A Short History of Pawnshops

Pawn: To deposit in pledge or as security; something delivered to or deposited with another as security for a loan.

      The above definition taken from Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, (1973) shows that the pawn is simply a loan, not a purchase.
The pawnor is not selling the item, only using it to get a loan for a specific period of time.

      The word “Pawn “ originates from the Latin word “PATINUM” which means cloth or clothing. In the early centuries in Europe, the principle assets people had were their clothes so when they borrowed money it was by “pawning” their clothes.

      The beginning of formal pawnshops has been traced to China where they are the oldest credit institutions in that area of the world. They originated in the Buddhist monasteries where the donated wealth, which was given to the monasteries, was the asset used by the monasteries to lend to the public, usually at 3% or less.
By 1812 AD there were at least 23,189 pawnshops in China. The number of pawnshops continued to increase yearly until, under Communism, pawnshops were eliminated along with other private enterprises. Now, in China, pawnshops are reappearing to help fill the gap in their national banking system.
Pawnshops were so respected by the Chinese population that they gave the pawnshops, Kwan Tai, as the “Patron God of Pawnshops”. He is also the patron god of restaurants, merchants and the police.

      Pawnbroking may have started in China, but has been discovered to have been in existence in the ancient Roman and Grecian civilizations.
Pawnbroking became an accepted and honorable occupation during the Middle Ages as situations changed in Europe when the Catholic Church accepted and allowed pawnbroking. The primary moneylenders of the period were the Medici family of the Tuscany area of Italy. Their “ family crest”, the three gold balls, became over time, the international symbol of the Pawn Industry.

      Over time Pawn Shops became so respected that a Patron Saint was assigned to the Pawnbroker. This Patron Saint is St. Nicholas of Myra, known during Christmas as St. Nick. He is also the Patron Saint of Brewers, Brides, Children, Merchants, and Travelers.

      Today, Pawnbrokers thrive all over the world. Many countries allow the free enterprise of the pawn industry to flourish, Japan has over 10,000 pawnshops.
In other countries, such as Italy, Mexico, and Spain, Pawnshops are either owned by the banks or are owned and operated by the government.
Ten years ago there were approximately 7,000 pawnshops in the United States, at that time the pawnshops made over 35 million loans per year, totaling almost 2 billion dollars. Today the numbers have grown to where there are almost 15,000 pawnshops. The number of loans as well as the dollar amount of loans has grown at the same rate as the number of shops, basically double. Nationally, between 70 and 80 % of all items are redeemed (picked up by the customer), in some areas of the United States, as high as 96% of the items are redeemed, while in other areas it is as low as 50%. Also, nationally, only 10% to 15% of the United States population use pawnshops. There are at least 25 million households, more than 75 million people that do not have bank accounts. Declining family earnings, changing family structures, a growing immigrant population, and banking fees increased on deposit accounts with small balances as well as branch closings in poor areas are part of the reasons for the large group of people without bank accounts. These people without bank accounts find it extremely difficult, if most cases impossible; to obtain credit cards or get loans from any other legitimate businesses besides a pawnshop. Even people with credit cards are beginning to see the need to use pawnshops, especially when their cards are ‘full’ and they need money to carry on with their lives.

      Pawnshops offer a great opportunity to purchase items at a reduced price. Most shops offer some form of guarantee on the electronic items that they sell and the jewelry is almost always guaranteed to be real. If it isn’t guaranteed, it shouldn’t be purchased. The Pawn industry is one of the most regulated industries in the U.S. Most regulations have been initiated, sponsored, and supported by the pawnbrokers. They have state, regional, and national associations, which work toward self-policing.

      Pawnshops are actually some of the most difficult places to unload stolen property. Pawnbrokers are generally required, by law, to check a picture ID, usually a driver’s license, and get a signature, on file for each transaction. Each transaction goes to the local police department. Some states require more, some require less. Because they have a very lucrative business, most pawnbrokers are not willing to sacrifice a good living for a quick deal.

      In many cases what are considered pawnshops are actually “Buy & Sell” operations with “Buy Back Provisions”. These “Pawnshops” are not, in the true sense of the word, Pawnshops because they are purchasing the property, not loaning on that property. In a true Pawnshop, items going into the store will generally be the same items loaned on and picked up over and over again.

      Nationally less than one (1) percent of all loans are stolen, of those a good 80% are family related. Over 78,000 people are employed in the industry, which contributes 1.6 billion dollars in salaries to the nation’s economy. Approximately 303 million dollars in sales and property taxes are contributed by the industry. Capital investments of over 9 billion dollars are from the Pawn industry. There are over 34 million customers served yearly by pawnshops.

      In conclusion, there is a great deal of misunderstanding concerning the pawn business. It is a business that combines retail sales with old fashioned banking and serves a clientele that ranges from the very upper to the lower class and all those in between. Those involved work diligently toward keeping their business legal as well as serving a needed purpose in the community of loaning to those whom the banks will never acknowledge.

Pioneer Pawn is located at 520 N. Eastern Ave in Pioneer Plaza -- Between I-95 exit 73 and Bonanza rd in Pioneer Plaza
Just look for the the sign with the big covered wagon and Pioneer Sam.


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Pioneer Loan and Jewelry
520 N. Eastern Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89101

Office hours are from 9am to 8:00pm Monday through Saturday
and 10am to 5pm Sundays

Phone: (702) 384-2970 or (800)-943-1100
  FAX: (702) 384-2465