From ‘Pawn Stars’ to Sports Card Collectibles: Inside the Rebirth of Transactional TV
November 4, 2022

Amid a recession, it’s déjà vu all over again as Brent Montgomery channels the hunt for hidden treasures into a wave of new programming that includes Netflix’s ‘Goldin Auctions,’ History’s ‘Secret Restoration’ and a project with collectible asset platform Rally. 

Brent Montgomery is leading the charge back into the so-called “transactional TV” genre with shows featuring rare collectibles including Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ costume and a Mickey Mantle rookie card.

During the 2009 recession, History Channel found an unlikely hit in Pawn Stars, the unscripted series in which everyday people found life-changing treasures in their attic and turned them into cash at a time when money was tight.

The series has since gone on to become a massive hit. More than 700 episodes have been commissioned, with repeats airing across History, Lifetime, A&E and Netflix. Several others in the so-called transactional TV genre launched around the same time, series like Shark Tank, American Pickers, Storage WarsAmerican Restoration and others. A spinoff of the successful franchise that started it all, Pawn Stars Do America, will launch Nov. 9 on History.

Now, Brent Montgomery — who gave birth to transactional TV with the creation of Pawn Stars — is the driving force behind a rebirth in the genre as the U.S. economy finds itself in familiar territory as when the Las Vegas-set show originally bowed. Montgomery, via his groundbreaking incubator at Wheelhouse, has seen interest in the genre blossom again and has set up a number of new shows in the space.

First up in the wave of “Hidden Treasures 2.0” programming is King of Collectibles, a series featuring industry leader Ken Goldin showcasing some of pop culture’s most coveted items including a high-grade Mickey Mantle rookie card, a game-used Jackie Robinson bat, game-worn jerseys from Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan and even Prince’s actual outfit from Purple Rain. The series counts Peyton Manning as an exec producer and features Goldin investor and noted collector Logan Paul, among others.

History Channel is also leaning hard into the space with the order for Secret Restoration, a series set in New England where the nation’s master craftsmen and women restore America’s treasures, working in secret for clients who wish to surprise loved ones with like-new cherished items. The cabler is also developing Restore This, a show based on a U.K. format in which tradesmen vie for jobs restoring vintage items that can be worth a fortune.

Montgomery is also in the process of shopping a series built around Rally, a platform that affords everyday people the opportunity to own a percentage of the most prized collectibles including a first edition of Harry Potter, vintage cars, the ultra-rare Honus Wagner baseball card and a copy of The Amazing Spider-Man No. 1.

Investing platform Rally allows everyday collectors to own a percentage of iconic items, like this Amazing Spider-Man No. 1,
some of which will be featured in a series Montgomery is currently shopping to buyers. COURTESY OF RALLY

“It’s a feeling of déjà vu compared with 2009 when the economy was going down the toilet. Pawn Stars launched a genre,” Montgomery tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We’re fortunate because of Pawn Stars and the other shows we’ve done to get the first call from networks, streamers or talent or partners like Connor Schell on Goldin’s show. There’s been more inbound interest for our development team, and we’ve brought on a casting team to help us focus on this genre.”

* * *

The quarantine period of the COVID-19 pandemic saw interest in collecting everything from watches, toys, sneakers, rare whiskey, wines, art and sports cards explode. For the first five months of 2020, auction house Sotheby’s saw online sales top the $100 million mark for the first time. Online art sales at the three leading auction houses — Phillips, Sotheby’s and Christie’s — rose 474.8 percent in the first half of 2020 versus the same period a year prior. An October 2020 Credit Suisse report found that the estimated value of collectibles owned by private individuals globally was a whopping $1.2 trillion. And, thanks to professional grading and authenticating companies like PSA, new markets have emerged as interest in, for instance, unopened copies of VHS cassettes and original Nintendo games explodes. A Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps rookie card, considered one of the holy grails of the hobby and examples of which will be featured on both the Goldin and Rally shows, sold in August for a record $12.6 million.

“My first real business was a baseball card business when I was in the eighth grade and through high school. I was 13 and competing against 40-year-olds at baseball card shows. That’s where my hunger to be an entrepreneur stemmed from,” Montgomery says. “I didn’t realize how comparable it was to the stock market. This time around, though, it’s professionalized. It’s a real business; there are people making real livings selling sports cards and people want to see that.”

One of Montgomery’s Wheelhouse investors found Rally, and the next thing the veteran unscripted exec knew, he was holding a Babe Ruth bat and later listening to Goldin recall the time when he bought a similar bat from the Yankee great’s estate. “I said, ‘These are both shows.’ Ken is made for TV,” says Montgomery, who is an investor in both Goldin and Rally.

* * *

Kobe floor
The court from Kobe Bryant’s last Lakers game is owned by Rally and was recently featured at one of Montgomery’s Wheelhouse events. COURTESY OF JESSE GRANT

Rally co-founder Rob Petrozzo has been a regular at Montgomery’s Wheelhouse events. The company has supplied such one-of-a-kind items as the former Staples Center basketball floor on which Bryant last played for the L.A. Lakers that have been known to attract everyone from Wheelhouse partner Jimmy Kimmel to Alex Rodriguez and John Stamos. The invitation-only events connect investors like Petrozzo, athletes and celebrities to executives with greenlight power. It helps that Montgomery — who made more than $360 million when he sold his baseball-inspired production company Leftfield Entertainment to ITV in 2015 — is there to light the path.

“Stocks don’t have a heartbeat. The pitch for our business is that it’s a stock market for collectibles; we’ve got museum quality stuff that we split into shares,” Petrozzo says. “We saw it as a bigger opportunity to tell stories and Brent saw that.”

Rally display
Some of Rally’s rare comics and video games were also featured at a recent Wheelhouse event. JESSE GRANT

In success, the untitled Rally show will tell the story behind assets like the house featured in The Godfather, rare baseball and basketball cards, early manuscripts for The Lord of the Rings and more as the New York-based company finds experts to verify and validate them and ultimately turn them into stock with an IPO.

“Wheelhouse took what Pawn Stars set up and brought it to the next level. You see these items, get the stories, the quest to find it, find experts in those areas, and then you can now leave with a piece of it in your portfolio,” Petrozzo says.

* * *

History Channel head of programming Eli Lehrer has known Montgomery since the early aughts, when he was an exec at Bravo buying female-leaning docuseries. The duo has remained in contact over the years, and Montgomery turned to Lehrer — who was behind the Pawn Stars touring spinoff — with the idea for a restoration show with a twist that would eventually become Secret Restoration. The series, which builds on History and Montgomery’s own American Restoration, will be paired on the schedule with Pawn Stars Do America, as Lehrer feels the shows share the same DNA.

Secret Restoration
HIstory’s Secret Restoration adds a heartfelt component to the restoration genre. COURTESY OF LANDON SPEERS/ A&E

American Restoration was a great format and satisfying show, and we hadn’t been in the restoration space for a number of years,” says Lehrer, who grew up collecting baseball cards and enjoys viewing watch collectible videos on YouTube. “When Brent brought us the idea for Secret Restoration, it felt like a fresh and interesting way to get back into a space we already knew was resonating for our audience.”

After airing nearly 600 episodes over 20 seasons, Pawn Stars remains a hugely important show for History, where it’s been among the cabler’s highest-rated shows for more than a decade. Repeats, it’s worth noting, have launched the series into Netflix’s top 10 acquired programs.

“There is a committed audience there week after week, year after year,” Lehrer says. “There is a renewed interest in collectibles and after two years of COVID, Rick Harrison wanted to hit the road and see what kind of stuff people, after two years stuck in their houses, had found in their attics.”

Montgomery, for his part, still values the lessons he learned from Pawn Stars and has utilized that knowledge to help build Wheelhouse. When Pawn Stars launched in 2009, for example, History relied on Montgomery and his Leftfield banner to cast the show and discover the items featured on it. Now, Montgomery has created Wheelhouse’s own casting department. Of those six staffers, half focus specifically on sports cards, sneakers and restoration. For a network like History, the Wheelhouse casting department will look for items related to the cable network’s IP. “It’s all brand-friendly,” Montgomery enthuses. “As more streamers have to do advertising, these are ad-friendly programs.”

Looking forward, Montgomery cites Goldin’s company as the first example of what he calls the “Wheelhouse effect,” in which the production company serves as not only an investor but a partner in its growth as new revenue streams can be found in original programming.

“I’m excited! A lot of people don’t get the difference between baseball cards and art and how one card can be worth that much money,” Montgomery says. “We want to tell stories that explain it and broaden out interests that are thought of as subcultures. Nobody questions the stock market and publicly held companies, but this is more fun!”

Pawn Stars Do America
History’s Pawn Stars Do America hits the road to see some of the items folks uncovered from their attics during the pandemic. COURTESY OF JONAH ROSENBERG/HISTORY
Love & WWE: Bianca & Montez’ Reality Show Trailer: Wrestlers Navigate Careers and Family Pressure | Exclusive
WWE has found success with reality shows exploring the romantic lives of their pro wrestling stars, from “Total Bellas” to “Miz & Mrs.” The latest take on this formula comes with Hulu’s “Love & WWE: Bianca & Montez” — you can see the trailer’s exclusive debut above ahead of it dropping Feb. 2. It follows […]
Hulu Orders ‘Got To Get Out’; Social Experiment Has Contestants Living, Competing In Mansion
Hulu has ordered Got to Get Out, a competition series from Wheelhouse that was created by Glenn Hugill (Deal or No Deal, The Mole), the president of Wheelhouse’s UK arm. The Big Brother-like series will consist of 10, hour-long episodes and feature participants living together in a mansion for 10 days while they compete in physical and mental challenges. Participants […]
‘King of Collectibles: The Goldin Touch’ Renewed For Season 2 At Netflix
King of Collectibles: The Goldin Touch Netflix Ken Goldin is on the hunt for more collectibles. Netflix has renewed unscripted series King of Collectibles: The Goldin Touch for a second season. The show follows Goldin and his team at Goldin Auctions, an auction house for trading cards, rare collectibles and memorabilia. The first season featured celebrities including Drake, […]
Netflix’s ‘Buying Beverly Hills’ Season 2 Wraps Filming
It’s a wrap for Buying Beverly Hills Season 2 filming. The Netflix occu-series has concluded filming for the second season of the show that follows agents and clients within Mauricio Umansky’s real estate company The Agency in Beverly Hills. Umansky’s daughter Alexia Umansky shared a post on Instagram Stories confirming the cast had finished the principal filming of the series. “That’s a […]
David Chang’s Majordomo Strikes Production Deal With Brent Montgomery and Jimmy Kimmel’s Wheelhouse (EXCLUSIVE)
Celebrity chef David Chang has signed a production deal with Brent Montgomery and Jimmy Kimmel’s Wheelhouse. Previously under a production agreement with Vox Media, Chang’s banner, Majordomo Media, has set a pact with Wheelhouse, a producer on Chang’s latest Hulu series, “Secret Chef,” to exclusively develop and produce unscripted programming across food, home and lifestyle, among other genres. Wheelhouse and Chang are […]
‘Secret Chef’ is just one of the delicious shows out this week
The 4th of July holiday gives me permission to declare my freedom from calorie concerns. Summer is officially here and I’m leaning into the cookouts, fresh tomatoes and plenty of ice cream. Not to mention the extended hours of daylight. However, none of that will stop me from enjoying some tasty new television, either. So let’s go! […]
Kyle Richards Filmed with Mauricio Umansky for ‘Buying Beverly Hills’ Season 2 amid Their Separation (Exclusive)
Kyle Richards and husband Mauricio Umansky are continuing to work together on screen amid their separation. The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star has filmed for the upcoming second season of her husband’s Netflix reality show, Buying Beverly Hills, a source close to the show tells PEOPLE exclusively. Netflix confirmed the news to PEOPLE, saying “Kyle will indeed appear in Buying Beverly Hills season 2.” […]
First Look: Mauricio Umansky and His Daughters Bring the Drama on Netflix’s ‘Buying Beverly Hills’
The Real Housewives regular stars in the new Netflix reality show alongside his daughters Farrah and Alexia, whom he shares withwife Kyle Richards Mauricio Umansky is bringing a fresh dose of drama to the Beverly Hills real estate scene! Netflix’s newest reality series, Buying Beverly Hills, follows Mauricio and his team at high-end real estate firm The Agency as they compete to […]
Tim Allen, Richard Karn, April Wilkerson return to History with “More Power”
A+E Networks’ History Channel will once again reunite Tim Allen with his former Home Improvement co-star Richard Karn via the non-fiction series More Power, which premieres on June 29. The 10-episode series, which also co-stars YouTube DIY woodworking personality April Wilkerson, will take place in Allen’s home shop, where the hosts will explore the history […]
Hulu Adds Four New Food Shows To Slate From Vox Media, Majordomo Media
Hulu Originals today announced four food series from Vox Media Studios and David Chang’s Majordomo Media, including one from Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka. “We are thrilled to be expanding our relationship with David Chang, Majordomo, and Hulu with these brand new series that will leave Hulu’s audience hungry for more,” said Chad Mumm, Chief Creative Officer, Vox Media Studios […]
Wheelhouse Entertainment Taps Pam Healey As President Of Spoke Studios
Based in Los Angeles, the former Shed Media and High Noon executive will lead all creative efforts and growth strategies for the prodco. Among Spoke’s marquee projects are four Netflix series – including Hype House and the upcoming Goldin Auctions with Executive Producer Peyton Manning, as well as multiple series for Hulu, More Power for History, starring Tim Allen, and a […]
‘Selling Sunset’ Renewed For Seasons 6 & 7 At Netflix As Streamer Builds Out Property Slate
Netflix is doubling down on property. The streamer has handed breakout reality series Selling Sunset a two season order – taking it through seasons six and seven and ordered a slate of new property, real estate and renovation shows. Production on season six of high-end real estate series Selling Sunset, which follows the likes of […]
What’s on TV This Week: ‘Superman & Lois,’ ‘Farrow v. Allen’ and more
SUNDAY It’s case closed on the finale of the Victorian-era mystery drama “Miss Scarlet and the Duke” on “Masterpiece.” With Kate Phillips and Stuart Martin. 8 p.m. KOCE Systemic racism, police brutality and other issues affecting the Africa American community are explored in the current-events series “Boiling Point” and “Disrupt & Dismantle.” 8 and 9 p.m. BET The documentary “The Vaccine: Conquering Covid” spotlights the […]
Tim Allen and Richard Karn Talk Reuniting After ‘Home Improvement’ for ‘Assembly Required’
Tim Allen and Richard Karn are reuniting again 30 years after their “Home Improvement” days for the History Channel’s forthcoming unscripted competition series “Assembly Required,” but don’t expect sitcom shenanigans while watching. Instead, the duo will lean into their real-life friendship and tried-and-true on-screen chemistry for a “kind of a live version of ‘Tool Time,’” Allen explained, while […]
Food Network to plate “The Cupcake Guys Training Camp” with ex-NFLers
Discovery-owned Food Network is set to profile former NFL players linebacker Brian “Rak” Orakpo and safety Michael “Griff” Griffin as they step off of the grid iron and into the kitchen in The Cupcake Guys Training Camp. Produced by Michael Strahan’s SMAC Entertainment, Spoke Studios, ITV America and The Story Lab, the hour-long documentary special will […]
Adam Levine Signs Overall Deal With Wheelhouse Entertainment (Exclusive)
The Maroon 5 frontman’s 222 Productions has most notably launched ‘Songland’ on NBC. Adam Levine is doubling down on his producorial pursuits, signing an exclusive overall deal with Brent Montgomery’s Wheelhouse Entertainment — one that will see the Maroon 5 frontman and his 222 Productions feeding both scripted and unscripted content for all platforms. The […]
Tim Allen, Richard Karn Reunite for Building Competition Series ‘Assembly Required’ at History
There’s a “Home Improvement” reunion on the cards at History. The network has issued a 10-episode order for an unscripted series called “Assembly Required” (working title) which will star Tim Allen and be hosted by Richard Karn. “Assembly Required” is described as a competition series which is sounding the call for those with a can-do attitude to take back […]
Tim Allen To Construct Building Format For History As A+E Networks Looks To Refresh Long-Running Formats
Home Improvement star Tim Allen is to star in and exec produce a non-scripted building series for History. The actor who played Tool Time star Tim Taylor on the ABC sitcom for eight seasons, will be joined by his Home Improvement co-star Richard Karn in Assembly Required(w/t). The ten-part series will spotlight the best and brightest builders from across the country, at their […]
Tim Allen to Reunite With ‘Home Improvement’ Co-Star Richard Karn for ‘Assembly Required’ Competition Series at History
Tim Allen is reuniting with his “Tool Time” co-star Richard Karn for a new home builder competition series at History, the network announced Tuesday. The 10-episode series, tentatively titled “Assembly Required,” will “spotlight the best and brightest builders from across the country, at their home workshops, as they compete to breathe new life into everyday […]
I Want My DTC TV? Shopify Debuts Reality TV Show
Shopify has been on a roll, with its business of powering retailer websites expanding during the coronavirus crisis — and its market cap up 148% since the start of the year. Now, in an unusual move, the e-commerce platform has ambitions to break into TV. On Aug. 18, Shopify’s production arm Shopify Studios will debut […]
Disney+ Sets September Debut for Celebrity-Focused Docuseries “Becoming”
Disney+, the streaming service from The Walt Disney Company, has scheduled a mid-September premiere date for the star-studded docuseries Becoming, from executive producer LeBron James. The previously announced cinéma verité series will spotlight the career origins of various world-class entertainers, musicians and athletes with each episode following a famous face as they tour the locations central to their upbringing. […]
“I Quit”: Discovery Sets Business Format With New Model From Shopify Studios & Wheelhouse’s Spoke Studios
EXCLUSIVE: Discovery Channel is launching new business format I Quit, with a slew of entrepreneurs risking it by giving up their jobs to follow their passions. However, the business model behind the show, which launches Tuesday August 18, may be the real point of interest for producers. The show comes from Shopify Studios, the television production and financing arm […]
Eric Wattenberg boards Wheelhouse as chief content officer
Veteran CAA agent Eric Wattenberg has joined Brent Montgomery’s media, marketing and investment company Wheelhouse Group as chief content officer. Wattenberg (pictured) will work across the entire Wheelhouse group, including packaging long- and short-form TV and digital/streaming series, and advancing scripted and feature projects. He will additionally work with the industry’s major agencies and management companies to […]
CAA’s Eric Wattenberg Joins Wheelhouse Group as Chief Content Officer
Eric Wattenberg, longtime CAA agent and co-head of its alternative television department, has joined producer Brent Montgomery’s Wheelhouse Group as chief content officer. Wattenberg will spearhead content development across Wheelhouse’s TV, film and digital operations, as well as its Wheelhouse Labs branded entertainment wing. The deal is a coup for the company, launched by “Pawn Stars” creator Montgomery […]
CAA’s Co-Head of Alternative Television Eric Wattenberg to Join Brent Montgomery’s Wheelhouse Group as Chief Content Officer
Longtime CAA agent Eric Wattenberg is set to leave the agency after ten years to join Wheelhouse Group. Wattenberg, who was Co-Head of Alternative Television at CAA, becomes Chief Content Officer at Brent Montgomery’s media, marketing and investment company. He will run all of the company’s entertainment endeavors, packaging long and short-form TV and streaming series, advancing scripted and feature […]
Zachary Quinto’s Before the Door Pictures Inks Deals With AMC & Spoke Studios, Taps Steve Baker As Head Of Production
Zachary Quinto’s production company Before the Door Pictures is ramping up operations, signing first-look deals with AMC for scripted projects and with Spoke Studios, the production arm of Brent Montgomery’s Wheelhouse Entertainment, for unscripted fare. Additionally, Before the Door Pictures has hired Steve Baker, former VP in HBO Series Programming, as Head of Production, and has […]
LeBron James-Produced Docuseries ‘Becoming’ Ordered by Disney+ (Exclusive)
Disney+ is teaming with LeBron James on a docuseries that spotlights the upbringing for athletes and celebrities, “Becoming,” TheWrap has learned exclusively. “Becoming” is a documentary series which chronicles the origin stories of world-class entertainers, musicians and athletes. Each episode takes a different celebrity back to their hometown for an inspiring look at how they […]
Andy King, Breakout Star of Fyre Festival Documentary, Strikes Talent Deal with Spoke Studios & Shops TV Project
Andy King, the breakout star of Netflix’s Fyre Festival documentary, who was willing to “do whatever it took” to make the weekend happen, is set to front his own TV project after striking a talent deal with Spoke Studios. King, who is a high-profile event producer outside of his work with Billy McFarland’s chaotic con-fest, has been a […]
Discovery Orders Series ‘River of No Return,’ Where It’s Homesteaders vs Idaho Wilderness (Exclusive)
Discovery has greenlit a new series, “River of No Return” — and by the sound of it, it’s not going to be your average camping trip. The series follows a small community of people who live in Idaho’s remote Frank Church Wilderness, where the only way in or out is by plane — or, for […]
Brent Montgomery Sets Leadership For New Production Company Spoke Studio
Former ITV America CEO Brent Montgomery has set the top executive team for Spoke Studios, the production label for his recently announced Wheelhouse Entertainment. Will Nothacker and Joe Weinstock have been named co-presidents of Spoke Studios and will partner in running the company from Spoke Studios’ East and West Coast offices. Also joining Spoke Studios are Vice President […]
Original Documentary Special DETROIT: COMEBACK CITY to Premiere on The History Channel July 1
HISTORY® presents an original documentary special, “Detroit: Comeback City,” which recounts the saga of the rise, fall and rebirth of Detroit through the iconic Michigan Central Station. The special premieres Sunday, July 1 at 9pm ET/PT. Narrated by Academy Award®-winner and Detroit native JK Simmons, the film chronicles how Detroit went from the engine of […]
Spoke taps ITV America execs
Spoke Studios, the first production label from former ITV America CEO Brent Montgomery’s new company Wheelhouse Entertainment, has appointed two former ITV America execs. Will Nothacker and Joe Weinstock have been named Spoke Studios’ co-presidents, running the factual-focused company from its New York and Los Angeles offices respectively. Nothacker was previously creative director at ITV […]
Brent Montgomery Sets Leadership For New Production Company Spoke Studios
Former ITV America CEO Brent Montgomery has set the top executive team for Spoke Studios, the production label for his recently announced Wheelhouse Entertainment. Will Nothacker and Joe Weinstock have been named co-presidents of Spoke Studios and will partner in running the company from Spoke Studios’ East and West Coast offices. Also joining Spoke Studios are Vice President of […]
Brent Montgomery Sets Leadership For New Production Company Spoke Studios
Former ITV America CEO Brent Montgomery has set the top executive team for Spoke Studios, the production label for his recently announced Wheelhouse Entertainment. Will Nothacker and Joe Weinstock have been named co-presidents of Spoke Studios and will partner in running the company from Spoke Studios’ East and West Coast offices. Also joining Spoke Studios are Vice President […]