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About Pawn

  • PAWN, n. something given as security for the repayment of money or the performance of a promise: state of being pledged. 
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What does the pawn shop symbol mean?  

As legend has it, the pawn symbol, which is three spheres suspended from a bar, traces back to the Medici family – a prominent family in Florence, Italy in the 15th century known for loaning and banking. The Medici family crest features the symbol of the three balls, because a member of the Medici family was supposedly working for Emperor Charles the Great and killed a giant with three bags of rocks. 

The Medicis were so well known as a finance family that other lenders and people in the finance business adopted similar coats of arms featuring the three golden balls. Gradually, the three balls came to signify the financial profession. 


Another story goes this way – Saint Nicolas, the patron saint of pawnbrokers, gave three bags of coins to the three daughters of a poor man so that they could marry. The three balls in the symbol represent the three bags of coins. 


Whatever the exact origin, the symbol has staying power. It is a trademark of the industry, featured in numerous logos, including the logo of the National Pawnbrokers Association–the industry’s premier trade association. Also, the symbol is featured in pawn shops all over the world. 


Pawn Facts & Figures 

Nationwide, there are approximately 11,000 pawn stores, most of which are family-owned small businesses. They employ approximately 35,000 individuals and contribute $3 billion to the US economy. [Source: US Census Bureau 2018 NAICS Code 522298]  For 3,000 years, people have relied on pawn to meet short-term financial needs. The earliest records of pawn show it has roots in China. Pawn has been regulated by state since 1892. 


Present day nationwide, pawnbrokers must comply with 14 federal statutes and regulations. Pawn customers represent the working families of America who may experience an unexpected need for short-term funds. Pawn transactions keep the electricity on, the rent paid, and cars running by providing a safety-net to over 30 million unbanked or underbanked Americans annually.  


Today, the average pawn customer does not have access to traditional banking lines of credit, nor will traditional banking provide such small loans. Pawn transactions average less than $180 nationwide and pawnbrokers make thousands of loans daily for less than $50.  Pawn customers need short-term, non-recourse access to cash not based on their credit or income level. Instead, pawn transaction amounts are based upon personal property they already own. Pawn consumers borrow against personal assets in a manner similar to others borrowing against real estate, stock or insurance policies. 


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau states in a 2017 report that pawns do not harm consumers, are not confusing, and do not put consumers in a cycle of debt. 

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