The poor man's bank
This is the place where even the most mundane of personal or household assets can be turned into immediate cash
Where to get money when you need it
They used to call them the poor man’s bank, but even today, in the era of the credit card and the ATM, they are still there, offering service to those who need cash, and need it quickly.
What are they then? Pawn shops, of course, the only place where almost any item with a value can be pledged for money.
It could be a watch, a pen, a TV, saws, hammers or other tools, even the clothes on your back. But pawnbrokers tend to balk at larger items, such as refrigerators, as they take up too much space.
Is it possible to cheat the pawn shops by pawning fake or copied goods? Well, many people have tried, and continue to try, but it’s not so easy. Pawnbrokers are people with a lot of experience and they can spot a fake without much difficulty. The watch you take in will be studied carefully, it will be opened and the movement checked, and then its number compared with a list of stolen watches supplied by the police. If it passes all this scrutiny, then you will get your money and a receipt in the form of a pawn ticket.
Depending on where you live, the identity given by your ID card, driving license, or even your finger-prints, will be shown on this ticket. It will be valid for a period of, say, four months, during which time you are free to redeem the item at any time by repaying the loan plus interest, which might be in the range of 2% per month. However, if you don’t do this in time, then the item will be forfeited, and most likely put on sale publicly, or sold privately, by its new owner, the pawnbroker.
Many gold or gold look-alike objects are brought into pawn shops and these are carefully checked, with the acid test, if necessary, and if there is any doubt, they are rejected.
In this modern world, and in many developed countries, it is no longer very easy to find a pawn shop. After all, if a man has credit and ATM cards in his wallet, and when banks are open seven days a week, it would seem that their services would no longer be required. But they are still there if you look hard, tucked away in some side alley, the only sign of their existence being the three brass balls hanging over their doorways. And for some people who sport expensive watches, or have valuable jewelry collections, one way of raising money both quickly and discreetly is a visit to a pawn shop.
In former days many pawn shops were located near race courses or stadiums where sporting events were held regularly, and even when racing or boxing took place on weekends, they would be open to help unlucky punters.
I once bought a Rolex watch from a man I knew and I had to accompany him to the pawn shop where he had pledged it. After I had paid him the cash, he redeemed it there and then and I received my watch. Apparently, this man bought and sold leading brand second-hand watches and used the pawn shop to finance his business.
And then, as now, pawn shops are useful in any emergency. For example, one Sunday afternoon many years ago, I was drinking beer with a friend and we discovered that we didn’t have enough money to pay the bill, and these were the days when there were no credit cards or ATM machines. But not to worry – I merely slipped off the gold belt-buckle I had on my belt, handed it to my friend, and he was back with the money in fifteen minutes!