I:22:T For thousands of years, people all over the world have from time to time found themselves with one problem in common-the need for fast cash. And for almost as long, there’s been one easy way to solve it: To “pawn” personal items of value for a cash loan. Throughout history, pawnbrokers have provided monetary loans in exchange for valuable items.
Over 3,000 years ago, pawn shops first emerged in Ancient China as a method of granting short-term credit to peasants. Some pawnbrokers operated independently, but over time most of these businesses were run through pawn shops. Pawnbrokers thrived in ancient Greece and Rome, giving merchants a way to get small shops off the ground. The Nursery Rhyme ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ refers to it; a ‘weasel’ is a shoemaker’s tool and to “pop” is a slang term for pawning. Hence: “That’s the way the money goes… Pop goes the weasel.”
A pawnbroker is an individual or business (pawnshop or pawn shop) that offers secured loans to people, with items of personal property used as collateral. The word pawn is derived from the Latin “pignus”, for pledge, and the items having been pawned to the broker are themselves called pledges or pawns, or simply the collateral. Just after WW2, there were 5000 pawn shops in the British Isles and Ireland, lending against anything from clothing to diamond tiaras. A busy pawnbroker could serve over 1000 customers during a weekend, but the numbers reduced greatly after the introduction of the welfare state, because prosperity grew.
The job of a pawnbroker is to evaluate the value of any possessions that are offered as collateral for loans. The loan offered is a percentage of this value and the possessions are kept by the pawnbroker over the agreed period of the loan. If the money is repaid at any time during this period the customer gets the pawned items back. If the time elapses the pawnbroker gets to sell the possessions and as a result there are generally no small number of formerly pawned objects offered for sale at a pawnbrokers.
Throughout history, pawnbrokers have been helping people. The Bible offers references to pawnbroking, and in Deuteronomy 24:6-13 it states: “No man shall take the nether or the upper millstone to pledge, for he taketh a man’s life to pledge”. What this means is: you should not take as a pledge anything a man needs to make a living. The same chapter also says: “Thou shalt not go into his house to fetch the pledge. Thou shalt stand abroad and the man to whom thou dost lend shall bring the pledge…unto thee.” Interestingly, often the debtor’s children could be used as a pledge (2 Kings,4:1-7). Also in Deuteronomy 23:21 the people were told not to take interest from their own countrymen – only from foreigners.
No credit check is required when pawning items for money. This is considered a short term loan which is secured by item pawned, thereby not requiring any past credit history, good or bad. It is a misconception that only poor people use pawn shops. Queen Isabella of Spain pawned some crown jewels to pay for Columbus’s voyages. The word pawn comes from Latin – “patinum” meaning cloth or clothing – and French. In early centuries, all people had were the clothes they wore, and they borrowed money against them.