The practice of pawning items for money has a long and varied history from Buddhist monks in China back in the 5th century through the powerful Medici family in fifteenth century Italy to where we are today. But what sorts of items get pawned for cash? Does the popularity and therefore relative worth of objects change with the centuries? And what sort of weird and wonderful objects have made or lost people fortunes?
All that glitters is Golden
The most popular items to be pawned are all gold with gold rings heading up the list and being closely followed by chains. This has been the standard for a number of years now and gold has always been a particularly popular item to pawn, but why might this be?
Perhaps it is because gold jewellery is frequently given as a gift to mark important occasions and yet gold jewellery has not been really fashionable for a few decades now? A more cynical person might say it is all the wedding rings of the divorced couples across the country and who knows they maybe right.
It may also be because scrap gold is worth almost as much to pawnbrokers as gold jewellery in good condition particularly with the recent hike in gold prices. Therefore items do not have to be in the best of conditions for the customer to still get a decent cash return as the metal itself is of intrinsic value.
However the trade of gold for cash is a relatively stable thread throughout the history of pawnbroking with the symbol of pawnbrokers thought to originate from a depiction of three gold coins a long way before the Medici family had anything to do with the industry.
Strange Pawned Items
Items that those not in the know might find a bit strange to pawn include many items that are highly collectible such as carefully kept comics, full sets of trading cards and unopened action figures with original packaging. Even stranger are various types of taxidermy and curious antique items like marbled glass figurines which can be of great value to the right collectors or in the right auction.
And then are the real one offs, items that you may only see once in your whole career as a pawnbroker. Things like a flag from the moon landing, weapons from significant battles or hovercraft prototypes. Here the owners of Gold and Silver Pawn Shop and stars of Pawn Stars talk about some of their strangest items.