Gold and Silver, Coins, Gold Bullion, Silver Bullion, and Fine Jewelry

Spokane, WA, doesn’t have a Pawn Stars Shop like there is on television and in Las Vegas, and the community does have something better; Axel’s Pawn Shop.

Pawn Stars Shop

Leftfield Pictures produced Pawn Stars as an American reality television series. The series was filmed in Las Vegas, Nevada, to illustrate the daily activities of a gold and silver pawn shop. The shop opened in 1989 and was initially operated by “Old Man” Richard Harrison, his son Rick, grandson Corey and friend Austin Russell.

The series showed the interaction with customers who would bring in gold, silver, artifacts, and other valuable items during the shows. The filming captured the “haggling” and discussion between the pawn stars’ staff members as they gathered information on the historical background of the items and comparative value.

Dr. Larry Karlson Sr. and Ruth Karlson

Dr. Larry Karlson Sr. and Ruth Karlson

Dr. Larry Karlson Sr. and his wife are Axel’s Pawn Shop founders. Dr. Larry Karlson was a teacher, counselor, and administrator in charge of all junior and senior high school counseling programs for the Spokane Public schools. After completing his doctoral degree, he was hired by Spokane Falls Community College faculty to develop a Human Services Department.

Ruth was a little girl from Minnesota who moved to Spokane with her three sisters and mother. Ruth’s mother was a hard-working woman raising the girls by herself while working and running a farm. She was intelligent and protective. Ruth met and married Dr. Larry Karlson Sr., and they had three boys, Scott, Larry Jr., and Douglas (Dug). She worked as a telephone operator pushing and pulling plugs to make “connections.”

After 30 years of service to his community, Larry retired well; he just changed what he was doing. Ruth and Larry loved antiques and second-hand dealing in general. They traveled through the Pacific Northwest, hitting the flea market circuit. They had acquired many tools and “stuff” as they traveled the regional markets. They would sell the “stuff” from their custom trailer.

glasses lying on top of an open notebook on desk in front of laptop

True to their genuine nature, Dr. Larry Karlson continued to research, plan, and educate, and Ruth made “connections.”

Dr. Larry Karlson and Ruth managed several political campaigns at the state and local level, and Ruth handled all the money and reporting, including in-kind giving. During the James “Jim” Chase for Mayor campaign, Larry and Ruth met Gary “Dutch” Singer. Dutch was the owner of Dutch’s Pawn Shop. Larry and Ruth were intrigued.

Ruth also worked for several years at Washington Trust Bank as a teller. These skills led to her being the bookkeeper, doing state/federal taxes and payroll. Their now-grown sons, Scott and Larry Jr., both registered nurses, talked about doing something different. They decided they could devote a couple of years to making a go of running a pawn shop, and if it didn’t work out, they could always return to nursing. After two years of research, preparation, and pooling their finances, Dr. Larry Karlson and Ruth opened a “one-year-only” pawn shop in May 1990.

Storefront of Axels Pawn in Spokane, Washington

Everything From A to X

Larry and Ruth didn’t start a pawn show on tv, move to Las Vegas, or print up t-shirts with their name and logo, nor did they ever claim to be Rick Harrison, son Corey, or work like Rick from Pawn Stars, but they did decide to bring to the town of Spokane a trustworthy place to pawn.

The store began primarily as a tool pawnshop to fill a niche in the severely underserved industry. Still open 32 years later, the shop is a one-stop shop for almost everything.

The pawnbrokers will gather information about the historical items brought into the pawnshop and smile as they discuss the antique items, unique items, guns, silver and gold jewelry, tools, and other cool things that come through the doors making direct offers to sell or loan on the items.

The shop also has a significant retail storefront. They carry silver, gold, platinum, precious stones, name-brand tools, yard equipment, and hard-to-find collectibles. Their merchandise is constantly tested before it is placed don’t the floor.

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