Pawn shops' popularity rises with TV shows, down economy
The Van Nuys Pawn Shop in Los Angeles is seeing an increasing number of customers turn to it for short-term loans.
March 9th, 2012
06:43 PM ET

Pawn shops' popularity rises with TV shows, down economy

For years, pawn shops have had a seedy and hopeless connotation: people pawning items for short-term loans because they can’t get a loan from a bank or don’t qualify for mainstream credit. But over the past five years or so, pawn shops have had a whole new light shed on them.

In this down economy, especially with high credit-card and bank-loan interest rates, pawn shop business is up. Pawn popularity also is up because of reality shows like the History Channel’s "Pawn Stars."

(Click the audio player to hear more on this story from CNN Radio's Jim Roope)

"Pawn Stars" features the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas and its owner, Rick Harrison, who says pawning is banking at its most basic.

"You give collateral on a loan; (if) you don’t pay it back, you lose your collateral, and that’s the end of it," Harrison said. "There is no turning you into a credit reporting agency. There’s no suing you, no garnishing your wages. It’s just that simple."

Cesar Salgato, manager of Van Nuys Pawn in Los Angeles, says that over the past four or five years, his business has increased 60%.

"A lot of the middle class and upper middle class is starting to pawn," Salgato said. "It's incredible, the amount of money that goes out for meeting mortgages and meeting payroll."

Stacey Simons is a real estate broker who was pawning collector plates.

"I needed the money," Simons said, giggling. "Times are tough, and I needed the money."

Simons is a regular customer at Van Nuys pawn.

"This, you can pay every three months. There's a little bit of a fee, and they keep your item, and when you’re ready to get it back, it’s there for you, and it's not damaged," Simons said.

According to the National Pawn Brokers Association, there are 13,000 pawn shops in the United States, and they conducted 30 million transactions last year.

The fees are regulated state by state, but there are federal regulations by which pawn shops must operate. The fees or interest rates can be relatively low.

“On a $1,000 loan, for the first 90 days, you only pay $70," Salgato said. "After 90 days, it goes up slightly to $110. So if you divide that by the four months, it’s a small amount."

Still, pawn shops can charge much more. In New York, pawn shops can charge up to 4% per month in interest, which would come out to a 48% APR, CNNMoney's Poppy Harlow reported. Pawn shops in other states can charge up to 25% per month, Harlow reported.

Get pawn shop tips from CNNMoney

According to the National Pawn Brokers Association, 80% of people who pawn return to recover their items.

You can listen to the CNN Radio Reports podcast on itunes or subscribe to the podcast here.

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Filed under: Economy • Showbiz • TV
soundoff (125 Responses)
  1. Jt_flyer

    We've replaced our hero George Bailey, the caring banker in 'it's a wonderful life' who helped build a town, with the greedy Old Man in 'Pawn Stars', who helped build reality TV.

    March 10, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      of course bailey was a fictional character.. that's like saying we turned away from superman for cops..

      March 10, 2012 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Jt_flyer

      Fictional character? You mean... He's not real?

      March 10, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Andrea M

      I'll take the old man, It's A Wonderful Life makes me want to punch the TV with its saccharine bs. Thew world was never like that, bankers were never caring, and at least the Harrisons aren't luring people into the trap of homes they can't afford.

      March 10, 2012 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
  2. kevin

    Statistical fact that less than 1% of goods sold at pawn shops are stolen.Thieves dont like being caught....With our computerized systems here in MA...We are linked directly to all the surrounding police dept.

    March 10, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  3. Marty in MA

    Why would you sell to a pwn shop when Craigslist or Ebay will bring you double what a pawn shop will?

    March 10, 2012 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      most people who take things to pawn shops intend to get them back..

      March 10, 2012 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
    • wavejump1100

      because people need the money immediately and cant wait for an on line sale. also many people that use pawn shops cant afford internet service and a computer.

      March 10, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. thom

    And if people sold these things at auction or ebay, they would do much better. Too lazy and stupid I guess

    March 10, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • wavejump1100

      most people will stop paying their internet service bill before they resort to pawning their belongings. also if they cant make rent have no food or cant pay the electric there is no time for an on line auction.

      March 10, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. melvin polatnick

    Job interviewers who offer minimum wages will not hire an applicant unless they are receiving food stamps. Employers realize that it is impossible to feed oneself on 7 bucks an hour causing the employee to resort to theft of company property.

    March 10, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • paul

      LOL. Really?

      March 10, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sandy

    Pawn Shops are increasing because of the internet. End of story.

    March 10, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  7. ? ? ?

    Pawn shops are increasing because they are smart business people. Granted, they are cashing in on the fact that people have overspent for years. Now due to economic reasons, they are forced to part with lifes unneccessary treasures! Plain and simple.

    March 10, 2012 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  8. ? ? ?

    Too obvious wasnt it Paul? Lol, you would be surprised how many people buy into the *reality tv* thing though.

    March 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. madmaninthemiddle

    Chumley for President!

    March 11, 2012 at 6:53 am | Report abuse |
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  11. rich

    why does rick keep saying his shop wqhen the old man own s 51 %of the shop

    November 28, 2012 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
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    You can definitely see your expertise in the paintings you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren't afraid to mention how they believe. Always follow your heart.

    December 14, 2012 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
  13. Desnise

    First of all hats off for your writing skills. The way you explain things is quite different that i have never found in other blogs. I am agree with your blog TV shows tremendously increased the popularity of pawn shops, i also got aware via TV show.

    December 7, 2013 at 7:07 am | Report abuse |
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