Ever watch ‘Pawn Stars’? One of its experts is Greek-American Steve Grad. Find out how he turned a childhood hobby into a dream job.
Meet ‘Pawn Stars’ expert Greek-American Steve Grad
He said people are always surprised to find out he’s Greek. ‘Pawn Stars’ Autograph Authenticator Steve Grad hails from Chicago’s South Suburbs. When he was very young, his family attended Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, then-located in Olympia Fields. After their move to Orland Park, they began attending SS Constantine & Helen Church in nearby Palos Hills. Consequently, his mom had roots at the old SS Constantine and Helen, on Stony Island Avenue in Chicago, where grew up, and attended Koraes Elementary School. His sister, Liz, is also a Koraes alum and is very active with the school. Steve attended Greek school and Sunday school in Palos Hills. There, he connected with Father Nicholas Jonas (now serving Holy Trinity in Chicago), who played a significant role in the young teen’s life.
“I have many great memories of church and Father Nick Jonas. He was such a powerful figure for me. I love him so much and his influence stays with me. His heart is so genuine you could feel it. You just want to be near him. He’s a calming, peaceful, and amazing figure. He makes you feel better. He was so great when my mom died. He’s one of my favorite people on Earth, and we stay in touch.”
Steve traces his Greek roots on his mother’s side to Patras. His dad is Russian Czech.
“In 1985, I spent 10 days in Greece. My grades weren’t good and I had to return home to attend summer school. My brother and sister had better grades and got to stay a whole month! I hope to return someday soon.”
This Chicago Greek is a lifelong Sox and Bears fan. He’s been to opening day at Sox Park every year since 1987, and attends Bears games twice a year.
Dabbling in radio
In the 1990s, Steve tried a career in radio. From 1993-1996, he did Shadow Traffic on WLUP-FM. From 1994-1996, he appeared as “Psycho Steve the Voice of Sports” on “‘Mancow’s Morning Madhouse’. He worked in syndicated radio until 1999, when he began working with autographs.
“I enjoyed it, but the hours are terrible. I worked 5 days a week, 5:00 am – 9:30 am, then again from 2:00-7:00 pm. I often covered games at nights and on weekends. I rarely slept and there was no money in it, so I moved on.”
Childhood hobby becomes a dream career
Steve began collecting autographs at the age of 8.
“I was fascinated by them. My grandmother was a collector too, and introduced me to it. It stuck with me, and I had a good eye for autographs. I enjoyed it so much and became good at checking their authenticity.”
In 2002, an opportunity came up in California, where he further honed his skills. He became an authenticator in 2004.
“There’s no school for this. You learn by doing it. You just have to have a knack and know-how. There’s no certification or official training. You get experience, gain knowledge, and eventually, if you’re good, you can become respected in the field.”
Steve did take some handwriting courses to increase his knowledge, and spent a few years working in Pennsylvania. He made California his permanent home in 2004.
That year, he joined Collectors Universe, a 3rd party authentication and grading service for high-value collectibles, as a Professional Sports Authenticator, and became a world-renowned autograph expert. In 2016, he left to help form a new authentication company for Beckett, a company that has long been in the magazine car grading business, that wanted to branch out into authentication. Beckett Authentication Services, led by Steve and fellow autograph expert Brian Sobrero, has authenticated some of the rarest and most valuable items in the industry. This work takes him all over the world.
Becoming a ‘Pawn Star’
In 2012, while searching for a new and more skilled authenticator, the producers of ‘Pawn Stars’, which appears on The History Channel, learned about Steve and contacted his boss at Collectors Universe. It was a unique and exciting opportunity and he jumped on it. He filmed his first episode in January 2013, and has since been featured in 105 episodes.
“The show is based in Las Vegas, so I travel there a lot, sometimes 35 times a year. It’s really cool, in that millions of people see it. It’s a fantastic PR and marketing opportunity for our company.”
If you’ve haven’t seen ‘Pawn Stars,” it’s set in a pawn shop in Las Vegas. Someone comes in with, say, something that has the signature of Babe Ruth. The owners like it, but aren’t sure it’s real. So they call in Steve to authenticate the signature and help assess the value. Being on ‘Pawn Stars’, Steve is recognized everywhere he goes.
“People know me as ‘the guy from Pawn Stars’, or they come up to me and say they know me from somewhere, and then they realize where. It’s pretty cool. People have recognized me in Europe too!”
Recently, while in Nashville, Steve was waiting for an Uber, and a man kept looking at him. Finally, the man struck up a conversation with him, and realized he knew him from the show. He said a man once approached him at a pub in London and asked if he was “Steve from Pawn Stars”.
“It’s wild. Sometimes people just stare and won’t speak to me. Other times, they come over. I will talk, say hi, or take pictures. It’s funny. I was the person who chased autographs my whole life — and still do sometimes. It’s still weird when someone asks one from me. But I always appreciate it and am respectful.”
Pride in Hellenism
Steve married his wife, Claire, in 1996. They have 2 daughters, 17 and 13. He’s immensely proud of his Greek heritage, and loves to share it with his family.
“There isn’t a Greek church near where we live, but when we have the opportunity, I take them. The churches are amazing, and the services are so moving. I don’t get to celebrate Greek traditions as much as I would like. Pascha is still my favorite holiday. I cherish the memories of growing up in Chicago with my mom’s Greek family. The lessons and influence remain with me.”
Learn more about ‘Pawn Stars’ here. Check your local listings for viewing times.
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