A Pawnbroker’s Guide To Shopping Maximizes A Pawn Shop Experience
Tips and Insight from the other side of the counter
Before I started designing games at Brass Engine Productions I was a pawnbroker. I’m always amazed at how many people tell me they’ve never been into a pawn shop. I strongly encourage you to check it out. I’ll even provide you with a pawnbroker’s guide to shopping to make it easier. Whether you’ve never been into a pawn shop before, or if you’ve been and just want to know more, here my suggestions on how to get the best bang for your buck.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate!
“Pawn brokers are in customer service and prefer honey as opposed to the common vinegar.”
Rule #1 at the pawn shop: Everything is negotiable. Now, I’m not saying to expect to offer less than half and get the deal. Most pawn brokers won’t take you seriously if you do. Generally, most items you can get up to 30% knocked off the top if you use any sort of charm and charisma. Pawn brokers are in customer service and prefer honey as opposed to the common vinegar. Plus, the longer an item has been on the shelf the more motivation there is to sell. So be sure and look for stock dates on price stickers.
He who speaks first, loses.
“Although you don’t want to get into a Mexican standoff waiting for a bid, a little bit of stubbornness can pay off.”
There’s a manager that loves to repeat this. As much as I try, I can’t argue how true it can be. Although you don’t want to get into a Mexican standoff waiting for a bid, a little bit of stubbornness can pay off. I can always tell in someone’s face if I made the first bid and it was cheaper than they were going to offer by a long shot. But I’ve also been prepared with a string of bidding offers and the person would simply ask me to cover the tax. (By the way, even if something just hit the shelves you can almost always get tax covered. Even 8% is better than nothing.)
Do your homework.
The internet is a blessing and a curse for pawn shops. With today’s technology you can use your phone and browse the same search engines we do to bid on items. This is why the goal is to have desirable items on the shelf with an optimal price to sell quickly. The more dust an item collects the more chance it’s being replaced with the new and improved model. Don’t be afraid to use this to your advantage. Price fluctuation comes with the territory and even if you don’t make the deal, politely informing a pawn broker can get you bonus points. Regular customers watch for price drops. Helping an item sell faster gets you in good graces.
What does a pawn shop want to buy?
Pawn shops will make a bid on anything they think they can sell. However, items that are guaranteed to get a bid are going to be gold and guns. Gold and guns hold their value above all other products you’re going to find. They are also the most competitive market and so the buying margins to actual pricing points are much tighter. Now don’t stop what you’re doing and run to the shop with all of your jewelry or any custom modified rifles yet. You may want to brace yourself here.
Gold – The buying point for gold is based on market value for the materials (spot price). Ready for a little math breakdown? Between 2017 and 2018 an ounce of pure gold ran around $1350. Karat determines the purity of the gold (10K is 41.7%, 14K is 58.5%, 18K is 75.0%). Your average ring is going to weigh between 1/10 and 1/20 of an ounce. Somewhere around 75% or more of jewelry bought by the pawn shop is sent to a refinery for scrap. So unless the pawnbroker is 100% certain they can offer more because it will sell for more, your average 14K ring is going to get you around $30-$60 cash. Selling an item on your own as a piece of jewelry will net you more money in the long run, if you’re willing to do the leg work. But it never hurts to get an offer and have gold content verified first.
Guns- With firearms the condition is everything. Both the buyer and the seller will want to use their best judgement for where the condition falls on a Blue Book percentage scale. A pawnbroker is always going to err on a conservative percentage in case there is anything missed on the primary inspection. Accessories rarely bring any more to the table. If you think you can use them on another firearm, you’re best off leaving them home. The next person wanting to negotiate with the pawnbroker will likely try to negotiate the price down by getting the accessories left off anyway.
A quick anecdote: Some of the most lucrative items I bought for the store had other pawn brokers thumbing their nose at my purchase. Someone had a box of decorations in good condition that they wanted to be rid of for next to nothing. Low and behold, all of the items sold for nearly ten times what I’d paid for them and were gone in just over a month.
Judge for yourself.
Hollywood has painted a dismal image for pawn stores. In my experience, it’s extremely rare to find one as sketchy as those in movies and on television. In truth, a lot are Mom ‘n Pop shops that want to run an honest business. We actually lose money if we accidentally purchase stolen goods. No one likes having something stolen. That’s why if an item is located we work closely with local law enforcement to have the item returned. It’s extremely rare that we ever see the original money or compensation for such items. So don’t believe the hype that pawn shops are fencing operations.
I hope my little pawnbroker’s guide to shopping motivates you to have your own pawn shop experience. It’s never the same two days in a row. It definitely requires a person to do regular research and retain information. But it’s great for someone like me, an game designer at heart, that sees the act of negotiating as a friendly competition.