At 25-years-old, Parker Schnabel is the youngest cast member of the Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush. The Alaskan native joined the show after his grandfather stepped down from his role as a regular cast member in Season 2 and continued a guest star role afterward. Before the cameras and fame, Parker was an ordinary young man working in the mines with a strong work ethic. Now in Season 10 of Gold Rush, Parker is still mining millions, but a lot has changed, especially in his personal life. Fans of the show have been wondering what’s going on with Parker and his relationship with Ashley Youle.
Ashley and Parker Met In Australia
Ashley was living in the Yukon, Canada region while filming Gold Rush, but she and Parker first met in Australia in 2016, while he was visiting during downtime from work. Parker told Maxim, “Normally I come home and spend a week hunting with my dad in November, and then I usually travel – I’ve been to Australia twice.”
After meeting in Australia, the two of them hit it off as Ashley showed Parker around. When it was time for Parker to head back to the U.S., he invited Ashley to come to visit.
Ashley Jumped In And Was A Perfect Fit
When Ashley began appearing in Gold Rush in Season 8, it seemed as though she and Parker were the perfect fit. Her friendly and uplifting personality balanced out the tension of the job and helped Parker remain level-headed at the mining camp.
Parker told the Discovery Channel in an interview, “Ashley just rolls with the punches and helps out where she’s needed. If we need her to drive trucks she’ll drive trucks. She ended up cleaning gold a lot of the summer or helping do fuel things or whatever we needed her around the place.”
Others Wondered If Ashley Was Working Illegally
Since she was Australian and only visiting Canada for leisure, Ashley technically wasn’t allowed to work or earn money in Yukon without first receiving a work visa, which she didn’t have.
Once appearing on Gold Rush, it was clear to other mining crews in Yukon that Ashley was doing more than just visiting. It rubbed some people the wrong way since she wasn’t playing by the rules that they all had to abide by in the competitive business.
Parker Enjoyed Ashley’s Company, Saying “She’s Great For Me”
Having your romantic partner around the job site might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for Parker and Ashley, it worked out perfectly. If Parker fell into one of the grumpy moods that he’s notorious for, Ashley’s presence would lift his spirits and get him back on track.
Parker said, “Yes, Ashley was a huge help. I don’t think she gets quite enough credit for how well the summer went. She is great to be around, she is great for me and she is just a really cool chick.” Parker recognized how much happier he was when Ashley was around, but he didn’t let their relationship distract him from his commitment to gold mining.
He Admitted He Didn’t Make Ashley A Priority
Parker enjoyed having Ashley around and recognized how rare it was to find a woman who would join him out on a mining camp in Yukon. However, his tunnel vision for mining gold didn’t leave enough time or attention for his relationship with the Aussie.
The young miner told The Discovery Channel, “I just never really made the relationship a priority, didn’t make her a priority, and she deserves a lot better than that.”
Moving On With A Broken Heart
By the end of Season 8, Parker and Ashley’s relationship was falling apart. Parker said, “As successful as our season was, there was, for me personally, one pretty big failure. Ashley and I broke up.” As hard as it was for Parker to admit that he caused the split, he knew there was no point to beat around the bush at this point.
He called their break-up “a shame” and said, “At the end of the day, I do think she is doing what’s best for her and that’s the hardest part of it.”
Officially Broken Up, Ashley Goes Back to Australia
After the couple was officially broken up, Ashley returned to her home country of Australia. Some fans of Gold Rush were disappointed to hear the news that Ashley and her bubbly personality would be leaving.
Since returning home, Ashley has picked up where she left off, working as a veterinary nurse in Melbourne, Australia. Her life down under is far different from the mining lifestyle. It appears that she’s still single, so there might be hope for the couple to reunite at some point.
A Photo On Instagram Led To Rumors That Parker Moved On
While Parker was clearly in poor spirits about his split with Ashley, rumors began to spread that the miner had already moved on when he posted a photo of himself sitting on a bench with a brunette.
As it turned out, the female friend, Sheena Cowell, works in TV production and the relationship is a friendship and working relationship only. (She’s also taken.) Maybe he’ll meet another lady while traveling in his downtime next year.
Parker Got His Start in Gold Mining At Age 16
Gold mining is the Schnabel family business that Parker grew up around his entire life. His grandfather, John Schnabel, owned an Alaskan gold mining business called Big Nugget Mine. Although Parker had a college fund saved up, at 16 years old, he decided that he wanted to become a miner instead.
Parker invested his college funds into the mining business and has now been working in the industry for nine years at the age of 25.
He Once Found One Nugget Worth $400-$500
In his mid-twenties, Parker has already mined over $13 million in gold. That’s quite an accomplishment! In Season 4, Parker and his crew mined a season total of 1,029 ounces, a haul of $1.4 million. That surpassed Todd Hoffman’s single-season record (803 oz) and was more than he had hauled in four seasons put together.
During a Facebook Live Q&A, when asked what the most expensive gold nugget Parker has found was worth he replied, “Maybe a quarter ounce? $400-$500.”
His Net Worth Now Is About $8 Million
With a combination of hard work and natural skill, Parker has already had a lucrative career in gold mining. Coupled with his salary for the reality TV series on the Discovery Channel, he’s made a good living for himself at a young age.
Even when he’s mining in other regions, Parker is the head of his family’s Big Nugget Mine in Porcupine Creek, Alaska. Parker’s net worth is currently estimated at $8 million.
He Doesn’t Always Get Along With The Camera Crew
The miners on Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush spend a lot of time with a production crew as the cameras roll. Each season takes about five months of filming and that can be a strain on both the miners and the film crew.
Of all the miners featured on the show, supposedly, Parker is the most difficult to work with, especially in his younger years. Reportedly, one member of the crew mentioned that Parker “has the least regard for the camera crew.”
He Made a Wager With Hoffman
Before Todd Hoffman left Gold Rush after Season 8, Parker made a surprising bet with him. He laid 100 ounces of gold on the line, betting Hoffman that his crew would come up with more gold than Hoffman’s that summer.
Parker went so far as to estimate that his crew would haul 5,000 ounces of gold in one summer. It goes to show how confident Parker is in his ability and mining crew.
His Grandfather Bought The Porcupine Creek Claim in 1984
Parker’s grandfather inspired him to get into the gold mining business. John Schnabel initially bought a claim in Porcupine Creek, Alaska, in 1984 as a place to take his children in the summer and leisurely mine gold. One he realized the potential in the land, he started his business, Big Nugget Mine.
Parker spent his summers on his grandfather’s land and learned the family business. Today, Porcupine Creek is recognized as one of the best places for gold mining in the world.
His Grandfather Gave The Business To Parker
Shown in the second season of Gold Rush, Parker’s grandfather John handed the business down to him. It was a big decision and Porcupine Creek became the focus of Season 2. John and Parker had a special relationship and John saw that Big Nugget Mine would be in good hands with his grandson.
John was apart of Gold Rush through Season 5. Sadly, at the end of Season 6, John passed away on March 18, 2016. He was 96 years old.
John’s Last Words to His Grandson
John had lived an incredible life. When his health took a turn, he knew that his days were numbered. Parker made sure to be by his grandfather’s side in his final days. Before he passed, John told Parker, “Parker, I wish you the best of everything.”
He continued, “I don’t particularly wish you to have billions of dollars… but I do want you to have a wondering feeling for someone who becomes a part of your life. That’s all that’s important. Good luck.”
Gene Cheeseman Unexpectedly Leaves Parker’s Crew
Parker no longer had his grandfather’s wisdom to help guide him in the gold mining business and he soon had to deal with other changes to his crew, too. His right-hand man, Gene Cheeseman, unexpectedly left the crew for another opportunity. Gene was another early mentor for Parker.
Viewers were surprised by the sudden change, and some even wondered if Gene had died. Parker said that he left amicably enough. In an interview with Facebook Live, Parker said, “Gene and I are fine, I think. From my point of view, we are– you’d have to ask him on that. I think we’ve both moved on, and we’re both doing fine from it.”
Parker is Grateful For Gene’s Guidance
Parker was visibly disappointed that Gene had chosen to move on from his crew, but he had nothing but gratitude for the miner. “I learned a hell of a lot from Gene, and I’ll always owe him for that.” Parker said in the Q&A with Facebook.
“Gene was a very good guy and a very good teacher. My grandpa taught me lots, but Gene taught me how to really move dirt, and since he left, we’ve been expanding on that. But he definitely planted the seed there.”
He Trusted Rick Ness To Take On More Leadership
After Gene left, Parker felt the void in his crew. Luckily, Rick Ness stepped up. Rick had been working on the crew for years and knew that Parker needed some extra help after Gene left. Parker said of Rick, “He’s a great guy, and he wanted more responsibility, and I decided why not trust somebody I’ve worked with for several years– it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.”
He said that now they’re “combining a lot of different ideas that people have to move dirt and sluice different ground. Once we got that established, we saved and made a pile of money.”
Viewers Find It Strange How They Store Their Gold
The mining business is far different than most, and the miners have their own way of doing things. Gold Rush viewers pointed out that it seems odd and risky for the miners to collect their gold in jars until the end of the mining season.
People seem to think that something so valuable should be more carefully stored and watched over. Parker told viewers that he doesn’t worry about it though, since he has “a big safe” and protection to go with it.
Parker Has An Old Soul And An Entrepreneurial Mind
A great deal younger than other miners and business owners on his level, Parker’s genuine interest in the industry and strong work ethic have taken him far. He loves his work and is okay with the sacrifices that he has to make to mine gold.
As a business owner, he’s always looking to save money and has the company on his mind. For his birthday his father gives Parker used equipment from his own business that they no longer need.
He Proved Himself In His Rookie Year
There were people who doubted Parker when he took over the reins of Big Nugget Mine from his grandfather. After all, he was only a teenager. It didn’t take long for Parker to prove that he had what it takes.
In his first year, he mined an incredible 1,029 ounces of gold and went on to prove that it wasn’t a fluke. Not only were those fantastic numbers for a rookie, but he was outshining the veterans’ hauls, too.
What Parker Has To Say About Being The Young One
Parker is the youngest miner on the Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush by far. In fact, most of the other miners are more than twice his age. In an interview with Scout, Parker discussed how his age affects his business.
He said, “I think my age is an advantage and a disadvantage. The nice thing about being young is that I’m willing to try new technologies and take on a lot of challenges that I think a lot of the other guys wouldn’t. At the same time, without the experience that the older guys have, I’m at a disadvantage. I don’t have the experience of being a boss. I’ll pay for that one, you know?”
He Went On An Extreme Hike As Tribute To His Grandfather
After his grandfather’s passing, John wanted to do something to honor his memory. He decided to take a small group to hike the Klondike Gold Rush trail. The trail is no easy feat — it was the path that pioneers searching for gold followed and thousands of them died on that very trail.
Parker carefully selected two friends to make the trip with him, Rick Ness and Karla Ann. Parker said of Rick, “He was really not built for that kind of thing, you know? So I was interested to see, first of all, if he would do it… and then what kind of attitude he would have about it and if he would stick with it.”
He Needed A Cameraman, But It Didn’t Work Out
Parker also selected a cameraman to follow the three hikers on their journey. He chose James Levelle but soon found that the two of them had clashing personalities. In an interview with People, Parker confessed, “James and I got into it quite a bit. I just don’t really like the guy.”
He continued, “I thought I did before this all really started. I haven’t spoken to him almost since it ended.” It seems as though Parker might have been better off alone…
He Couldn’t Deal With Others While Filming “Parker’s Trail”
It wasn’t just James the cameraman that Parker butted heads with while on the trail. Once the reality of the conditions and the difficulty of the trail set in, Parker just wanted to be alone. “We were stuck in there together, especially in the water… it was challenging.”
The four of them hiked for 18 hours a day and Parker was getting edgy. “It’s easy to forget about some hunger or the cold because I didn’t lose any toes or fingers, but the one that sticks out is the psychological warfare.”
Does His Taste In Music Take After His Grandfather?
Parker is the type of guy who blazes his own trail and has his own opinions. So what’s Parker’s taste when it comes to music? It seems as though his grandfather might have influenced many areas of Parker’s life.
When asked who his favorite bands and musical artists are, Parker said he listens to Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson the most. It must not be easy to hear the latest on the radio when you’re out mining!
His Favorite Memory
While you’d expect most people Parker’s age to be focused on all the money he’s raking in, that’s not what Parker said is the most important part of his business. When asked what the highlight of his career and newfound fame is, he gave a heartwarming answer.
Parker replied that the highlight of his career as a gold miner so far is the time he spent learning the trade from his grandfather, and all of the memories that they’ve made together at Porcupine Creek.
What He’d Tell Aspiring Miners
While Parker might not have the decades of experience that some miners do, his success is undeniable. When asked what his advice would be to an aspiring gold miner, Parker told Maxim, “My advice is that you need to start small.”
He continued, “Start off with a gold pan and a tiny sluice box. Don’t go huge where you’re hurting for money and your wife gets mad.” It sounds like he’s talking from an experience a friend had!
The Seasons Make It Difficult
In the same interview with Maxim, Parker dished on what the most difficult part of the job is. “The toughest thing is that it’s very seasonal work and we basically have four months to make a year’s worth of money.”
He continued, “not only is it difficult but it is also dangerous because everybody is working long hours, long days… from a safety standpoint, that’s risky.” Parker has been able to manage all of the risks of the industry and come out on top. So far, he’s mined $14 million in gold.
Humble Beginnings In Sin City
Long before Pawn Stars was the highest-rated show on the History network, the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop was just another store near the Las Vegas strip. Opened in 1989, the 24-hour family business was originally operated by Richard “Old Man” Harrison, along with his son Rick Harrison, Rick’s son Corey “Big Hoss” Harrison, and Corey’s childhood friend, Austin “Chumlee” Russell.
In the early 2000s, Rick worked to get the concept of the show to television, but not everyone was convinced it would be a success. In fact, Rick pitched the concept for nearly five years, before someone took a chance on his idea.
Rick Pitched Pawn Stars Long Before It Was Picked Up
Rick Harrison pitched the concept of Pawn Stars for years, with little luck. “I figured that a show would mean free publicity and free publicity would mean more business,” he told Star-Telegram. “But everyone told me that no one wants to watch a show about four fat guys in a pawnshop.”
Eventually, Gold & Silver Pawn Shop was featured in a 2001 PBS documentary as well as Comedy Central’s Insomniac in 2003. In what seemed like a promising gig, the concept was picked up by HBO but the pilot was so disastrous that Rick turned to Leftfield Productions. Brent Montgomery and Colby Gaines of Leftfield were struck by the diverse spread of borderline seedy pawn shops in Las Vegas and after visiting Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, knew they’d found the right fit.
The Unlikely Show Was a Hit Everywhere
The first episode of Pawn Stars aired a year later and was the No. 2 reality show, only second to Jersey Shore. An original episode that hit airwaves in January 2011 was watched by more than 7 million viewers, making it the most-watched program ever on History Channel.
The reality series wasn’t just a hit in the United States either. Since its debut, the series has been translated into 38 languages and has aired in more than 150 countries. Rick Harrison has even said he has “been mobbed” by people in places like Buenos Aires, the Philippines, Kuala Lumpur, and New Delhi. He also added, “Everywhere in the world, people know the show.”
4,000 Visitors Stop By Each Day
While the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop wasn’t exactly struggling before Pawn Stars debuted, business wasn’t booming like it is today. A decade ago, Gold & Silver was lucky if they received 4,000 customers in a month. Boy, have times changed!
Today, Gold & Silver Pawn Shop receives on average 4,000 customers a day. If you do that math, that comes out to as many as 1,460,000 visitors each year. Rick Harrison has always said that television exposure is good for business!
Some Strange Things Have Been Pawned
With nearly 1.5 million visitors each year, it’s no surprise the Pawn Stars guys see some strange things come through the shop doors. Some of the weirdest? In one episode, a man brought in a bag containing multiple human skulls. Another episode saw vintage Japanese adult magazines that had been in circulation for over 250 years. Other strange items include Slash’s ID, and a one-man submarine.
Perhaps one of the most unique items is a Greek artifact dating back to 325 B.C. The antique coin was brought into Gold & Silver Pawn Shop where it was determined to be a didrachm from centuries ago.
The Store Experts Are Hired By Producers
The Harrison’s always have an expert ready to help appraise an item. Contrary to how they are portrayed on the show, these experts aren’t actually friends of the Harrison’s. Rather, the experts were originally hired by the producers of the show.
The experts aren’t even paid for their work on the show, but they do use the exposure to promote their own businesses. There are more than 30 recurring experts who specialize in everything from sports cards and vintage movie posters to historic documents and antique magic devices.
These Days, The Store Makes Most Of Its Money Off Pawn Stars Merchandise
The Gold & Silver Pawn Shop may have an inventory of more than 11,000 items, but these days, the store makes more money from the store-themed merchandise they sell.
The online shop alone has more than 50 items fans can purchase, ranging from shot glasses and coffee mugs to t-shirts and a $400 autographed bobblehead of Chumlee. Of course, coins, jewelry, fine art, collectibles, and antiques are still available for purchase in the store and online — but considering some of these come with a six-figure price tag, we’re not surprised the show’s merchandise is what visitors flock to see and buy!
The Show Doesn’t Always Reflect Real Life
We all know that reality television series are usually pretty far from reality and Pawn Stars is no different. While not all of the storylines are fabricated, there is typically a lot of direction happening behind the scenes.
For example, some of the trades you see on the show already happened before they film them. If someone happens to bring in a really interesting item for trade when the film crew isn’t there, they might be asked if they can come in again so the trade can be filmed in greater detail.
They Know What’s Coming To The Shop In Advance
Sometimes what comes into the shop is a surprise, but for the most part, the guys know what’s coming through in advance. This is because the producers go to great lengths to control what happens in front of the camera.
Often times, the producers will seek out people who might be interested in selling unique objects of either intrinsic or historic value. If someone is interested in selling, the producers set everything up from there. So when Rick says, “You never know what is gonna come through that door,” it’s not exactly true.
Old Man Passed Away In June 2018 From Parkinson’s Disease
Without the “Old Man,” there would never have been Pawn Stars at all. Sadly, on June 25, 2018, Richard Benjamin “Old Man” Harrison passed away surrounded by his loved ones. He was 77 years old.
The cast and crew took to social media to pay tribute to Old Man. “He will be tremendously missed by our family, the team at Gold & Silver Pawn and his many fans the world over,” Rick Harrison wrote in a post on Instagram. “He was my hero and I was fortunate to get a very cool ‘Old Man’ as my dad.”
Pawn Stars Aired a Special Tribute To The Old Man Following His Death
Richard “Old Man” Harrison passed away on June 25, 2018. In his honor, Pawn Stars aired a special episode two days later on June 27. The hour-long special opens with the boys reminiscing on Richard. “There’s a lot of memories here,” Rick says at the beginning of the episode. “And most of them are with my father.”
The special features the guys favorite moments with “The Old Man,” from driving around in lifted cars to poking fun at Chumlee.
One Son Was Left Out of His Will
Less than a month after his passing, the surprising details of “Old Man” Harrison’s will were released. While his oldest son Rick Harrison was left in charge of his father’s estate, his will sparked more attention about who was missing. Before his passing, the “Old Man” had his son Chris Harrison omitted from his will yet still included sons Rick and Joseph.
While it’s unclear why Chris was written out of the will, Rick released a statement saying, “The family had previously discussed this information and it is a private matter.”
Richard “Old Man” Harrison Spent Two Decades In The Navy
It’s hard to imagine Richard “Old Man” Harrison as anything but the ever-scowling patriarch of Pawn Stars. But Harrison had a rich life long before he opened Gold & Silver in 1989. Harrison got his first job driving school buses at just 14 years old. While his work ethic was apparent, he found himself in a bit of trouble at 17 when he got busted for stealing a car.
The judge gave Harrison two options — jail or the military — and he chose the latter. Harrison enlisted in the U.S. Navy and would go on to serve for two decades.
His Daughter Passed Away When She Was Only 6 Years Old
In 1962, Richard “Old Man” Harrison took a year off from the Navy. It was during this time that he met the love of his life and got married to Joanne Rhue. He and Rhue welcomed their first child, a daughter named Sherry not long after.
While Harrison didn’t want to be away from his growing family, he ultimately reenlisted to get medical benefits for Sherry who was born was Down syndrome. Sadly, Sherry passed away when she was just six years old.
Want To See The Guys? It’s Not That Easy
Thousands of people visit Gold & Silver each year but don’t expect to see Rick, Old Man, Corey, or Chumlee behind the counter.
While the guys do go out on the shop floor from time to time to meet fans, take photos, and sign autographs, this is pretty infrequent. According to Gold & Silver’s official website, the guys aren’t typically able to do this thanks to their hectic schedules and NV privacy laws. If you’re looking to meet the cast on your visit to Gold & Silver, your best bet is to check out the Pawn Plaza next door to the shop, although you’re only likely to see Rick and Chumlee.
Chumlee Cost The Shop $20,000
Chumlee has become a fan favorite on the show thanks to his silly persona and lackadaisical attitude. But his immature nature has come at a cost to the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop.
Right before an episode aired, Chumlee accidentally broke a bass someone had pawned and cost the shop a reported $20,000. To make matters worse, Chumlee stored the pieces of the broken bass in a box in the back office hoping no one would notice. Rick had to return the broken bass to the original owner along with the value of the lost item. Luckily for Chumlee, he was still able to keep his job!
Subway Is One of the Show’s Biggest Sponsors
Have you ever thought that the Pawn Stars guys seem to eat a ton of Subway? You’re not imagining things. The fast-food sub sandwich chain is one of the reality show’s biggest sponsors. Not surprisingly, part of Pawn Star’s partnership with the show requires product placement.
Sometimes the product placement gets a little obvious. In one episode, Big Hoss heads to Subway with Chumlee to explain an auction. Using his sandwich, he demonstrates how the auction will unfold later in the day. The scene is clearly a veiled advertisement with the guys clearly displaying the Subway logo. Cringe-worthy? Yes. But hey, ya gotta make money somehow.
Pawn Stars Spawned a New Business Venture for Rick
By 2011, Pawn Stars proved to be reality series gold and business at Gold & Silver Pawn Shop was booming. In an attempt to capitalize on the volume of fans and tourists visiting the pawn shop, Rick Harrison decided that expanding was the answer.
Rick opened the Pawn Plaza, a container shopping center next door. Built primarily from shipping containers, the concept was to open affordable units for business owners to rent. The Pawn Plaza opened with a handful of tenants including Rick’s Tavern and Rick’s Rollin Smoke (two themed restaurants by Rick), Inna Gadda di Pizza, Pawn Donut & Coffee, and more. Unfortunately, Rick’s vision was a little too lofty for some. By 2016, four of the stores were already closed. Today, Pawn Plaza remains open but Rick now does “extreme vetting” when choosing new tenants.
The Cast of Pawn Stars Was Sued By Their Original Agent
The cast of Pawn Stars has had their share of legal issues since the show debuted nearly a decade ago. In October 2012, Wayne Jeffries sued the cast members as well as A+E Networks and History for interference with business practices.
Jeffries is the show’s original agent who helped launch the successful series. He claimed that after the show premiered, he was fired and left without his promised share of fees. He sought more than $5 million but the case was eventually dismissed.
A Man Sued The Show for Melting His Coins
No strangers to controversy at this point, the cast of Pawn Stars was sued again in 2014 for melting down antique coins. Melting down antique coins isn’t uncommon and is perfectly legal — as long as the coins aren’t stolen.
Earlier that year, Jennifer Beckman visited Gold & Silver Pawn Shop and traded in an antique coin collection. The Pawn Stars crew assessed the coins and Beckman was given $12,375. The shop melted the antique coins down as many in the industry do. It turned out that the Beckman stole the collection from her uncle, who then sued Gold & Silver for melting down stolen coins. Nevada Law requires pawn shops to hold items for 30 to 90 days before selling in the event the original owner wants to buy them back. This law doesn’t extend to coins though!
Rick Harrison Lost $40,000 On a Pair of Earrings
This coin fiasco wasn’t the only time Rick and the Pawn Stars gang unknowingly took in stolen items. In 2009, a man traded a pair of diamond earrings for a cool $40,000.
But not even a day passed before it was discovered that the jewelry was actually stolen. Although the victim got her belongings back and the thief was jailed, Rick was still out the $40,000. “It’s the cost of doing business,” Rick told NPR. “That’s the way I look at it. … And Las Vegas is a crazy town at times. There’s a lot of high-end things I get. So you have to know about … really large diamonds, really expensive watches. … So it’s a lot different than most places.”