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Celebrity Drive: Seth Gold of ‘Hardcore Pawn’

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 3/20/2015 K.S. Wang

Celebrity Drive: Seth Gold of ‘Hardcore Pawn’

Quick Stats: Seth Gold of TruTV’s “Hardcore Pawn”
Daily Driver: 2015 Ford Expedition (Seth’s rating: 8 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: see below
Favorite road trip: Interstate 75 to Mackinac Island
Car he learned to drive in: Ford Explorer
First car bought: 2001 Saleen Mustang

For many in the Motor City, the family business has always meant working at the Big Three. For the Golds, it has meant several generations working at pawnshops.

Their store, American Jewelry and Loan, is billed as one of the largest pawnshops in the world and has the motto “Where Detroit Cashes In.” The shop is the subject of TruTV’s hit reality show “Hardcore Pawn.”

But for Seth Gold, who commutes each day on the area’s iconic 8 Mile Road, American automakers are top of mind when it comes to choosing his daily driver. Gold now has a 2015 Ford Expedition, which he rates an eight on a scale of 10, and says it’s an upgrade from his 2014 Expedition.

“There’s major upgrades over the previous year’s version,” Gold says from his family’s store. While his family has been primarily in the pawnshop business, Gold has a relative who works at Ford so he is able to get the Ford A-plan family discount.

“It’s funny because I’ve always been a fan of Ford -- my first car was a Ford Explorer. It’s Motor City, and ultimately I picked one of the Big Three. We have the Platinum version. It handles really, really well; there’s a lot of room. I think that there are significant upgrades - the key fob, you don’t need the key anymore, it’s remote start. I love it in fact. It makes life a lot easier, especially coming in and out of the car. I like the wood trim on the inside and it’s handling really well this winter.”

The only thing about it, he says, is it still has a “truck feel. I also had an Explorer for a little bit of time. And they did a really good job with the Explorer Sport. It felt like a car. This one, it’s large and you still get the feeling that you’re in a truck.”

2015 Ford Explorer Sport© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Ford Explorer Sport

2014 Explorer Sport

Rating : 8
He loves the sportiness of the Explorer Sport (a 2015 model is pictured above), which he calls “just another family vehicle. It goes into Sport mode, it’s quick, I love the upgraded tires on it. I think it looks really slick, all blacked out, black on black,” he says. “There’s really nothing that I can pinpoint that I would say that they needed to change.”

Gold’s first car was a Ford. His family won a 1996 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer Edition at a local charity event. “It was called the Joe Dumars Celebrity Tennis Classic and he held it locally in the Detroit area and you bid on teams. John Lucas was a former basketball player and coach. We bid on his team and they came in first place, so we got to choose whatever prize we wanted,” Gold says.

Gold’s family chose the Ford and since he was about to turn 16 and his parents were going to buy him a car anyway, they gave him the prize. “I’m sitting there 15 years old, not being able to legally drive, and I would sit in the driveway, just so excited that I got this car,” Gold says.

2010 Dodge Ram

Rating: 6The Dodge Ram is Gold’s utility vehicle for the pawnshop. “I don’t drive it very often. It does what it needs to do, no frills. It’s a store car. If we have deliveries to make, quick office runs and things like that. I like that it’s no frills, so nothing exciting about it, it just does what it needs to do.”

Car he learned to drive in

Gold learned to drive on suburban Detroit streets in the Explorer that the family won. “I drove it to school, drove it to Detroit, drove it to college in Ann Arbor. I spent a lot of time in that car. I don’t think that there’s anything unusual about it where we live that you had a car when you turned 16. Granted I don’t think it would have been as nice of a car if I didn’t win it,” he says, with a laugh. “So it was one of the nicer cars in the parking lot.”

Celebrity Drive Seth Gold© Provided by MotorTrend Celebrity Drive Seth Gold

First car bought

After the Explorer, Gold felt it was time for a change and in 2001 he bought a new Saleen Mustang when he was a sophomore in college. He traded in the Explorer and also had money from working at the family’s pawnshop.

Gold wishes, though, that he had gotten a Mustang with a manual transmission. “I got it at the end of the year when that’s all that they had was automatics, and that’s my biggest regret,” he says. “I should have waited for a manual.”

Gold had the Mustang convertible for five years and it turned a lot of heads when he was driving it. “It was a mineral grey color,” he says. “At first a lot of people didn’t see one very often, so a lot of people were staring at it. It was just a very, very cool car. I had a really good time driving it.”

After driving it for a while, Gold picked up a 2007 BMW X5. “Driving in the winters in Michigan with a Mustang wasn’t always the best,” he says. “It was just time to set that aside and get something four-wheel drive. I liked the way that the sport utility looked. I was always drawn to it. It was one of those things that they came out with the new body style in 2007 and I was like, ‘Yeah, let me give it a shot.’”

Celebrity Drive Seth Gold© Provided by MotorTrend Celebrity Drive Seth Gold But driving a BMW around Detroit didn’t feel right, and Gold went back to supporting American automakers.

“Something just said, I need to go back to American roots. It was produced in South Carolina, so I believe it was American, but then I was like, I need to go back to the Big Three and that’s when I went to Ford. I was like, there’s great cars that are produced inside the United States, so let’s go after them. I mean, this is the Motor City,” he says, with a laugh. “I had a really good experiences driving the other cars, so I thought it was just time.”

Celebrity Drive Seth Gold© Provided by MotorTrend Celebrity Drive Seth Gold

Favorite road trip

Driving in Northern Michigan is a favorite drive for Gold. “Taking the trip to Mackinac Island in the car and then having to leave your car (in the ferry lot), because they don’t allow cars on the island, it’s always a fun trip,” Gold says. “It’s a four-and-a-half hour trip outside Detroit, just straight north on 75 and we made that trip a lot growing up.”

Gold says he loves that road trip because it’s “all Michigan.” “So the entire ride, four and a half hours of just taking in what the state offers. We’re homegrown Michiganders and seeing your state firsthand for that long period of time, there’s something unique and something very nostalgic and cool,” he says.

He says his parents would tell stories as they passed through certain cities. “It’s very family-oriented. My dad had a cabin that his family used to own, on the way, and it’s no longer there. He would say, ‘In this area, this is where we spent our summers.’ There’s no shortage of stories especially because I’m fourth generation living in Michigan, so there’s always some sort of memory that a family member will have while driving anywhere across the state.”

For Gold, the drive feels very much like middle America. “You get to go through some farming towns, you get to go through some cities, you get to see a lot of hardworking Americans doing what they do,” he says.

American Jewelry and Loan and TruTV’s “Hardcore Pawn”

Gold’s great-grandfather emigrated from Russia and started what would become the family business. “My great-grandfather was a rag picker, basically rummaged through things and sold things and he decided to open up shop and four generations later we’re still doing it,” Gold says, proudly. “My great-grandfather opened it, my grandfather married into the family, was working there because my great-grandfather had three daughters. My dad and his dad opened up a new store. They had a falling out and my dad went on his own and started this one.”

Celebrity Drive Seth Gold© Provided by MotorTrend Celebrity Drive Seth Gold
Today, Gold drives 8 Mile Road on his commute to work every day. “It’s just a normal road, but for everybody outside of Michigan or the Detroit area, it’s iconic. But I guess I take it for granted,” he says. “

American Jewelry and Loan is not a small pawnshop. It’s 50,000 square feet, with 50 employees, and they write about 1,000 loans a day. “It’s quite an operation and that’s why it made for good TV, because every customer that walks through the door has two stories: how they got the piece and why they need the money. And you pair that with some interesting personalities with my family, it makes for good TV.”

His family shop has become TruTV’s top show. It’s in its ninth season.

Celebrity Drive Seth Gold© Provided by MotorTrend Celebrity Drive Seth Gold This season some customers have tried to sell interesting go-karts. The shop also gives loans on cars and on occasion will buy cars, as seen on one of the episodes. “In the past we’ve had a 2009 Limited Edition Lee Iacocca Mustang come through the shop. They only produced 50 that year, so sticker price on it was $100,000 if you could get one,” Gold says. “We ended up purchasing it for $66,000 and I figured that it would be an easy sell to a collector out there, but unfortunately I was on the wrong end of the stick in my thinking of that. It took me a little bit of time and we ended up selling it for $76,000. So we made a little bit of money, but it was a three year process of trying to get rid of it. So that was unique. Season 2 we took it in and I just sold it at the end of last year.”

Gold’s store also bought noted ‘suicide doctor’ Jack Kevorkian’s infamous Volkswagen van, dubbed his “Deathmobile,” where Kevorkian helped in assisted suicides. “We have it inside the shop right now,” Gold says. “It was on a few seasons ago. We ended up purchasing that one too. If you watch the show, my dad’s a really interesting guy and my dad bet the guy on a coin flip whether or not we pay the guy $40,000 or $20,000 for the vehicle.”

Celebrity Drive Seth Gold© Provided by MotorTrend Celebrity Drive Seth Gold
The customer wanted to sell the van for $100,000 and Gold’s dad offered a coin flip to pay $20,000 if he won the coin toss. He suggested that if he lost, he would buy it for $40,000. “The guy said, ‘OK fine, let’s do it.’ We flipped the coin and we ended up winning, so we paid the guy $20,000. It’s more a conversation piece than something that people want to buy. We found that out later that it’s not as easy as a sell as we thought it was going to be. So if someone does want to buy it, it’s for sale,” Gold said.

Customers include those who work at local auto plants. “There’s a Chrysler plant right down the street from us, so you see a lot of factory workers coming in. It’s very cool to live in the city of Detroit because you see a lot of manufacturers’ decoyed cars,” he says. “So you can see them all camouflaged out, with the manufacturer plates on them, so top secret, doing some test rides.”

Gold says a large percentage of customers get loans and come back to pick up their items. “We buy approximately 3 percent of the merchandise that is brought in and 97 percent of everything that’s brought in, we give loans on. A small fraction of our business is purchasing things outright,” he says.

Initially, Gold went to college thinking he wanted to become a doctor, to stay far away from the family business. “It wasn’t till my senior year at University of Michigan that I decided that wasn’t the path I was going to take,” he says. “I just didn’t have a passion for it. It ran thin -- studying all night for three nights in a row really wasn’t up my alley. I called up my mom and I said, ‘I want to get into the business’ and her response to me, was, ‘What business?’ I’m like, ‘The family business.’”

Celebrity Drive Seth Gold© Provided by MotorTrend Celebrity Drive Seth Gold After he graduated from the University of Michigan, Gold started working full time at the store almost immediately. “I haven’t looked back ever since,” he says.

“It’s an amazing ride with the success of the show and what we can do as far as the pawn industry is concerned, by showing people what we really do, making pawnshops more mainstream and cool to walk into has been a tremendous honor for me,” he says.

Working at the shop really is Gold’s day job. “It’s funny because people will come in and be like, ‘I’m surprised to see you here.’ I’m like, ‘Where else would I be?’ ‘Well, you’re on TV.’ This is what I do for a living,” he says.

But that’s not to say it’s not hard work being on a TV show. When they’re filming, they go three weeks straight from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., with cameras always present. And then they get two weeks off, but Gold says he probably films about 30 weeks out of a year.

“I’m working while we’re filming. The storylines create themselves based on what we’ve got going on here. 1,000 people a day. It’s a producer’s dream. There’s always interesting people that walk through the door. I have 6,000 TVs in the back warehouse right now,” he says, laughing. “Just TVs. It’s interesting.”

Celebrity Drive Seth Gold© Provided by MotorTrend Celebrity Drive Seth Gold “Hardcore Pawn” airs on TruTV Monday nights at 10 p.m.

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