I once thought of pawn shops as crooked, miserable places where people go as a last resort for money or stolen merchandise. But in reality, they’re sometimes the best outlets to find deals and earn cash! Consider them to be like giant, ongoing garage sales where you can barter for deals and find all kinds of goods you’d pay more for in traditional retail stores. For example, you can get a used second generation 16GB Apple iPad for just $239.00 versus $319.00 for the same refurbished model sold directly from Apple!

Some pawn shops specialize in specific products like jewelry and electronics while others sell just about everything. All of them, however, are regulated by the government, so you don’t have to worry about your new toy being a stolen item.

How pawn shops work

Pawn shops provide those in need of a small loan an alternative to borrowing from a bank. If I really needed the money, I could simply walk into a pawn shop with the awful, gold butterfly necklace I received from an ex-boyfriend long ago and use it as collateral for a small loan. The pawn shop owner will then keep my necklace and charge me a fee plus interest until I am ready to pay back the borrowed money. If I never return for my necklace after the agreed-upon time frame, the pawn shop owner will just keep it and resell the necklace for an amount he sees fit. Each state charges different fees, so be sure to do your research beforehand.

Tips for pawning

  • Make sure you’re aware of all fees: Even if the shop charges a small interest rate, there could be ticket fees, storage fees, lost ticket or lost receipt fees. Be aware of all charges before completing your transaction.
  • Make sure the shop is insured: If the shop is robbed, it’s important they’re insured so you can be certain you’ll get money back for the value of your item. Look for the shop’s statement of insurance on your paperwork.
  • Check for credibility: Make sure the shop is established. Ask how long they’ve been in business and how long they’ve been in their current location. You should also feel safe pawning there; if the place gives you the heebie jeebies, pawn elsewhere.

Tips for selling

If you’d rather be rid of an ex’s gift forever, use some of these tips to help you get the most out of selling your unwanted junk:

  • Know what they want: Pawn shops love receiving items that they can easily resell. Jewelry  is probably the most popular since the price of gold remains consistently high. If you plan to sell a piece of jewelry to your local pawn shop, expect them to offer you about 40–60% less than what you bought it for. Tools, laptops, GPS units, gaming systems and cell phones also tend to be eagerly accepted.
  • Negotiate: Before you even set foot into a shop, know how much your item is worth and then set a minimum selling price. If the pawn shop owner isn’t liking your offer, persuade him by highlighting your item’s characteristics.
  • Prove the worth: Be sure your pawn shop owner knows how much your merchandise is actually worth. If you need to spend some time cleaning or scrubbing your goods, do it! They want to be able to sell your item just as much as you do. Put batteries in electronic products to prove they work, or see an appraiser before selling jewelry. If possible bring a certificate that proves the value of the item you’re selling.

Tips for buying

  • Look for flaws: Test everything before buying. Look for a product’s flaws and use them to ask for a cheaper price. Remember, you can negotiate at pawn shops, so take advantage of this.
  • Pay with cash: Cash is king, especially at pawn shops where owners (like everyone else) respond best when they see green bills. Paying with cash will also prevent you from overspending.
  • Read the fine print: Nobody wants to find out later that the product they just purchased isn’t authentic. Find out the return policy and whether something is real before purchasing. Also, checking the date code on price tags may help in getting a better deal. The longer the item has been on sale, the more likely you’ll be able to negotiate a cheaper price.
How to Sell, Borrow and Save at Pawn Shops