Either Pawn Stars isn't selling well on DVD and A&E Television believes there's more money to be made with an incomplete, two-disc volume than a complete, three-disc full-season. Or, maybe, the show is selling quite well, and that the 12 missing shows are being readied for release down the road (possibly April-May 2012?) as "Volume Four." In any case it's a disappointment, and a confusing one for many consumers.
As for Pawn Stars itself, it's become a unashamed favorite of this reviewer. As before, the series follows the appraising and haggling of rare and oddball items at the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, a surprisingly upscale joint in Las Vegas. The shop is co-owned by Rick Harrison (who resembles Michael Chiklis) and his cantankerous, self-consciously colorful father, Richard ("the Old Man"). Together they're grooming Rick's son, Corey (also known as "Big Hoss"), to eventually run the store. But he and Corey's dim-witted pal Chumlee often get into trouble, buying expensive items without proper authorization, or, as in "Ah, Shucks!" Corey goofs and pays several hundred dollars for supposedly vintage Coca-Cola art, but actually a worthless fake.
The DVD, distributed by New Video, improves upon previous volumes that were 4:3 matted widescreen, while the shows (and menu screens) here are properly presented in 16:9 enhanced widescreen. Unlike previous season sets, this release has no extra features.
I don't have much to add about the show that I didn't already say in my review of season two. If you're thinking about selling a family heirloom, Pawn Stars is a good primer to learn a thing or two about the art of haggling. For instance, the seller is in a much better position to negotiate if he's done his research beforehand, finding similar items on the Internet and having some idea of just what it is he's trying to sell. And, if you watch the show enough, it's pretty obvious what to reasonably expect.
If the various pawnbrokers actually want to buy your item, their usual offer is between 40-45% of what they think they can sell it for. Too often sellers are told by the program's independent experts - "Let me call a buddy of mine who's an expert in this sort of stuff," Rick'll say - that an item is worth, say, between $3,000 and $5,000. When Rick then asks, "So, how much were you looking to get out of this item?" the seller almost invariably knee-jerk responds with, "$5,000!" Cut to Rick rolling his eyes or replying with a deadpan, "Ah, no."
What it boils down to are factors like the size of the item (too big and it becomes more trouble than it's worth, like the hand-cranked corn husker, an item also too dangerous to keep around the store), how quickly it can be sold, and the market for that particular item. (George Washington? Hot. Baseball cards? Ice cold.) Oftentimes customers will bring in something utterly fascinating but also too unique, so uncategorical that, neat as it is, there's just no market. I mean, Buddy Zoloth's address book?
If the shop does want to buy your item, that narrow range of 45-45% is about all one can reasonably expect. When a customer brings in something truly outstanding, Rick will go 50% and a little above, but such cases are extremely rare, though he will pay more for gold, for obvious reasons.
It's also interesting watching the very different haggling tactics of Rick, Richard, and Corey. The Old Man uses his intimidating, imposing and poker-faced presence in an Old School haggler way that contrasts Rick and Corey. If the Old Man offers $100 for something and the customer counters with $150, the Old Man is apt to reply, "How about $50?"
Rick, on the other hand, grins like the Cheshire Cat and snickers just like this character to ease negotiations through awkward moments, and is always extremely polite even with customers trying to unload worthless junk ("But, gee - thanks for bringing this in to show me. It's really neat.") Corey, less experienced and neither as intimidating as the Old Man nor as smooth and sociable as his father, knows the numbers he has to work with but lacks their confidence. Rarely, for instance, does he look his customers in the eyes during critical bargaining moments.
These so-called fan-favorites do include many memorable items: maps and plans for the Battle of Iwo Jima; coal miners' scrip coins, which kept workers in a state of virtual, perpetual slavery. My favorite was a lumpy bar of gold found in an attic that turned out to be literal sunken treasure from the Spanish Armada, and worth nearly $50,000.
Video & Audio
Happily, Pawn Stars - Volume Three is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen with 16:9 enhancement, an improvement from Season Two. The image is up to contemporary television standards, as is the 2.0 Dolby Stereo. There are no subtitle options per se, but the discs are closed-captioned. The set includes 16 22-minute episodes on two single-sided, dual-layered discs. No Extra Features.
I'm annoyed that, for whatever reason, A&E has opted against releasing Pawn Stars' entire Third Season, at least for now. But the show itself is most entertaining and heartily Recommended.
Stuart Galbraith IV's audio commentary, for AnimEigo's Tora-san DVD boxed set, is on sale now.