HipSwap and "Pawn Stars": A Celebrity Integration That Isn't Lame

By Michael Carney , written on September 24, 2012

From The News Desk

Local listing site Hipswap is hoping to unseat Craigslist, eBay, and dozens of other lesser known sites to become the definitive online destination to buy and sell coveted items. Today, the startup marketplace is announcing a partnership with the stars of the hit TV show "Pawn Stars", which will put its brand in front of millions of new potential customers.

"Pawn Stars", currently the number one show on cable, follows its stars as they buy, sell, pawn, and trade everything from helicopters to fine jewelry to artwork. Going forward, the Las Vegas-based pawn shop where the show takes place will list many of its available items for purchase on HipSwap.

“At the core of both HipSwap and 'Pawn Stars' [] connecting buyers and sellers and helping people buy interesting collectibles,” says Hipswap founder and CEO Rob Kramer. “I’m a huge fan of the show and kept asking myself, ‘What if anyone could be a pawn star?’”

Riffing off the name of the bricks-and-mortar location, the "Pawn Stars" online marketplace will be called the Gold and Silver Shop. The Las Vegas storefront is a 3,500 square foot store with thousands of items, but the virtual store has 10 items – a number Kramer anticipates increasing to between 20 to 30. The items available online will not be available in-store.

The Pawn Stars themselves, Chumlee, Rick, and Corey Harrison, have taken an equity position in HipSwap as part of this partnership, although Kramer wouldn’t specify whether cash traded hands, or whether the investment was in-kind, brand association. (The latter seems more likely.)

What is clear is that 20,000 people walk through the Las Vegas Gold and Silver shop each month, and many take pictures with a life sized cardboard cutout of the show’s three stars. Starting immediately, this cutout will be of the stars wearing HipSwap T-shirts. Rick Harrison already wore one on the Jimmy Kimmel Show. The Harrisons will likely find numerous similar ways to integrate the online listing startup into their weekly show, which is viewed by millions of people worldwide.

The owners of the "Pawn Stars" brand have dabbled on eBay and with a dedicated Web marketplace, all with little success. In most cases, these efforts focused on commodity items like electronics that the store simply wanted to liquidate. Finding a sophisticated collector audience proved slightly more difficult.

Undeterred and ever-adamant about extending their reach online and perhaps more importantly to mobile, the stars have chosen HipSwap and its increasingly sophisticated user base as the official online marketplace for Pawn Stars and its rabid audience of collectors, sports memorabilia fanatics, and vintage sellers.

The stars will also lend their credibility and network of industry relationships to bolster the rapidly growing community of professional collectors already taking shape on HipSwap. One of the key facets of their input will be in providing subject matter experts when necessary to validate or value an item offered for sale. The Pawn Stars will also help HipSwap deliver pricing recommendations to sellers of collectibles. The most desirable of these items will be featured as “Coveted Items” on the site’s homepage.

In an effort to better-mirror the real world negotiations that take place inside Pawn Shops and collectible dealerships around the world, HipSwap recently introduced a new feature which it calls “Offers.” In this case, buyers can “offer” sellers an amount less than the price requested. According to Kramer, early metrics show that Offers convert to a sale, sometimes after a back and forth negotiation 40 percent of the time, with the average discount falling between 25 to 30 percent.

“It’s been a while since people have had a relatively frictionless marketplace to buy and sell their unused, unwanted, or coveted items that they want to make money from,” says HipSwap’s CEO. “Our vision has always been to provide a marketplace for people to do that.”

HipSwap isn’t the first consumer-facing startup to attempt celebrity integration, a model that has been fairly hit-or-miss in the past. That said, in this case the fit seems less forced, and both parties appear to gain real value from the arrangement.

HipSwap brings something valuable to the stars’ brand, letting them tap into its unique audience to buy and sell even more goods and giving them further reach to a consumer base to which they wouldn’t otherwise have access. And for the listing marketplace startup, the value of an association with these icons of secondary market buying and selling couldn’t be more clear.