As mankind’s oldest financial institution, pawnbroking carries on a tradition with a rich history. Pawnbroking can be traced back at least 3,000 years to ancient China, and has been found in the earliest written histories of Greek and Roman civilizations.
During the Middle Ages, certain usury laws imposed by the Church prohibited the charging of interest on loans, thus limiting pawnbroking to people who had religious beliefs outside of the Church. Out of economic necessity, and because of problems in the banking system, pawnshops made a resurgence in later years. The House of the Lombard operated pawnshops throughout Europe. Legend contends that they even counted royalty, such as King Edward III of England, among their clientele during the 14th century. The symbol of the Lombards’ operations was the three gold balls that still remain the trademark.
Queen Isabella of Spain pawned the crown jewels to finance Columbus’ voyage to America. The word pawn originates from the Latin word ‘patinum’ which means cloth or clothing. The French word ‘pan’ refers to a skirt or blouse. In the early centuries, the principle assets people had were their clothes and borrowed money by pawning their clothing.
The universal symbol of pawnbroking is three gold balls and is one of the most easily recognized in the world. The Medici families in Italy along with the Lombards in England were moneylenders in Europe. Legend has it that one of the Medicis in the employ of Emperor Charles the Great fought a giant and slew him with three sacks of rocks. The three balls or globes later became part of their family crest, and ultimately, the sign of pawnbroking.
In today’s society, many people depend on pawnbrokers to help them meet daily financial needs not offered by other financial institutions. Pawn customers represent the working families of America who periodically experience an unexpected need for short-term funds. Pawn loans keep the electricity on, the rent paid and cars running with full tanks of gas.
Today’s pawn stores are attractive, welcoming places to do business. Most of them are family-owned and operated stores that offer superb customer service.
Pawnbrokers comply with all federal, state and local regulations and laws. In most jurisdictions, they provide local law enforcement with data on all transactions on a daily basis.