Who knew that opening up storage lockers could produce so much drama? But reality show Storage Wars has proved it can and, since debuting in 2010, has gone on to become one of the A&E Network’s biggest hits. However, it’s actually behind the scenes where the show’s biggest secrets lie; here’s a look at 20 of the juiciest.
20. One of its stars has claimed that it’s rigged
Dave Hester brought Storage Wars into disrepute in 2012 after claiming it was rigged. According to the storage hunter, producers often stashed items in units to make the reveal more exciting. Strangely, though, A&E didn’t dispute Hester’s version of events, simply arguing instead that its behavior was protected by the First Amendment.
19. The show allegedly paid for Brandi to have a boob job
That wasn’t the only scandalous claim that Hester made at the time, however. To wit, the outspoken star also alleged that Storage Wars producers paid for cast member Brandi Passante to have a boob job. Original Productions reportedly did so in an effort to make the show more racy.
18. Jarrod served a prison sentence
Long-time bidder Jarrod Schulz has hinted at his criminal past on the show without ever revealing any specifics. It turns out, though, that he spent 16 months in jail at the turn of the century for various misdemeanours. His rap sheet includes a DUI, possession of a controlled substance and narcotics offences.
17. Jarrod made it big thanks to his aunt
However, Jarrod has managed to turn his life around, and he has one of his relatives to thank for doing so. Specifically, he first became interested in storage auctions after spending time at his aunt’s public storage facility. Since then, he’s opened up his own thrift store with partner Brandi and, of course, become an unlikely reality star.
16. One cast member killed himself
The show’s most tragic moment occurred in 2013 when storage hunter Mark Balelo died from carbon monoxide poisoning in an apparent suicide. Just days earlier, the cast member had been arrested for methamphetamine possession. He’d also been charged with three similar offences back in 2007.
15. Barry got his start selling fruit and vegetables
Barry Weiss may have gained reality show fame as a storage hunter, but he’s actually spent the majority of his career in the wholesale produce industry supplying various restaurants, hotels and cruise ships. Weiss, who left the show in 2013, initially only began collecting antiques as a hobby before finally taking it up full-time.
14. Barry’s a legal medical marijuana user
Barry is also a major advocate of a very different type of produce. According to reports, the storage hunter has carried a legal medical marijuana card for some time. He reportedly began taking the drug to help with a back injury he suffered in his youth.
13. Laura made a bid for Dan
Dan and Laura Dotson have proved that sometimes you can mix business with pleasure. They first met in 1996, but Laura had spotted Dan at various auctions before then and knew instantly that he was the man she was going to marry. Four months later, moreover, she fell pregnant, and the auctioneers have remained partners ever since.
12. Dan nearly met his maker
However, the Dotsons had a huge scare in 2014 when Dan was given just a slim chance of surviving a double brain aneurysm. Thankfully, the auctioneer’s surgery proved to be successful, and he was back at his California home just a week later. And following his brush with death, Dan packed in smoking after a 40-year habit.
11. Darrell threatened to quit in a pay dispute
Darrell Sheets reportedly threatened to quit the show over a pay dispute in 2015. In particular, Sheets was left seething after hearing that producers wanted to slash his salary by 50 percent. He also wasn’t too pleased about plans to reduce his number of episodes to just four out of 26.
10. Brandon has claimed that he wasn’t appreciated
Darrell eventually settled his dispute, but son Brandon later left the show in acrimonious circumstances. In a series of tweets, Brandon revealed that he’d been ditched by Storage Wars due to budgetary constraints. He also claimed that he’d been degraded during his stint on the show and questioned producers’ attitudes in general.
9. A brawl once broke out on set
Dave Hester even continued to court controversy upon his return to the show. For instance, after he alerted Dan Dotson to an error during a 2015 shoot, a fight broke out between the pair. Hester allegedly punched the auctioneer in his face before Laura came to her husband’s defense, and A&E were forced to swiftly shut down production as a consequence.
8. Kevin’s son was charged with murder
Kevin Pew, star of Storage Wars’ Miami spin-off, made the news in 2015 when his son was charged with first-degree murder. Hashim Pew allegedly fatally shot a family friend at a viewing party for the show. After reportedly wrestling the gun out of the 23-year-old’s hands, Kevin then was said to have restrained him until police arrived.
7. Dan and Laura were once cyber hacked
In 2012 the Dotsons became the unfortunate victims of a cyber attack, with hackers stealing various credit card and bank details from the auctioneers’ home computer. However, the thieves made the basic error of using the personal information to make multiple major purchases in quick succession. This alerted the couple’s credit card companies, and their cards were subsequently blocked.
6. Hester and Trey Songz sued each other
Now this is surely the most bizarre Storage Wars story. Troublesome cast member David Hester was once involved in a legal spat with R&B star Trey Songz. And the reason? Both parties wanted to sell merchandise emblazoned with their catchphrase “YUUUP.” The pair eventually dropped their respective lawsuits in 2012.
5. The Dotsons once uncovered a real pirate’s chest
The Dotsons briefly swapped Storage Wars for Pirates of the Caribbean in 2011 when they stumbled across a real-life treasure chest. The pair discovered the booty in California while auctioning off a foreclosed storage locker. What’s more, the box may date to as long ago as the 1500s, while its contents were described by an expert as “Pieces of Eight Spanish Gold.”
4. The show once found a coffer full of defaced bills
A Storage Wars bidder discovered another treasure trove in 2011, albeit one that was far more macabre than the Dotsons’. Specifically, the buyer found $24,000 in cash in the storage locker he’d spent just $400 on. However, that fortunate win was tempered by the fact that the previous owner had bizarrely removed the faces from every single bill. Luckily, though, the money was still accepted as legal tender.
3. Brandi won a lawsuit against a porn distributor
In 2013 Brandi Passante won damages from a porn distributor accused of posting a fake clip of her. The Storage Wars star was hoping to receive $2.5 million in the case against Is Anyone Up? site owner Hunter Moore. However, although the judge ruled in her favor, he only offered her a paltry $750.
2. Darrell met his fiancée on the open road
The story of how Darrell met his one-time fiancée could be labeled either highly romantic or highly creepy. The storage hunter first saw ex-partner Kimber Wuerfel while driving in California, then followed her car for several miles before jotting his phone number down on some paper and holding it against his car window. Incredibly, the tactic worked.
1. Barry is Jesse James’ godfather
Turns out that Barry Weiss is godfather to the star of another reality show star: namely, motorcycle customizer Jesse James. The storage hunter also played a part in one of his godson’s most infamous moments, the controversial photo in which James made a Nazi salute.
Like Storage Wars, The History channel’s Pawn Stars has carved out a reputation as one of the most popular reality shows on U.S. television. After 17 seasons, Rick, Corey, the Old Man and everyone’s favorite, Chumlee, have been propelled to superstar status. But for everything this landmark show reveals about the pawn store business, there’s still plenty more going on behind the scenes.
20. The crew enjoyed a private Lynyrd Skynyrd gig
It’s no secret that ’70s rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd wrote and performed the show’s theme music for season four onwards. What you might not know, however, is that when the band went to Las Vegas to meet the guys, they also performed an impromptu gig in the store’s parking lot.
19. Olivia Black wasn’t actually fired
Olivia Black started working the night shift in season five, but afterwards it was revealed that she had done a nude photoshoot for the website Suicide Girls and so was hastily removed from the show. As it turns out, however, it was the network who had an issue with this and not Rick and company. In fact, even after leaving the show Black kept working at the store, before eventually leaving of her own accord.
18. The store was sued for melting down antique coins
Melting down coins for gold is far from uncommon and perfectly legal – provided the coins in question aren’t stolen. But in 2014 a woman traded in a coin collection at Gold & Silver, and the guys did the standard thing and melted them down. It transpired, however, that the seller had actually stolen the coins from her uncle, who later claimed they were worth $50,000 and sued the store.
17. Pawn Plaza isn’t doing so well
To capitalize on the sheer volume of tourists and fans who visit the store, Rick decided to expand, and so the Pawn Plaza was assembled nearby. The plaza offers a variety of shops and eateries and is primarily built from shipping containers. And while initial expectations for it were lofty, four of its stores had to close in 2016, and the future of the ambitious venture remains uncertain.
16. Rick Harrison is something of a bookworm
Some of Rick’s interests, such as his car collection, aren’t all that surprising. But did you know that the businessman is also an avid reader? As it turns out, Rick is extremely well read, and he has a more refined taste in literature than you might expect from a pawnbroker, too.
15. Somebody once pawned a sack of human skulls
Pawn shops take some fairly bizarre inventory at times, and Gold & Silver probably has the best line in weird wares of any pawn shop in America. At one point, for example, somebody brought in a sack of human skulls, which must have been pretty difficult to process. And another customer brought in some Japanese porn that had been doing the rounds for 250 years.
14. The store is full of merchandise
By far the biggest money maker in the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop nowadays is the merchandise, and Chumlee’s line is particularly popular. During filming, however, the cameras are deliberately angled away from all this to make the business seem more authentic. But since the store gets so many fans visiting on a daily basis, the outgoings on merchandise are far greater than from people actually pawning things.
13. Sometimes the trade you see on TV isn’t what it seems
We all know by now that reality TV doesn’t necessarily reflect reality, and even when things seem real, there’s usually a certain amount of massaging going on. For instance, some of the trades you see in the broadcast version of Pawn Stars have happened at least once already. Indeed, if someone brings in an unusual item, they might be asked to come in again at a different time so that the trade can be filmed in more detail.
12. Stolen items have been brought in on several occasions
The melting coin fiasco wasn’t the only time that Rick has taken in stolen goods. In 2009, for example, a man traded in a pair of diamond earrings for $40,000. Barely a day had passed, however, when it transpired that the earrings were actually stolen, and the seller was arrested. The pawn shop isn’t liable when this happens, but they don’t get the money back. Crime doesn’t pay, and it doesn’t hand out refunds, either.
11. The amount of Subway the guys eat is no accident
Clunky product placement is always jarring, but Pawn Stars takes it to another level. Subway is one of the show’s main sponsors, and as a result, you will often see the guys munching away on Subway sandwiches with the logo on the wrapping clearly on display. Even worse, if someone talks about a Subway sandwich on the show they will call it by its proper, branded name. Cringe.
10. Pimps buy jewelry from the store
Some customers are great for TV, others just don’t pop, while others still pop a little bit too much. From time to time, for example, local pimps come into the store to buy jewelry, since they can take it back in later and get half the price as a loan against it. It’s a loophole that allows them to pay bail, since their cash is confiscated when they’re arrested. Interesting, but not entirely suitable for family TV.
9. Deanna’s previous marriage wasn’t plain sailing
Rick got hitched to Deanna Burditt in 2013, but she had been married before, and it didn’t exactly end amicably. Her ex, Richard Burditt, was convicted of forced sexual abuse, but he hasn’t ever served any time for it. Rick cites “bureaucracy” as the reason for that, and the topic is clearly still a sore subject for both him and Deanna.
8. Corey is a keen biker but not always a safe one
Rick’s son Corey is often vocal about his love of motorbikes on the show. What he doesn’t often bring up on camera, however, is his history of bike accidents. One particularly nasty incident occurred in 2014, when Corey was thrown from his bike after a fender mount fell off it and sent it into a tailspin. Unbelievably, he walked away from the encounter with only a fractured hand.
7. Rick reached out to a young fan in the most adorable way
Pawn Stars has plenty of younger fans, and one in particular was given a very special surprise. The boy in question, an autistic child nicknamed Little J, posted a letter to the shop along with his Game Boy in the hope of trading it in for $30. Not only did Rick send the money, but he also returned the Game Boy to the child. Plus, he penned a letter back to Little J thanking him, encouraging him to keep playing and to listen to his mother, along with a signed photo of the cast. Class act.
6. You won’t find the guys behind the counter
When the show started, Gold & Silver was like any other pawn shop – most, if not all, of the business was done over the counter. But now, because of the filming schedule, if you actually go into the store you won’t see Harrison and Russell at work. They’re far more likely to be by the merch stand signing autographs.
5. The store was on TV before the show started
Although Pawn Stars kicked off in 2009, the store had actually already appeared on TV twice. The first time was in 2001 when PBS aired a full-length documentary about the business. And two years later, comedian Dave Attell also turned up at the store to film a segment for his show, Insomniac.
4. The store has a Greek artifact dating back to 325 B.C.
People bring plenty of antiques into Gold & Silver, some of them centuries old. But one coin in particular was on a whole different level. The antique coin proved to be a didrachm from around 325 B.C., which was the ancient Greek equivalent of about two dollars if you don’t adjust for inflation.
3. Between 3,000 and 5,000 visitors call at the shop each day
For most pawn shops, getting 5,000 visitors in a month would be pretty good going, but Gold & Silver get that in a day – sometimes more. The store is inundated with tourists on a daily basis, which is why the way the guys do business has changed so drastically since the show started. In fact, some fans will even go as far as to try and sneak around the back to get a peek at the cast.
2. Rick can’t browse garage sales anymore
Fame can impact on people’s lives in strange and unexpected ways. In Rick’s case, his now well-recognized reputation as a canny, keen-eyed negotiator has meant that at garage sales and swap meets, he’s regarded with suspicion. Some people even hide their wares away before he gets the chance to examine them.
1. The guys got a special invite from Bon Jovi
As if the private Lynyrd Skynyrd show wasn’t awesome enough, the cast were also personally invited to a show by Jon Bon Jovi. According to Chumlee, Bon Jovi’s son wanted to meet them, and so the free gig was bartered in exchange for the meeting. It was a haggling approach that the guys can certainly understand and probably appreciated.