A great new pawnshop book is available written by Las Vegas pawnbroker and reality TV star Rick Harrison.
Archive for June, 2011
From Triangle Dot Dbusinessnews Dot Com
Bob Moulton named 2011 National Pawnbroker of the Year by the National Pawnbrokers Association…
Bob Moulton, owner of National Pawn, was named the 2011 National Pawnbroker of the Year by the National Pawnbrokers Association (NPA) on June 15, 2011 during the organization’s annual convention. Moulton’s clean, bright business model and his generous contributions to the community were cited in the presentation of the honor. Last year the title holder was Rick Harrison, of “Pawn Stars,” fame.
“I am proud to be a pawnbroker, and I am very proud to receive this recognition from the national association of my peers,” said Moulton. “I have made it a priority to improve the image of the pawn industry one customer at a time.”
“Bob Moulton is a fine example of a modern, professional businessman in an industry that suffers from an outdated image. Bob has built a fine reputation on providing service and values to his customers, and is a leading innovator in the nation for changing the face of the pawn business” said Dave Crume, President of the National Pawnbrokers Association. ”We are proud to have him as a member, and we are very pleased to award him the much deserved honor of the 2011 Pawnbroker of the Year.”
In addition to operating eight National Pawn stores in Raleigh, Durham and Wilmington, Moulton believes in giving back to the communities where he does business. He gives generously, and funds many philanthropic efforts from providing cash donations and electronic entertainment devices to Duke Children’s Hospital, to endowing annual scholarships for Triangle students and providing musical instruments to area middle school band programs.
About National Pawn
National Pawn (www.PawnDeals.com) has been serving customers since 1987. With eight stores throughout the Triangle and Wilmington, National Pawn is an industry leader. The company has grown thanks to the tens of thousands of satisfied customers. The professionals at National Pawn pride themselves on offering exemplary customer service.
From Newsweek Dot Com
To gauge the state of our economy, you could talk to the economists and other so-called experts. Or you could attend the annual pawnbrokers’ convention, as I did, held last week at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. There, I met Lee Amberg, his face sunburned from competing in the annual golf tournament that these days opens every Pawn Expo.
A 23-year industry veteran with a pair of pawnshops in suburban Chicago, Amberg says he could tell as far back as 2006 that hard times were coming. “Suddenly we saw our demographic expanding,” he says. “We had more customers coming to us from middle-class communities and even upper-middle-class communities. We saw the erosion of the economy before you were even reading about it.”
Except, who listens to a pawnbroker? “We have our thumb on the true pulse of the economy,” Amberg says with a sigh, “but we’re laughed at or ridiculed because we’re in the pawn business.”
These are fat times for the pawn industry—in no small part because these are hard times for much of America. Pawnbrokers are lending money to a new breed of customer—the kind who drives up in a sports car, lugging a large flat-screen TV to hock—and it’s not like their traditional clientele are any better off than they were a few years ago. Pawn is even hot in the popular culture, as reality TV has spawned no less than three shows starring pawnbrokers.
At first glance, the Pawn Expo could have been any trade show of its kind: booths for exhibitors selling their wares (diamond and gold buyers, mainly), breakout sessions for the more studious conventiongoer (“10 Successful Steps to Becoming a Watch Guru”), boozy parties at night. And the brokers—1,300 attendees in all—made for a friendly, casual bunch, dressed in resortwear for the 100-degree Vegas heat. Still, most people think of the corner pawnshop as a forbidding place, dingy and depressing and smelling something like their grandmother’s attic. “I would describe image as our biggest challenge,” says Kevin Prochaska, who took over as president of the National Pawnbroker Association at this year’s meeting.
But changing that image is no easy task for these lenders of last resort. “If someone is coming to us, that’s the definition of a bad day,” a pawnbroker named Kathy Pierce told me. Apparently, there have been a lot of bad days for the people living near the two stores she and her husband own in central Illinois. The loan volume at both “is higher than it’s ever been,” she says.
If you’re a fan of the hit show Pawn Stars, you might think that what pawnshops mainly do is buy used stuff. But the vast majority are really loanmakers: that watch or wedding ring (usually the same watch or ring hocked the last time) serves as collateral for a loan that usually lasts from a few weeks to a few months. The amounts borrowed are typically small—$100 or less, just enough to make ends meet until the next payday. Four out of every five customers successfully pay off their loan and retrieve the item they’ve hocked.
But a pawn loan isn’t cheap. The fees charged work out to an annual interest rate of between 50 and 250 percent a year, depending on the state. Prochaska, the association president, defends the high interest rates by noting that “a lot of overhead goes into every loan.” That’s because pawnbrokers must store whatever a customer brings in—jewelry, mostly, in big cities, but plenty of weed trimmers, fishing poles, and power tools in less-urban areas. And there’s no guarantee that the pawnbroker will ever be able to sell the items if the borrower defaults. For some pawnbrokers, the sale of forfeited items has accounted for half their revenue, and a lousy economy means they get stuck with more inventory.
Yet for most pawnbrokers, the spike in loan volume over the past few years—and the corresponding increase in the fees they collect—has more than made up for the decline on the retail side. “It’s an awesome time to be in the lending business,” says Nancy Martin, a pawnbroker from North Carolina who has had her own shop since 1981. “Whether you’re talking about our traditional customers or the new people coming in the door, people are really hurting.”
From Wallet Pop Dot Com
Groupon Founders Get Into Online Pawn Shop Biz
By Barbara Thau
The founders of the nation’s biggest daily deal, group-buying site are getting into the pawn shop business.
The site aims to redefine the old fashioned brick-and-mortar pawn shop in the online space by offering customers “a more practical and affordable option to credit card loans and payday lending to get cash quickly without going into debt,” the company announced in a statement.
Pawngo customers can use the gold, jewelry, watches and valuables they own as collateral to secure a short-term loan. Similar to a traditional pawn shop, customers are also offered the option to sell their valuables for a slightly larger amount without interest payments.
“Financing from Pawngo can help fill gaps in cash flow, [helping consumers] pay for emergency purchases like major auto or home repairs or braces for a child,” Lightbank said in the statement. “Once you’ve paid back the loan, your items are shipped directly back to you quickly and safely.”
Here’s where Pawngo differs from traditional pawn shops: The site offers loans based on an item’s current market value for up to six months at 3% to 6% monthly interest rates — a better deal than brick-and-mortar pawn shops, which can charge as much as 20% interest per month, Lightbank added.
What’s more, Pawngo customers can nab a loan ranging from $250 to up to $100,000 in 24 hours — no matter the state of their current finances or their credit history, the company said. And because the transaction is done online, the pawn shop process is discreet and private.
Indeed, Pawngo appears to have set out to rehabilitate the pawn shop’s sordid image for the online space. The Pawngo system “eliminates the intimidating feeling walking into a brick-and-mortar pawn shop in a seedy part of town,” the company noted in its statement.
Here’s how the site, which has yet to officially launch, works:
Customers go on to Pawngo.com and enter a description of the item or items, send a digital photo of the piece — if available — and enter their contact information. No credit card information or Social Security number is required. Pawngo will send the customer a preliminary loan offer or buy estimate within a few hours.
If the customer accepts the offer, Pawngo users can print an overnight, pre-paid FedEx shipping label to send the item directly to Pawngo’s evaluation lab. Once the item has been received, a Pawngo representative will contact the customer with an exact item evaluation and an offer. If the customer accepts the offer, their item is kept in Pawngo’s vault, and the site wires the customer money to their bank account.
The launch of Pawngo is clearly a sign of the times, Craig Johnson, chairman and CEO of retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners, told WalletPop. The economic downturn, Johnson says, has put that many more people into the “low income or temporarily low income” category, people who could find that this new service is just what they need to get them past the rough spots.
From NY Times Dot Com
JOSH OLLER sits me down in the conference room of Silver Lining, a pawn shop in northeastern Portland. It’s a Monday and only 10 a.m., but already three lines are forming at the loan windows. At the front, a woman in a colorful windbreaker and hot pink pants leans on her elbows on the counter. A man in a long black trench coat waits patiently behind her with a guitar.
Mr. Oller runs Silver Lining with his father, Earl. While we talk, a painting of Earl, made to look like Elvis, watches us from its black velvet canvas. The son has a sedate manner, his calm blue eyes set off by a faded navy polo shirt.
He didn’t think he’d go into pawning. He aspired to a career in federal law enforcement. But after he graduated from college, a longing to remain in Oregon, near family and forests, made him reconsider. “It’s a good business,” he says. “Every day is different. You never know what’s going to come through the door.”
The economic downturn has, according to Mr. Oller, brought more middle-class customers to the loan windows. But the real change in pawning has to do with the skyrocketing price of gold. With gold at $1,500 an ounce, pawnshops are making easy profits by buying gold jewelry and selling it to refineries. For sellers, those gold cufflinks languishing in a jewelry box might now cover several weeks’ worth of groceries.
Even gold dust has become worth pursuing. Inspired by stories he’d heard of people boiling the carpets in old jewelry manufacturing buildings to recover remnants of precious metals, Mr. Oller installed a special sewage filtration system in his shop. Now, after employees work with jewelry, they can wash their hands — those tricky crevasses in the knuckles and under their nails — without throwing money, literally, down the drain. Silver Lining’s sewage sludge is collected, dried, baked and burned. “It’s gross,” he admits. But from hand-washing water, he said, the shop collected about $1,000 last year.
Mr. Oller takes me on a tour of the store, including its maze of storage rooms filled with the traditional pawn loot: electronics and guns. But I have a passion for old junk and we both perk up in a low-ceilinged room holding objects that defy categorization.
“What’s that?” I ask, pointing to a small turquoise trunk. It holds a ventriloquist’s dummy. I desperately want to look at it, but Mr. Oller has moved on to a 100-year-old bottle of Kentucky whiskey. “How much did you loan for that?” I ask.
“Probably 50 bucks,” he says. And then there are the items for which it’s nearly impossible to name a price, like the miniature but functional cannon made out of brass.
When we finish the tour, I find myself drawn to the jewelry cases. It’s hard not to imagine the sad stories behind the diamond rings sitting there — love soured, jobs lost. But I steel myself to see if there’s any gold vintage jewelry, the kind I wear and love. The absence of this — of any gold jewelry — is notable.
Most days I wear a gold Victorian lion pendant that my boyfriend got for me when I sold my first book. I’d long admired it in the window of an estate jewelry store in Berkeley, Calif., where I was living at the time. The impeccably made lion holds a little diamond shard in his fierce mouth. His eyes shine with ruby beads. His whiskers grow from tiny specks beneath his perfectly carved nostrils. I love to think about where he came from, and whom he will belong to after I’m gone. I hate to think — in fact, can’t bring myself to think — of his horrible end if I pawned him. Straight to the scrapper, he’d go.
When I say the fate of all the gold jewelry seems sad, Mr. Oller shrugs. “Gold’s just a commodity, like grain,” he says.
From a pawnbroker’s perspective, this outlook makes sense. Regular customers can no longer afford gold jewelry, and so pawnbrokers stand to make more selling it all to refineries. But I think of my grandmother’s filigreed earrings and my lion pendant, both antique pieces made with great care, now part of my own history. I imagine these objects melted into bars and sold on the open market — to China, to Russia. It’s unsettling.
For a while I wonder whether I can set up a little booth in front of the pawnshop and convince people to sell their antique jewelry to me instead, to save it from its fiery end. But this would probably be illegal, financially suspect … maybe even insane. I settle on hoping that some people, despite this extended recession, can afford to keep their heirloom earrings and cufflinks, medallions and lockets — those little pieces of our human history, sentimental and unrefined.
Robin Romm is the author of “The Mercy Papers: A Memoir of Three Weeks.”