‘We’re all about the stories’ – Behind the scenes of Pawn Stars SA

Pawn Stars SA (Photo: Supplied)
Pawn Stars SA (Photo: Supplied)

Roy Peretz is no ordinary salesman. He’s seen everything from throbbing vibrators and shrunken Inca heads to swords and swish watches across the glass counter of his imaginarium-style store.

Dressed like a bit of a swashbuckler with a bold brooch pendant for a tie and an even bolder belt; his shop, situated on a “race-track road” in Hyde Park - where cars gun downhill in a heady rush - offers welcome respite from the maddening melee of Jan Smuts Avenue.

Here, with wall-to-tall shelves sagging under artefacts, art and memorabilia that may or may not have been dear to someone’s heart, time stands still for customers and curious onlookers as the stories behind stuff unfurl like a rich tapestry rolled out to reveal its enchanting secrets.

Scouting for Pawn Stars SA

A pawnbroker for more than 20 years, Peretz, who actually holds a degree in chemical engineering, is well known for his charm and knowledgeable ability to turn keepsakes into cash, quickly.

A colourful personality that translates well to TV is exactly what Randburg production house Rapid Blue was looking for when they scouted for presenters in the lead-up to South Africa’s own version of Pawn Stars, the popular History Channel show where the authenticity of collectables are entertainingly examined and traded on air for fair value.

“I was hoping that they would phone us,” says Peretz, recalling what it was like to hear of pawnbrokers being interviewed or, as he puts it, “tested”, to see if they had what it took.

When the call finally came through and Cash Inn got the nod for the location of Pawn Stars SA, Peretz was immediately exited, convinced that it confirmed his superiority in the market, and yet he wasn’t immediately sold.

He went to Las Vegas, scene of the original Pawn Stars, for a heads-up meeting with Rick Harrison, the show’s affable lead presenter.

Peretz recalls that Harrison wasted no time in persuading him to “go for it”.

“Rick said to me: ‘You’ve got to do this. It’s going to put the biggest spin on your career and you’ll have a lot of fun.’”

Still, Peretz also knew of the implicit impact that a TV team traipsing around the showroom would have on his business, a business he never would’ve have thought would attain star status.

“I’m a very positive person but when they came to me and we signed the contract I knew that it would take three months of labour and that I would have to listen to people who didn’t always know what they were talking about.”

Nonetheless, since the first series of Pawn Stars SA was screened towards the end of 2014, its effect has been wholly transformative.

“It’s been amazing,” says Peretz recalling the experiences he and his co-presenting team of four associates have had.

“It has given us legitimacy,” he says.

“People think, ‘ah, pawn brokers, this must be stolen goods’. But when they see my shop they realise that, ‘no, this is good’. That’s what I’ve been trying to do for more than 20 years.”

The perception-shifting appeal of Pawn Stars SA

Already two seasons strong, with 32 episodes behind him, Peretz has seen the perception-shifting appeal of Pawn Stars SA take route in countries like Germany, Italy, Serbia, Romania, and Turkey.

“People all over the world now know about us.”

They received a call from English professional footballer, Frank Lampard, about a certain motorbike.

Of course it wasn’t just any bike, but a 1929 Royal Enfield with a side-cart.

“Lampard saw it on one of our shows and the next thing he called.”

Long-time partner Eytan Nadler – who, like on the American show, acts like a foil for Peretz and his fellow presenters – took the call.

“But Eytan knows nothing about bikes so I took the phone from him. I couldn’t believe it: I had Lampard on the line!

“He told me he wanted to buy the bike and he bought it for good money too.”

Fifty thousand pounds later, the Enfield was making its way overseas.

Not all is glitz and glamour

But not all is glitz and glamour in the world of celebrity pawn broking. Nadler explains that the market is very tough at the moment.

“There’s not much money going around”, he says.

And to make matters worse, there are a lot of counterfeit goods out there.

“Take Mandela memorabilia. For every single authentic item that’s out there, there easily are 5000 fakes of the same thing.”

Nadler’s sentiments are confirmed by the Nelson Mandela Foundation who recently told City Press that the process of validating items is so difficult, not to even mention generally held public consensus about the risk of buying forgeries, that the market in collectables has all but collapsed.

A seller, for example, brought an interesting wooden crate complete with rope handles, claiming that its contents consisted of a main piece and several shards of the original seven Lydenburg heads, very rare Iron Age terracotta masks dating back to 500 AD.

“It looked every bit like the real thing,” Nadler says.

Expert, historical assessment unfortunately revealed that it was fake.

“We still bought it because of the box it came in,” Peretz points out.

In another example, Nadler fetches from an envelope a signed photograph of former West Indies and Australian cricketers Brian Lara and Shane Warne.

“This is a good piece of memorabilia but buyers still want proof,” Nadler says.

“People come here with mementoes such as these signed by sport stars at the actual games where they play, but collectors still want to be sure that its authentic.”

Says Peretz: “We’re all for the stories, when something isn’t just a thing but made special through its own history. Nevertheless, we’re still running a business. That’s why I say, when you bring something you want to sell to me, leave your sentimental value and the item’s original retail price on the pavement.”

Of course, the proof of provenance, or the historical track record of an item, is really in the pudding, the viewable detail of each and every edition of Pawn Stars.

A third season of this “show and tell” series is in the pipeline, says Peretz, “and we’re guaranteeing to grab even more attention”.

Before then Cash Inn’s show room is to play host to regular auctions every Tuesday, to make way for a new flood of collectables.

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