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Three Golden Balls Pawnbrokers Sign

Updated on February 14, 2017

How it All Began

A pawnbrokers business is to accept personal pledges, items of value , left as security in the possession of the pawnbroker in exchange for about ten per cent of the value of the item in cash.

The business is said to have originated in Italy during the middle ages. Pawnshops were operated by the Jews and the Lombards.

The first money lenders in England came from Lombardy during this same time period. They set up their shops on Lombardy Street in London.

The Lombard family of Medici at Florence ,Italy were among the first person's to engage in money lending and pawnbrokering.

Averardo de Medici, a guard under Charlemagne ,is said to have slain a well known person named Mugello on whose sign were three golden balls. The Medici people adopted the three golden balls as their professional symbol. The three balls were supposed to represent three "pills". in keeping with their medical profession.

Shortly after this the Medici's became money lenders and bankers. They slowly began using the symbol from the first profession as a symbol for the second profession.

During these times, banking,lending, and pawnbrokering were all the same business.

To this day the three golden balls still represent a pawnbrokers shop.

Understanding Pawn Shops

In an emergency items may be pawned for a set fee. This usually is about ten per cent of the retail value.

This is the part that most people don't understand. The item they are pawning may have a lot of sentimental value or it may contain real gems, gold or other precious metals. many customers are shocked when the broker offers ten bucks for a hundred dollar item.

This has two purposes. One is so you won't have a great deal of trouble in getting your item back. It is a lot easier to pay back ten dollars than it is to pay back a hundred. Secondly the broker can only give you a percentage based on the real value of the item.

For jewelry items in particular the retail value may be several hundred dollars. But the actual value that the jewelry shop owner paid for it was probably only one third of the retail value. A six hundred dollar item quickly becomes a two hundred dollar or less item.

Follow the Rules

The variety of items available at a pawnshop can vary from power tools to exquisite jewelry. Items that were not picked up by the owner become the property of the pawnshop.

Most pawn shops also buy scrap gold and silver.

Precious stones are removed from jewelry before the pawnshop sends it their scrap buyer. So if you leave a pawned item and think that you'll go a couple days after your ticket has expired you may find your pawned item is gone and can't be retrieved.

The broker will explain this to you and most pawn tickets have specific instructions on the back of the ticket regarding what will happen if you don't pick it up.

So don't leave your item and think you'll go get it later.

Your Local Pawn Shop


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