Chumlee Made Millions On Pawn Stars – But Here’s The Truth About His Fortune

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When reality show Pawn Stars first aired in 2009, it was Chumlee that proved to be its standout star. But while he might have been the butt of his castmates’ jibes before the camera, the TV personality’s net worth is certainly no joke. Yes, Chumlee has secured himself quite a fortune since he hit our screens, so let’s turn back to where it all began.

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Austin Lee Russell – as Chumlee is more formally known – was born in Henderson, Nevada, on September 8, 1982. He acquired his nickname around the age of 12, when a friend’s father remarked that he closely resembled the walrus Chumley from the TV cartoon Tennessee Tuxedo. And it’s fair to say that the moniker – which has since become known around the world – stuck.

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During his youth, Chumlee made friends with Corey Harrison. Corey’s dad Rick and grandfather Richard opened the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas in 1989. The store would later become the focus of History’s Pawn Stars and would go on to make Chumlee and the Harrisons household names.

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However, Chumlee and Corey’s friendship didn’t get off to the best of starts. In fact, it has been reported that they first met when Chumlee shoved Corey off his roller skates after mistaking him for someone else. A fistfight ensued, but the pair later put their differences behind them and became good buddies.

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In fact, it was Corey that got Chumlee his job at the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. Chumlee subsequently started working at the Harrison family business at the age of 21. His role at the store involved working behind the counter, loading goods, testing items and writing tickets for customers.

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While Chumlee was learning the ropes at the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, he fell victim to a few calamitous episodes. One such incident was recalled by best friend Corey in an interview with HuffPost in 2012. Corey revealed how Chumlee had pawned a stand-up bass for a customer, only for disaster to strike.

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According to Corey, after Chumlee had taken the instrument, he had leaned it up against a shelf and left it there. The bass subsequently fell over, smashing into pieces as it did so. There was no saving the item, and so Chumlee simply gathered up the various fragments and placed them inside a box with a pawn number.

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When the owner of the bass returned to the store to collect the instrument, he was horrified to find it smashed to bits. Revealing what happened next, Corey told HuffPost that the customer “started freaking out… He pawned it for $700, and it wound up costing us $20,000 because it turned out to be rare.”

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In another unfortunate incident at the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, Chumlee got into a scrape with a blunderbuss he was testing. In an interview with HuffPost, he later cited the firearm as the most dangerous item he’d trialed at the store. Chumlee explained, “A flame shot out, and I did get burned up my arm.”

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Chumlee had been working at the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop for five years by the time filming for Pawn Stars got underway. The reality show was the brainchild of Corey’s dad, Rick, who had previously starred in a PBS documentary on the store back in 2001. While HBO expressed some interest in the idea early on, the show was eventually picked up by History.

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Pawn Stars, which first aired in July 2009, follows the day-to-day happenings at the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, including staff and customer interactions, evaluations and items of interest. Its main cast comprises the regular shop staff of Corey, Rick, Richard and Chumlee.

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Aside from depicting the everyday occurrences at the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, Pawn Stars follows the relationships between the cast members throughout their ups and downs. Some of the recurring themes on the show include the older Harrisons doubting Corey’s judgments and questions arising over Chumlee’s capabilities.

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For the most part, Chumlee is depicted as something of a comedy character on Pawn Stars and is often the subject of his castmates’ jokes. His intelligence is also regularly called into question on the show. As such, he is often referred to as the resident “village idiot” of the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop.

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However, it would seem that Chumlee isn’t quite as clueless as the Pawn Stars narrative would sometimes have us believe. That’s because he’s built up his knowledge as a pawnbroker over the years and has particular expertise in pinball machines. Chumlee even owns several vintage editions of the iconic arcade games himself.

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Alongside Chumlee’s vintage pinball machine collection, he’s also amassed a large assortment of over 200 pairs of shoes. However, some of his most valuable assets are his many collectible cars. These include a Maserati GranTurismo, Rolls-Royce Phantom, 1964 Impala SS and a Cadillac Escalade. As a result, Chumlee’s car collection is thought to be worth more than a million dollars.

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So how does Chumlee feel about regularly being the butt of the joke on Pawn Stars? Well, according to him, the clownish persona was actually his idea. In March 2020 he told the PodKats! podcast, “I kind of realized what was missing was the funny part of the show, the whipping boy is what I called it at the time. Someone they could make fun of and laugh with.”

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So while Chumlee’s laughable character might not be entirely accurate, his Pawn Stars persona has done him no harm when it comes to popularity. The series would go on to become History’s highest-rated show and the second most popular reality series after Jersey Shore. But it was Chumlee who stole the hearts of many viewers.

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Nevertheless, even Chumlee’s popularity was the subject of jibes from his fellow castmates. Sharing his theory as to why Chumlee had become the breakout star of Pawn Stars, Rick told HuffPost, “Kids love Chumlee because he’s the adult that they’re smarter than.”

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However, Corey was more philosophical when explaining why he thought that Chumlee’s character had resonated so deeply with the show’s viewers. He told HuffPost, “People love to see that a guy like Chumlee made it… Everybody loves an underdog.”

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Building on the newfound popularity that Pawn Stars brought him, Chumlee established his own company selling novelty products. Soon, the star’s merchandise was fast outselling that of his castmates. As a result, Chumlee sold half of his company to Rick in 2010 for a cool $155,000.

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And Chumlee’s business ventures don’t end there. Cashing in on his celebrity status, Chumlee started doing public appearances which proved to be quite the money-spinner. In 2011 Rick told CNN Money, “Corey and Chumlee have been getting paid $1,000 a night to appear at different nightclubs.”

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Furthermore, in 2017 Chumlee opened up his own candy store on Las Vegas Boulevard, right opposite the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. He planned to run the business with the help of his brother, Sage Russell. The store stocks a number of popular sweets with plenty of retro favorites.

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One particularly nostalgic candy that has proved popular with Chumlee’s customers is the candy cigarette. The reality star told PodKats, “I cannot keep candy cigarettes and bubble-gum cigarettes on the shelves… People come in and buy as many as can fit in their hands. They want to buy a whole box, and we have boxes in the back. I can’t order enough of them.”

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Chumlee remembered a time when cigarette candy was commonplace. But his shop was soon one of the few places willing to sell them. He explained, “You literally have to go to a candy store. A lot of people don’t touch them because we live in a world where they are not politically correct.”

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The tiny store, known as Chumlee’s Candy on the Boulevard, is situated inside a shipping container, meaning it can only accommodate a few people at a time. In 2017 Chumlee told KSNV, “I actually think I’m going to have to have a rope in front of my door as well because, as you can see, only ten to 15 people can come in here comfortably.”

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Though small, Chumlee’s candy store soon became a destination for avid Pawn Stars fans eager to catch a glimpse of their favorite character. One such customer was Barry Davies, who told Las Vegas news station KSNV, “I watch every episode back in the U.K., I never miss it… I watch them again and again. They’re just fascinating.”

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Another major deal that Chumlee completed in 2019 was the sale of his Las Vegas abode. Situated around five miles off the Vegas Strip, the sprawling desert property boasted a 6,200-square-foot home, a large backyard and a swimming pool. It eventually sold for an impressive $1.375 million.

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So, all things considered, Chumlee was doing pretty well for himself thanks to the success of Pawn Stars. In fact, in 2019 he had a reported net worth of $5 million. Furthermore, he allegedly earns $25,000 each time an episode of the hit reality show airs.

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However, Chumlee’s rise to fame has not been without its controversy. In 2016 his aforementioned Las Vegas home was raided by the police as part of an investigation into allegations of sexual assault. And during the search, they found marijuana, methamphetamine and at least one firearm.

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As a result, Chumlee was arrested and later charged with 20 felonies for possession of weapons and drugs. He later pleaded guilty to the unlawful ownership of a firearm and an attempted drug possession misdemeanor. He consequently received a plea deal comprising three years of probation and counseling.

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Furthermore, if Chumlee avoided trouble until 2019, he would have had his felony charge waved, leaving only the misdemeanor conviction on his record. Without the deal, Chumlee may have faced up to five years in prison. However, by pleading guilty he was able to avoid any jail time.

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Following the plea deal, Chumlee continued to film Pawn Stars. And since his brush with the law, the reality star has seemingly turned his life around. After struggling with his weight for much of his life, Chumlee slimmed down with the help of gastric sleeve surgery in 2018.

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In 2013 Chumlee had weighed in excess of 320 pounds. He was able to slim down to 225 pounds in 2014 but struggled to keep the weight off. As a result, he’d turned to surgery to help him get into shape. He also implemented a strict diet and regular exercise into his lifestyle.

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In a video taken before the procedure, Chumlee explained that he’d resorted to surgery after seeing his body shape fluctuate over the years. He said, “I’ve been down, I’ve been up, I’ve been down, I’ve been up. So, when you need a little help to stay down, this is where you come.”

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Seemingly confident about the possible effects of his surgery, Chumlee added, “I’ve already lost 38 lbs on my pre-op diet. They recommend you do it for a couple of weeks, but I’ve been doing it for about five or six weeks now. So that’s going to make my goal to get to 200 pounds a lot better, a lot easier.”

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Chumlee wasn’t the first Pawn Stars cast member to have gastric sleeve surgery. In 2014 his close friend Corey also underwent the procedure and lost almost 200 pounds – taking him from 400 pounds to around 210. Moreover, he has managed to stay slim ever since.

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Aside from losing weight, Chumlee also has further TV work in the pipeline – but this time from it’s from behind the camera. He told PodKats! “I have one idea that is basically in the fashion industry, the vintage side of the fashion industry… It’s a similar vibe to what we do here at the shop.”

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Hinting at what was to come of the project, Chumlee continued, “It’s an under-repped demographic, and I just partnered with a really big production company and made the pilot last year. We’re going to re-work the pilot and try to sell it, so I’ll be on the producer’s side of the camera.”

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So it seems that Chumlee’s stardom may still be ascending, which will no doubt boost his net worth even further. However, no matter how rich and famous the reality star becomes, he’s vowed that he will always stay true to himself. He told PodKats!, “Success shouldn’t change you any more than you’re normally, naturally gonna change and evolve as a person.”

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According to Chumlee, staying authentic was the key to his own happiness and that of those around him. He explained, “If you let success change you, you’re not being true to yourself. I just stay true to myself, and if I make myself happy along the way, I’m sure plenty of other people will be happy.”

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