History of Pawn Shops

July 16, 2018
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History of Pawn Shops

Whether your first introduction to a pawn shop is with Vista Pawn, Pawn Stars on the History Channel, or when you’ve purchased or pawned something yourself--pawn shops have been around for centuries.


What is a Pawn Shop?

The need for money has been around since currency has existed. People need money for a variety of reasons, but in emergencies, that money may not be available. Pawn shops allow people to “pawn” an item of value to a pawnbroker who in turn gives them money for the item. If the person who pawned the item returns to retrieve the item, they pay the money back plus a small fee at a later date and receive their item back. After a certain amount of time, the item becomes the property of the pawn shop who is free to do with it as they wish. In the United States alone, there are over 12,000 pawn shops in existence.


The Evolution of the Pawn Shop

The origins of pawn shops have their roots in Ancient China about 3,000 years ago. Pawnbrokers, often working independently, would offer short-term credit to peasants.

This trend continued until the civilizations of Ancient Greece and Rome made this concept more mainstream. Citizens would seek start-up income to begin businesses. These new owners would pay back their collateral and interest once their businesses took off.

In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church began to place limits on charging citizens interest which halted the development of pawn shops. Once pawnbrokers were able to prove to the Church that short-term credit was an extremely viable way of financing start-up endeavors and by giving temporary aid to the poor, these restrictions were relaxed.

Pawn shops have made their way into history as well. In 1388, England’s King Edward III pawned the royal jewels to finance the war against France. It’s also said that Christopher Columbus’ expeditions were financed through the pawning of Queen Isabella of Spain’s jewelry.

It wasn’t just for the wealthy, pawn shops in the 19th century were being used mainly by the poor. It was common practice for the poor to pawn clothes on Monday to make it through the week only to get their paycheck on Friday and buy their clothes back.

The Pawnbrokers Act of 1872 created regulations that protected pawnbrokers if they mistakenly sold stolen items. These regulations were necessary and helped to set the guidelines for the pawn industry that continues today.


Today’s Pawn Shops

Throughout the depression, pawn shops were the only place in America that was offering money. Banks had failed and people needed money. This option for the citizens of the US hasn’t changed much since then. Towns of all sizes and populations have pawn shops that help provide money to those in need and offer a great variety of products that people want.

These mini-banks trade in unique and rare items including musical instruments, collectibles, and electronics. While some may have a negative connotation of what a pawn shop is, it’s undeniable their place in society and history. Established in 1988, the National Pawnbrokers Association argued just that fact. They make sure that pawn shops uphold pawn contracts and the interest that is accrued. Items are registered to ensure they’re not stolen.

The popularity of pawn shops has increased since shows on television began to show the daily ins and outs of these businesses. Holders of history, antiquities, jewelry, and furniture--pawn shops will always be the place for everyone, anywhere.


Vista Pawn

While we haven’t been in business for centuries, we have been around for over 20 years! Located in one of the most beautiful locations on Earth, southwest Idaho, Vista Pawn’s four locations are here for your needs.

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