Les Gold is a third generation pawnbroker -- the grandson of a pawnbroker who once owned 'Sam's Loans', a now-defunct pawnshop on Michigan Avenue in Detroit. Sam's Loans was where Gold made his first sale at age 7. (The Sam's Loans building has been remodeled into a pawn shop-themed restaurant called 'Gold Cash Gold'.)
Gold began his first business at age 12, buying pizzas and reselling them by the slice to fellow students at Hebrew School. Gold opened his own pawn shop, American Jewelry and Loan, in 1978, at the Green Eight Shopping Center on 8 Mile Road in Oak Park. In 1993 he moved it to its present location on Greenfield Road in Detroit near 8 Mile - a 50,000 square foot building which was formerly a bowling alley. The business now employs about 50 people and serves about 1,000 customers a day.
Gold, his family, and his pawn shops are central to the truTV series Hardcore Pawn. The series premiered on August 16, 2010, delivering two million viewers, setting a record as truTV's most-watched series premiere ever. As of April 6, 2015, 162 episodes (including the pilots and specials) have aired over nine seasons.
Gold's autobiography, For What It's Worth: Business Wisdom from a Pawnbroker, was published on June 1, 2013 by Penguin/Portfolio. The book deals with his personal experience in establishing a successful pawn shop, and gives details on how he did it, and how anyone in any field can 'think like a pawnbroker'. The book ranked #4 on The New York Times Best Seller list in the Advice, How-to, and Miscellaneous category for the week of June 30, 2013, and #8 in the Hardcover Business Books category for the month of July 2013.
Gold's visibility has led to speaking engagements, sales training seminars, and even a TED talk. In addition, he engages in product endorsements, commercials, and charity appearances. He was sought for comment on Detroit’s financial troubles for media outlets such as The Detroit News, The Huffington Post, TMZ, and Fox Business. He has been featured on: The Today Show, Yahoo! Financially Fit, Good Morning America, Inc. Magazine, CNN Your Money, and Forbes Magazine.
Gold supports The Heat And Warmth Fund ('THAW Fund'), which helps local families pay their heat and electricity bills. In February 2013, a fund-raising party dubbed 'Hardcore THAW' and held after-hours in his store raised more than $40,000 for the organization.