Pawnshops on TV: PawnStars and Hardcore Pawn

Wow – it’s been over half a year since we’ve done an update for the store. Whoops.

Recently, the interesting part of being in the pawn business is the success of the TV show “Pawn Stars” and the new light it’s cast on the our industry. PawnStars is a neat show featuring an upper end pawnshop in Las Vegas that has pawned or bought things such as helicopters, airplanes, boats and civil war cannons. That’s substantially what makes the show interesting: the selection of items they see. It’s kind of like Antiques Roadshow but featuring a store instead of a travelling crew. Unfortunately, it’s pretty far from reality for most every other pawnshop on the planet. As much as we’d like to have a civil war cannon the resellability just isn’t there in our region of the world.

The flipside to Pawnstars is a new show called ‘Hardcore Pawn’ featuring Detroit’s largest pawnshop. It’s a grittier portrayal of the industry. Their store has pawned animals, meat cleavers, puppets and forklifts. In some ways it’s nearly like a flea market with the diversity of items they take.

Reality (vs. what’s featured on the TV) is somewhat between the two but likely too boring for television. Our industry helps people by getting them funds when they need it. We’ve done this on their wedding rings, microwaves, gaming systems, guitars, Ipods or laptops. The average loan size is less than $150 (in some cases as low as $20). I’m sure the TV pawnshops do this too but it’s rarely featured because it’s just not exciting. While it’s nice to show off the fancy color 1.5 carat canary diamond ring that they got in pawn, the reality is they probably pawned 500 $50 clusters rings before they ever saw it.

So in 15 years of being in the business have we done anything that would have been worthy of reality TV? Maybe:

Strangest pawn: years ago we traded a VCR for an iguana and kept it as a mascot. Thus was born ‘Baxter the pawn iguana’.
Most unsettling pawn: human teeth with gold dental fillings
Saddest moment: telling someone that their 1 carat diamond was fake and watching their world crumble around them.
Most satisfying moment(s): There’s been several. Helping a local business owner make payroll until his accounts receivable cleared. Helping a distraught woman get out of an abusive relationship by buying her jewellery and financing her move out of town.
Things I will never do again: Help a friend’s relatives liquidate his estate after he passed away.