers have turned into the History Channel’s Pawn Stars for an entertaining look at the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. But have you noticed something missing in recent seasons? The patriarch of the Las Vegas tourist destination, Richard Benjamin Harrison, is no longer around. Find out who the so-called Old Man of Pawn Stars was, and how his role was pivotal to the show’s success.
Richard Benjamin Harrison Was Known As ‘The Old Man’ On Pawn Stars
People tune into Pawn Stars to watch the negotiation of potential treasures for cash, but the series wouldn’t exist without Richard Benjamin Harrison. According to his son Rick’s 2011 book License to Pawn, Harrison—known as The Old Man—opened the Gold & Silver Coin Shop in Las Vegas in 1989 with only $5,000 to his name. The retired Navy officer had previously lost a million-dollar fortune, and the shop was his chance at redemption.
His gamble paid off. Pawn Stars, which followed Harrison and his staff’s daily lives at the shop, became the History Channel’s highest rating program. And The Old Man himself was a particular fan favorite. Harrison was equal parts gruff, no-nonsense, and snarky. Check out this highlight reel from the show for a taste of his personality:
He Worked With His Son And Grandson On Pawn Stars
Part of what makes Pawn Stars a success is the fact that The Gold & Silver Pawn Shop is a family affair. The Old Man has his son Rick “The Spotter” Harrison, and eldest grandson, Corey “Big Hoss” Harrison to keep him company at the shop. (Corey’s childhood friend, Austin “Chumlee” Russell, is also a popular fixture on the series.)
The close relationship between coworkers/cast members makes things ripe for humor and interpersonal conflicts. Viewers love to witness their behind-the-scenes drama as much as they enjoy watching the bargains being made on the shop floor.
Today, Rick is the owner of the lucrative family business—and he has The Old Man’s cynical wit to thank for it.
“He had all those Southern sayings,” he said in a 2020 interview. “Like one of the great ones was when I was trying to get my pilot’s license. My dad just basically told me, ‘Well son, find out what you’re not good at in this world, as don’t do that.'”
Unfortunately, The Old Man sometimes went a little too far with his tough-guy approach.
“When I was 16 years old, I tried to act all tough and told him ‘F you’ to him,” the younger Harrison told Fox News in January 2020. “He punched me in the face. I’m laying on the ground. He looks at me and says, ‘Old enough to talk to me like a man, old enough to get your ass beat like one.’ I just got up, walked away, and never said another word about it. He really changed my perspective on life and how words have meaning.”
But The Old Man’s aggression was one piece of a bigger picture. He also made sacrifices and served as a mentor to set his family up for success.
“Most people, when they turn 18, they go off to school, get a job and move out. I worked with [The Old Man] from the time I was a kid,” Harrison added. “He stayed in the Navy for years because of me. Otherwise, it would have been really difficult with my medical expenses. But despite my epilepsy, he never treated me differently.”
Now that Rick carries the torch, he’s passing his wisdom further down the family tree. His youngest son Jake recently made his Pawn Stars debut and proved that he’s not someone to mess with. In his first appearance, the teenager managed to make his Dad proud by spotting a fake Rolex (brought in by Chumlee of all people).
‘The Old Man’ Passed Away In 2018 At The Age Of 77
Sadly, viewers won’t be seeing The Old Man on new episodes of Pawn Stars. On June 25, 2018, he passed away at 77 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
“We knew it was coming,” his son Rick told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It was such a long battle, a slow progression. It just ravaged him.”
Corey Harrison shared a more colorful memory of his grandfather with the paper. “I loved all the blue-haired ladies who would walk up and pinch his butt,” he said. “He was really, really popular with fans.”
Rick left an eloquent and emotional tribute to The Old Man on social media:
Richard Harrison Removed One Of His Sons From His Will
“I would like to express my love and affection for Christopher Keith Harrison; however for the purposes of this Will, I have intentionally and with full knowledge failed to provide for him and his issue,” read the official document.
No one besides the Harrison family knows how much his estate was worth; nor do they know the reason for denying Christopher an inheritance. Based on what we’ve seen on television, perhaps it was a final act of tough love.