Pawn shops have grown tremendously in the past century across the United States. During the Great Depression era, pawn shops were among the only institutions offering cash as banks failed and people were forced to give up cherished items to make ends meet. Pawn shops continue to be a primary place where people can turn their items into cash today. Many shops operate as alternatives to banks for millions of people who do not have checking accounts, and they also serve as an area of exchange for people of all class backgrounds to buy and sell unique, rare or coveted items. Electronics, musical instruments and distinctive pieces of clothing are also commonly pawned items.
According to Gold and Silver Pawn in Las Vegas, NV, “the pawn shop industry has been criticized at times for preying upon the poor with inflated interest rates and low-balling the value of goods in order to turn a profit. But organizations such as the National Pawnbrokers Association, established in 1988, contend that their industry offers a viable solution for those in need of cash. Pawn shops are required to uphold clear regulations about the terms of the pawn contract and the amount of interest on the cash loans. Each pawned item is also registered to prevent the sale of stolen items.”
Pawn shops can be great repositories of history, holding antiques, jewelry, furniture and other items that have been passed from generation to generation. Good owners may genuinely know their source, or offer tales of where they believe items came from and how much they are worth, and great pawn brokers do their own assessment of each item, estimating its age, authenticity and value on the open market.