OLDSMAR — Jerry Beverland carefully carried his precious cargo to the car: the molds of a life mask of Abraham Lincoln wrapped in bubble wrap and a 150-year-old mahogany chair that Lincoln just might have used in the White House.
"We drove straight through to Vegas,'' said Beverland, a longtime Oldsmar City Council member and history buff. "We weren't interested in going anywhere else.''
Like so many others, Beverland, 81, and his wife, Wanda, 75, were making the pilgrimage to the World Famous Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, hoping to find out whether his prizes were really treasures, or something else. Some cash and a TV appearance wouldn't be so bad either.
Experts at the store, the location for Pawn Stars, a History channel reality series in its seventh year, gave the Beverlands good news and bad. The good: the Beverlands' merchandise was selected to be used in two different episodes. One first aired in February and the second will air in early 2017. The bad: (spoiler alert) Rick Harrison, one of the store's owners, declined to buy either the chair, which the Beverlands believe was part of a set used in the Lincoln White House, or the molds, made from an original Leonard Volk bronze life mask and stamped with the year 1860, the year before Lincoln became president.
At the start of the February episode called No Pawn for You, Harrison looked at the chair and then at Jerry Beverland. "What you got here is a chair,'' Harrison said.
"It's one of the most famous chairs you'll ever see,'' Beverland fired back. "Abraham Lincoln sat in it while he was in the White House.''
The Beverlands' adventure began when he emailed the show's producers about his collection.
"I just told them about my Lincoln chair and how it was one of 14 chairs I had owned over the years and how the molds came from an original life mask created by Volk,'' Beverland said.
"So (Pawn Stars) emailed me back and invited us to come out,'' Beverland said.
Over the course of two days, as Beverland was directed on the set of the show, Wanda Beverland "watched all the action,'' she said.
"When we first got there, I was surprised by the size of the pawn shop. It looked so small. I thought, 'You got to be kidding me, but we learned that there were two rooms. One is for customers and one is for filming.''
To back up his case that the items were what he said they were, Beverland brought evidence: statements from appraiser associations, photographs, including a copy of one with Lincoln in a similar chair (taken by Civil War photographer Mathew Brady) and a letter on stationery from the White House encouraging a former chair owner to donate the "authentic Lincoln furniture'' to the Lincoln Museum in Washington, D.C.
However, as the camera rolled, Harrison asked Beverland on air if he minded if he brought in an expert to look at the chair. It would be Mark Hall-Patton, a museum administrator recognized by viewers as ''the Beard of Knowledge.''
After studying the chair and Beverland's documents, as well as delving into historical pictures himself, Hall-Patton gave Beverland the bad news. He pointed out that some "decorative elements'' in the Brady photo were not the same elements seen on Beverland's chair.
"The time period is right but it's not enough for me to say these are ones used in the White House,'' Hall-Patton said.
Although Beverland did not agree with Hall-Patton's conclusion, he did not let it spoil his trip.
"I know darn well that my items are authentic. I was relieved. I had made an offer of $2,000 for each item, and right after I told them the offer I said to myself, 'Oh no, what have I done?' So I'm glad I didn't have to sell them.''
While her husband was on the set, Wanda Beverland "actually spent a lot of time talking to Mark Hall-Patton. He is one smart man.''
Simon Thomas, executive producer of the show, described Pawn Stars as "finding needles in a haystack,'' he said. Although he did not want to talk too much about the upcoming episode that includes the molds, he did say that no matter what, the Beverlands collect unusual items.
"We look for an item that is not something you see every day, and (the Beverlands) had fantastic items,'' he said. "So if someone has a chair that could have belonged to Lincoln, that is definitely of interest to us, but the better you can provide paper work that links the sale or links back to the original (owner), in this case Abraham Lincoln, then that's even more fantastic.''
After the two-day shoot was complete, the Beverlands got a surprise — a one-night stay in the D Casino Hotel.
"They put us up in a real fancy hotel. The bottom floor was the size of four football fields, all for gambling,'' Beverland said. "We don't gamble, but, we had a good dinner and a good breakfast too.''
For now, the molds and the chair are back in their place in the Beverlands' den in Oldsmar, resting next to an oil painting of Lincoln.
Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected] Follow @Florida_PBJC.