“Pawn Stars” expert Mark Hall Patton was the San Bernardino County Museum’s first Dome Talk speaker of 2020.
Patton spoke at the museum's evening discussion on Thursday, Jan. 16.
Patton has been the administrator for the Clark County Museum for 23 years. His role on “Pawn Stars” elevated him to celebrity status.
“It is a strange thing to be on television when you are in museum work,” said Patton.
Patton knew he wanted to work in a museum since he was a boy.
“I would build museums in the house and create displays,” he said.
In 2009, show executives for "Pawn Stars" approached Patton.
“They wanted me to be an expert on the show to identify if items are real,” said Patton. “They asked me if I could tell them what items are worth. I said no.”
Patton explained to the show that when a museum is gifted an item, it is not allowed to say what it is worth. Being that he was a county administrator, appraising items was not something he wanted to do.
“If I was going to go on the show, I didn't want viewers watching to think that people go to museums to see what things are worth,” said Patton.
The show wanted him anyway.
Since 2009, Patton has appeared in 192 episodes.
“I had no idea it was going to be a big show,” said Patton. “I thought it would be a one-shot.”
Patton said he initially agreed to appear on the show for the publicity it might bring to his museum.
Patton filmed his first episode in February 2009. As soon as it hit the air in July, the show exploded.
The History channel originally bought the show as a summer fill-in series. By the second episode, it bought 20 more. After the first 20 episodes, it bought 80 more.
Patton said he is recognized no matter where he goes.
“In August 2009, my wife and I were at a gas station in Orange, California,” said Patton. “A man came running up to me saying he saw my hat and beard and recognized me from ‘Pawn Stars.’”
“Pawn Stars” is shown in 150 countries.
“It is a show about a pawn shop in Las Vegas,” said Patton. “Amazingly, people from other countries are interested in it. I have been recognized in Ireland by bouncers at bars.”
Patton's fame has increased the Clark County Museum's attendance by 70 percent.
“We put a cardboard cutout of me in the lobby of the museum because people started to get mad when I wasn't there,” said Patton. “People want pictures with me.”
Patton said when he is in his office at the museum, the front desk will inform him if he has fans waiting.
Patton explained to the audience how he identifies items on the show.
“I do my own research,” he said. “I have only ever made one error.”
“I was asked to identify whether an item was a Soviet Intercontinental Ballistic Missile key or a rocket launch key,” said Patton. “I said it was a rocket key, but I was wrong.”
According to Patton, "Pawn Stars" demographics go down to age 4.
“Kids stop me and talk to me,” he said. “Anything I can do to get kids interested in history, I will do.”
The great thing about the show is its public outreach.
Shockingly, Patton does not get paid for being on the show.
“I am a county employee and county employees cannot receive a second paycheck,” said Patton.
However, when he does film a scene, the show donates $300 to Patton's museum.
“The county now sees me as a celebrity,” said Patton. “I have been asked to appear at county events as a celebrity.”
Thanks to his fame, Patton receives 100 to 150 emails a day from people around the world asking him to identify items.
“I received an email from Croatia once,” said Patton.
How does Patton identify the authenticity of items on the show?
“First, they send me a photo with a few bullet points on what they think it is,” said Patton. “There are times where I won't be able to tell if the item is real until I see it for myself.”
Patton said it is usually not hard to tell what is real and what is fake.
“When you have worked in museums your entire life, you see a few things,” he said.