Here’s ten intriguing facts you might not know about the world of pawn broking:
- It’s one of the oldest professions in the world.
Pawn shops are not a new addition to the British high street- gold jewellers and pawnbrokers Herbert Brown were established 170 years ago, but pawn shops are even older than that! Queen Isabella of Spain pawned the crown jewels to fund the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th Century.
- The most commonly pawned item is jewellery.
Jewellery is still the most commonly pawned item. Technology like televisions and stereos go out of date very quickly and lose value, whereas jewellery (especially gold) will only become more valuable.
- The pawn broker’s symbol is three golden spheres.
There are many theories about the origin of the pawnbroker’s symbol. Some claim that the symbol used to be the trademark of the Medici family in Florence, who were a very affluent family of pawnbrokers in the middle Ages.
- Most people manage to reclaim their pawned items.
As pawn shops are always full of merchandise, it would be easy to assume most people never manage to buy back their items. However according to the National Pawnbrokers Association, 80% of pawned items are bought back by the original owners.
- Pawn broking inspired the nursery rhyme ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’.
It sounds innocent and childlike enough, but ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ is really about pawning items for money. ‘Pop’ is Cockney Rhyming Slang for pawn and ‘weasel’ means coat:
That’s the way the money goes
Pop goes the weasel.
- Pawn broking originated in Italy
It all started in the Lompardy region of Italy in the Middle Ages. Pope Leo the Great had made it a sin to earn interest from money lending, so Christian merchants got round the problem by lending money in exchange for collateral.
- Gold has increased since the recession
Since 2008, the number of people selling gold to pawn shops in exchange for cash has increased by 35% (in the United States).
- Not all customers have a low-income.
Some pawn shops cater exclusively to the very wealthy, who for whatever reason would rather use their valuables to release equity than chop into their bank accounts.
- Pawn broking makes great television
Reality TV series Pawn Stars, which documents the ins and outs of a pawn shop in Las Vegas, has become the History Channel’s highest-rated TV show ever.
- Pawn shops are not a good place to try and sell stolen items
If pawnbrokers feel suspicious of any items they have bought, they inform the police immediately and are by law required to keep all items for at least three months, in case police need to investigate.