Pawn Facts

A Brief History

What exactly is a Pawnbroker or Pawn Shop? The word “pawn” originated from the Latin word “pignus” which translated means pledge. When someone would like to receive a monetary loan they would take an item of value to a broker as a pledge. This item would be exchanged for money and used as collateral or pawn. This type of broker is known as the pawn shop.

Pawnbroking is arguably the oldest financial institution and its origins can be traced back over 3,000 years ago in China. Pawnbroking helped fund the discovery of the Americas. It is known that the royal jewels of Queen Isabella of Spain were pawned to fund Christopher Columbus’s voyage to Western India, but in turn led to the discovery of the New World.

Pawnbroking as we know it today can be traced to the fifteenth century Italy when the noble Medici family was a dominant financial power. When the family split in two, one half of the family became bankers and the other, pawnbrokers. The pawnbroking side of the family took with it half of the family crest, which is the recognisable sign of the pawnbroker today. It is the famous three gold balls logo. The symbol has also been attributed to the story of Saint Nicholas saving a poor man’s three daughters from servitude. He threw three bags of gold threw the poor man’s window at night. He is also known as the patron saint of pawnbrokers.

Pawn Facts:

  • Pawnbroking is the oldest financial occupation in the world
  • The average loan amount is $150
  • The average pawn customer’s household income is $29,000
  • More than 80% of all pawns are redeemed
  • Less than .05% of all pawned merchandise is identified as stolen
  • State laws mandate pawn customers provide a valid government issued ID
  • 25 million Americans do not have a bank account of any kind
  • There are over 12,000 operating pawn shops in the US
  • Less than 20% of pawn customers are unemployed