TV's hidden treasures


Two episodes back-to-back

Mondays, 10pm

History (StarHub Ch 401)


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Whether or not we like to admit it, there's a karung guni in all of us.

That is, like the rag-and- bone men the Malay colloquialism refers to, sometimes we might hoard things (call it "collecting", if you will) others consider as junk.

As the saying goes, one man's trash is another man's treasure, right?

So, reality-television shows that centre around the bits and pieces that regular folk like us amass can be quite thrilling - especially when a lot of it turns out not to be junk after all.

This is particularly true in the case of History Channel's Pawn Stars, where there are plenty of treasures to be found.

The half-hour show's latest season premiered here on Monday, and two episodes will be shown back-to-back every week.

Here, we meet the multi-generational Harrison family - grandfather Richard (also known simply as The Old Man), son Rick and grandson Corey - who together run the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop just outside Las Vegas. Rounding up the motley crew is Corey's childhood friend, Chumlee.

The 24-hour shop's been open since 1998 and, since then, it's turned into a haven for offbeat curios, historic objects and the generally strange and quirky.

In the second episode, a customer brought in a photo album allegedly signed by 20th-century American military commander General George S. Patton.

An expert was called in to ensure that the artefact was the real deal.

Finding out the story behind each piece - the potential seller's grandfather was an army photographer during World War II - is fascinating, as is this perennial pawnshop question: How much is it worth?

Indeed, the real fun is in watching the bargaining process, which usually includes some pretty entertaining off- the-cuff banter.

Over and over, Rick expertly whittles prices down at lightning speed. One female seller, keen to palm off an extensive collection of Jim Beam decanters, goes from expecting a US$4,500 (S$5,600) windfall to settling for just US$600.

Clearly, the man's a professional who's no pushover.

A similar show, Storage Wars, follows a bunch of auction-hunters, who bid on abandoned storage lockers not knowing what they hold.

My favourite characters include Barry Weiss, a laidback collector more interested in blowing his money on cool stuff than on profiting, and the shrewd Dave Hester, who is seemingly able to sniff out profits from miles away.

In a previous episode, for instance, the latter took a chance on a locker full of unmarked cardboard boxes. He paid US$9,000.

The boxes contained professional lighting equipment, which he then sold for a cool US$30,000. Now that's one heck of a karung guni payday.

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