Inside Pawn: 4 Pawn Shop Services

February 05, 2020 - Pawn Resources

As the co-founder of PawnGuru, I run into a lot of misconceptions about how pawn shops operate.  

As much as I love Pawn Stars, I’m not sure that show has made their operations much clearer to the public – they’re a very (and very awesome) special case for how they work!

Essentially pawnshops do three things:

1. They offer pawn loans which are loans given to people based on the value of their collateral item.

2. They offer to buy items people no longer want

3. Sell items in their retail store

Pawn Loans

A pawn loan is otherwise known as a no recourse loan. What that means is that the pawn shop will hold onto your merchandise during the length of the loan.  If you should default on the loan by not paying it on time, the pawn shop will end up keeping whatever merchandise it was that you put up for the loan.

The amount of your loan will be determined by the value of the merchandise that you have brought into the pawn shop. Pawn loans are typically much more affordable than other short-term financing options.

While the amount of interest a pawn shop can charge you will very state-by-state, in most states it is dramatically more affordable than your typical payday advance loan.

Selling Items to a Pawn Shop

If you want to sell something to a pawn shop the process is extremely easy – and has been essentially the same for hundreds of years.

Bring the item you want to sell to the pawnbroker. The pawnbroker inspects the item and asks a couple of questions to determine an offer price. Which you of course have the choice of accepting, negotiating for a higher offer, or walking away.

Make sure that whatever you are taking into the pawn shop is clean and in good condition. And complete – if it’s electronics, bring all the wires. Small steps like that make a huge difference in how much you can get for a pawn loan or sale. What that means is that you should spend at least a few minutes wiping off, or cleaning off what ever it is that you intend on taking to the pawn shop.

You don’t have to go crazy with it, but at least make a solid effort to make your item as presentable and complete as possible to the pawn shop when you take it in.

Buying Items at a Pawn Shop

When deciding to purchase an item at a pawn shop there are a few things that you should keep in mind.

The first thing is that most items sold at a pawn shop are used. It’s a great idea to check for missing or broken parts before deciding whether you want to purchase the item. If you do decide to purchase, ask the pawnbroker what their refund policy is against items that they sell.

The last thing you should know is that most pawnbrokers are willing to negotiate a price you are willing to spend for their item. If you ask to pay between 10% and 15% under the ticketed price of an item, you might be surprised to learn that they agree to it. They want to move inventory as fast as they can – they only have a limited amount of shelf space in their store!

Other Services They May Offer

In general pawn shops work and operate the same way but there are some that offer more services than others. These services can be check cashing, notary services, or maybe authorized Western Union agents.

So I encourage you to at least check out your local pawn shop to discover what services they offer and how they can meet your needs. These needs maybe helping you get quick cash for unwanted items, a loan, or items that they offer in their retail store.

If you have any questions or need advice on selling or pawning your item, shoot me a message at We’re always eager to help!

David Stiebel
David Stiebel

David Stiebel is one of the cofounders of PawnGuru. David was educated at MIT, where he studied Math. He subsequently worked at Bain as a data scientist before starting PawnGuru in 2015. He started PawnGuru to build a better tool for pawn shops and consumers to connect.

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Avatar for Taylor Bishop

Taylor Bishop

November 7, 2017, 4:49 PM

Thanks for helping me learn more about some different things that a pawnshop can do. It’s good to know that anything that you are trying to sell should be cleaned so that it’s in good condition. It sounds like it could be good to research and learn more about some different tactics to do this depending on the item.

Avatar for Kayla


January 31, 2018, 12:59 AM

Thanks for reminding that most items sold at a pawn shop are used. My brother wants to give my mom a present for her birthday. My dad suggested buying a jewelry from a pawnshop and shared this article with him.

Avatar for Earnest Watkins

Earnest Watkins

March 19, 2018, 5:04 PM

It’s good to know that a pawn shop loan uses your items as collateral. I’m sure this would mean that a pawn shop loan would be a good option for someone with poor credit. I don’t have great credit, and I wouldn’t mind looking to a pawn shop for help in the future if I need a personal loan.

Avatar for Taylor Bishop

Taylor Bishop

March 22, 2018, 1:25 PM

I just wanted to thank you for helping me learn about different pawn shop services. I actually didn’t know that when you are selling an item to the shop that it’s inspected and questions will be asked. I’m kind of interested to learn more about what they look at and how they could determine the price for it.

Avatar for Elsa Anderson

Elsa Anderson

April 13, 2018, 6:25 PM

It is interesting that you mention selling items to a pawn shop is an easy process because you take the item to the broker and then you can decide if you accept the price they are offering to you. My husband and I have a few items that are just taking up space in our house and we are thinking of taking them to a pawn shop. I appreciate the tip that you should make a large effort to make your item as presentable and complete as possible so you can get the best price.

Avatar for Hazel Owens

Hazel Owens

November 29, 2018, 3:31 AM

That’s good to know that if you ask for 10% to 15% under the ticketed price of an item that the shop may be willing to negotiate with you and sell it to you at that price. My son wants to get some gear for his guns and his troop, so I’m looking for a place I can buy the supplies for a good price. I’ll have to see if any pawn shops are offering a good deal and if I can negotiate a lower price with them.

Avatar for Steele Honda

Steele Honda

March 4, 2019, 11:22 PM

Thanks for pointing out that you should probably spend at least a few minutes wiping off, or cleaning whatever it is that you intend on taking to the pawn shop. My husband has a bunch of old video game consoles lying around the house, and I think if we could spend a little bit cleaning them up and finding all their parts they would be a good thing to take to the pawn shop since he doesn’t play them anymore. I also think it’s fun to look and see what the pawn shop has to buy while we’re there because you kind find items there that you can’t always find at other places.

Avatar for Sam Li

Sam Li

May 30, 2019, 4:46 PM

I like what you said about the benefits of pawn loans. Obtaining a pawn shop loan is a great idea if you are in a financial bind. My friend wants to get a pawn loan, so I’ll help him find the best business in town.

Avatar for Jenna Hunter

Jenna Hunter

June 19, 2019, 9:58 PM

My aunt needs to get some cash fast. Getting a cash loan from a pawn shop could be really helpful. I’ll be sure to tell her that a pawn loan is different from a bank loan because they will keep your merchandise during the length of the loan.

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