History of Pawnbroking
With Pawn Stars, Cajun Pawn Stars and now Pawn Stars UK, we associate pawn shops with historical, interesting and famous items changing hands, but this hasn’t always been the case.
Pawn shops originated around 3,000 years ago in Ancient China, acting as a way for struggling peasants to get their hands on cash, fast! The pawnbroker would hold items of value for an agreed amount of time until the loan could be paid back and with the agreed sum of interest. This industry also thrived in ancient Greece and Rome, with our word ‘pawn’ coming from the Latin word ‘patinum’ meaning ‘cloth’ or ‘clothing’.
Pawnbroking, or short-term credit became an important way of financing business ventures in the 14th and 15th centuries, and well-off, noted families became famous for their money lending. The most famous family in the UK was the Lombard family. King Edward III famously pawned some of his jewels to them to help raise funds for the war against France.
Pawning their clothes, often the most expensive thing they owned was a good way for the poverty-stricken to take low-interest loans and curb their debt. In England in 1872 an act was passed called the Pawnbrokers Act, which established guidelines and restrictions for interest rates, regulation of the industry and prevented brokers from selling stolen items. This act still stands today.
Today, customers who use pawnbroking services can differ quite widely. There are those who use the service in its traditional sense, somewhat like an overdraft, but there are also those, asseen in our series, that use it as a good way of selling their treasured historical and impressive items for a bit of quick cash. It’s safe to say that when you’re working in a pawn shop, you can’t ever be sure what’s going to come through the door next!