American Jewelry and Loan is owned by Les Gold, a 62-year-old man who is the son of a pawnbroker who once owned Sam's Loans, a now-defunct pawnshop on Michigan Avenue in Detroit. Les first opened American Jewelry at the Green Eight Shopping Center on 8 Mile Road in Oak Park in 1978, moving to its present location in 1993.
In 2011, American Jewelry expanded to its second location when it acquired Premier Jewelry and Loan in Pontiac; the new location was featured in the first few episodes of Hardcore Pawn's fifth season and in two episodes of the sixth season, where Seth deliberates selling the Pontiac location behind Les's back.
Les's only son, Seth, a graduate of the University of Michigan who initially pursued a career in medicine before joining the family business, is the general manager, Les's business partner, and handles the shop's marketing. Seth claims that if it wasn't for him, the shop's only marketing would be "an ad in the Yellow Pages". The co-manager is Les's daughter, Ashley (a college graduate from Michigan State University with a bachelor's degree in business administration and a graduate diamond certification from the Gemological Institute of America), who, as the series debuted, returned to the shop after taking some time off for maternity leave. The sibling rivalry between her and Seth is a common element of many episodes.
In December 2015, it was announced that Ashley would be departing from the show. No new episodes have aired since.
- Angry Black People: 98% of the time the African-American customers who get airtime on the show are this.
- Justified in that a very large percentage of all customers who get screen time are angry and Detroit is over 85% black.
- Berserk Button: While they may have their disagreements, don't threaten the store, talk down about the city of Detroit, or either Ashley or Les. Those are the things that are no-fooling guaranteed to have you thrown out the store, by both Ashley and Seth at the same time if needed. Les reacts more to the threats than Ashley or Seth do though.
- It's rare that an episode goes by without some customer's Berserk Button being pressed, for example, when they're told that an item they thought was really valuable isn't, or they run into a difficulty of some kind at the redeem window (usually because they didn't bring their receipt/ticket with them or they overlooked something else important like the due date for payments). This invariably leads to the unhappy customer dropping a Cluster F-Bomb (see below).
- In one episode, a well-to-do-looking white customer got in an argument with Les and started making antisemitic remarks. Les, who is Jewish, predictably did not respond well to this.
- Badass Beard: Rich
- Butt-Monkey: Bobby J. If there's a demeaning crap job to do or a humiliating item one of the Golds wants to test, Bobby J is usually chosen. A particularly good example is Les putting Bobby J in a sandwich board and walking the sidewalk to try and sell watch bands. A passing motorist threw a water bottle at him.
- Catch Phrase: Les usually mentions in his segments that "If you do X, they will be more than happy to do Y." (For example: If you come in acting calm and civilised, we will be more than happy to do business with you)
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Les Gold's wife Lili was featured in early promotions and appeared occasionally in the first season, but disappeared from the show afterwards. Similarly, Robo, the original head of security on the pilot, was temporarily suspended for inappropriately kissing an employee, but was never seen on the show again.
- Clashing Cousins: Ashley and her cousin Karen. After Les hires Karen as a manager, Ashley constantly felt Les is favoring Karen over her, and even storms out of the store on one occasion.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Hardly an episode goes by that a dissatisfied customer doesn't drop one of those (and ends up getting escorted out of the store for his or her pains).
- Cool Old Guy: Les.
- Darker and Edgier: Compare and contrast with Pawn Stars: that program focuses on the items being bought and sold, whereas Hardcore Pawn is all about the drama - the clashes between Ashley and Seth, the Hair-Trigger Temper customers, Les' never-ending search for new ways to make profit.
- Easily Forgiven: Ashley spends an entire episode with a serious attitude insulting both customers and her family, sometimes going out of her way to do so, and cost pretty much every sale in the episode. What she does would have gotten anyone fired, family or not. Why did she do it? Because it was her birthday and no one wished her a Happy Birthday. It was then revealed that they did not forget and there was a surprise party set up for her. The end of the episode treats it as if all was forgiven despite how out of control she acted. It isn't surprising that some might accuse the show of being a Kayfabe after seeing this.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Quite a few customers qualify (see the Berserk Button entry above). Sometimes, Ashley counts.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: The Punny Name of this show; lampshaded by Charles Barkley when they had to plug this show at the end of their NCAA basketball tournament coverage.Charles: I know what I'm gonna watch tonight!
- Jerkass: A lot of the customers.
- Seth also counts on certain occasions, particularly when he's mixing it up with Ashley.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: After the shop's chief of security is caught repeatedly stealing from the shop, Seth insists on searching all the employees when they leave that evening. The following day, much of the staff calls out sick in protest, leaving the shop extremely short-handed.
- Papa Wolf: After one customer made lewd comments about Ashley, Les wasn't too pleased with him.
- Scary Black Man: The shop employs several of these gentlemen as security guards. They will throw belligerent customers out of the shop at least Once an Episode, if not more often.
- Sibling Rivalry: Seth and Ashley. Les tries to keep a lid on it, though with doubtful success. Ashley has stormed out of the store on at least one occasion because Seth pushed one button too many.
- Things came to a head in a recent pair of episodes where Seth and Ashley were instructed by Les to work together on improving the Internet sales section of the business, but spent so much time bickering and so little time communicating that Ashley ended up shipping a valuable Winter Olympics 2002 torch to an overseas customer without getting clearance from Seth. The shipping company destroyed the torch because it's against regulations to ship flammable material, and Les ended up giving both of his children a royal chewing-out and taking over the Internet sales department himself.
- Special Guest: NHL player Darren Mc Carty of the Detroit Red Wings, who initially appeared to sell his items but was hired as an entry level stockbroker.
- Voice of Reason: It usually fluctuates between Les, Seth and Ashley over who's fighting who with the odd one out having to play the peacekeeper.