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Feature

Las Vegas: Rare Books Hotspot

Pawn Stars and book collecting in Sin City By Sean Chaffin Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas. His new book is Raising the Stakes: True Tales of Gambling, Wagering & Poker Faces, available at his blog, PokerTraditions.com, Amazon, and BarnesandNoble.com.

The Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas has become famous since its reality television debut in 2009. The stars of History Channel’s Pawn Stars, from left to right: Austin “Chumlee” Russell, Richard “Old Man” Harrison, Rick Harrison, and Corey “Big Hoss” Harrison. Courtesy of the History Channel.

Rebecca Romney, manager of rare books at Bauman Rare Books in Las Vegas, enjoys the variety of clients and tourists who visit the shop, located within The Palazzo resort. Credit: Sean Chaffin.

If you play your cards right, you might just find that first edition you’ve been seeking in Las Vegas, where, believe it or not, antiquarian booksellers share the limelight with showgirls and slot machines.

Winding your way through The Palazzo casino resort, Bauman Rare Books is one of the many high-end shops beckoning tourists for some window-shopping. An antiquarian bookstore inside a casino is a bit surreal, but manager Rebecca Romney handles it with aplomb. She’s also a regular guest on the hit History Channel show, Pawn Stars, serving as one of the show’s rare books experts. While Vegas might not have the cachet and history of more bookish cities like New York and Boston, Romney said her clients are not much different than most buyers—with a few exceptions.

“One of the things that’s great about Las Vegas is that everyone comes in the shop,” she said. “You never know who’s going to come in and what they’re going to pull off the shelf, and that’s really fun and exciting. We have met people here in Las Vegas that we would have never met in our New York store. But the people who buy books are kind of always the same people who buy books.”

Beyond tourist traffic, Bauman’s Las Vegas store, which opened in 2008, has many devoted clients based in California, including many in the film industry. In this unique locale, one imagines that high-stakes gamblers might also arrange a nice purchase after hitting the jackpot.

“That definitely happens,” Romney said. “And what’s really sweet is when people come for weddings. Maybe a couple is getting married and walk by here earlier that day. The wife may see a Jane Austen set and the husband will come back by here later to buy it for her,” Romney said. “That’s not a crazy thing to happen here, and it’s really sweet. We love gifts because books are one of those types of items that are super personal. At the same time, when you’re dealing with a rare book … you’re really dealing with an historical artifact.”

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