How Do Pawn Shops Work? A Quick Guide

March 03, 2020 - Pawn Resources

Do you need fast cash?

Are you thinking about pawning your items to get some much-needed cash? If you are new to pawning and have no idea exactly how it all works, then you might be a bit apprehensive.

However, rest assured that you are not in uncharted waters. In fact, 7.4 percent of households in America have used a pawnbroker at some point.

This means that if you have been wondering, “how do pawn shops work?” you are definitely not alone. Here are some guidelines as to what you can expect when you visit a pawn shop.

How Do Pawn Shops Work?

Pawnshops are places where you can sell your items for cash. However, you can put your items up as collateral for a loan. When you put an item up for collateral, you will get cash and the item will be used for securing the loan.

You will have to pay back the amount of the loan with interest over a set period of time.

If you pay back the loan with interest during the agreed time, then you will receive your item back. If you don’t pay back the money you borrowed, then your item will be sold to the public for the recovery of the money.

How Much Can You Get?

Now that you know the basics of how pawn shops work, you may be wondering how much money you can get from them.

You do not need to have a really expensive item to get a loan. However, if you need a lot of cash, then you will need an expensive item.

This is because your loan will be a percentage of what the item is worth. The percentage may differ depending on the pawnshop. However, more likely than not you can negotiate the amount of your loan, so don’t be afraid to speak up if you think you can get a better deal.

Is It Safe?

Pawn shops are actually regulated by local governments and need to be licensed by the state.

Examinations are often carried out to ensure that there is compliance with the laws that govern transactions, fees, duration of loans and the grace period offered.

Many states place restrictions on the interest rates that pawn shops can charge. However, some states are not rigid about this. You need to make sure your state does not allow brokers to charge large interest rates if you intend to put up expensive items such as jewelry for collateral.

Pawning versus Selling

There is a difference between pawning and selling, even though you can do both at a pawn shop. When you are pawning an item, you are giving it to a pawn shop as collateral for a loan. The loan amount is the value your item is appraised at by the pawnbroker.

The loan will need to be paid back by a given date that you and the pawnbroker agree on. When you pay back your loan and by the given date, you should expect to receive your item back.

Selling an item at a pawn shop is very straightforward. The item is appraised and you either agree to sell it to them outright for that amount, or you don’t. You have negotiating power, but do keep in mind pawnbrokers tend to keep a good pulse on the current pricing of electronic devices.

Pawn shops are a reselling business so they need to be able to sell your item for a profit. It is easier for them to buy it from you than it is for them to issue you a loan. You will get more money if you sell it to them than if you pawn your item.

How to Pawn Something Quickly for the Most Money Possible

Since you’re wanting to pawn something quickly, you probably don’t want to spend time researching how to get the most money for it. However, we’ll give you some words of advice that might help you get more cash than you intended.

In order to get the most cash for something you pawn, you should show that it was well taken care of. This means you should always include all the original components and make sure it’s clean.

Original components can simply include the item plus the box it came in, or you can go as far as including extra accessories that you bought to go along with the item.

Aside from this, you want to make sure your item is clean. It will appear newer (and therefore more valuable to the pawnbroker) if you get rid of any dust, cobwebs or dirt that might have accumulated on it.

If you’re undecided on what type of item you will pawn, read our post on the Best Things to Pawn for Quick Cash. It will give you a list of the items pawn shops will often give you money for, and what they place the most value on.

In the end, this will give you ideas for what will get you the most money.

Best Items to Pawn or Sell

Ask yourself these three questions.

Is this an item that anybody can use/is it sized for anybody?

Does it retain its value over time?

Is it made out of high quality materials?

What Can I Pawn for $500?

You can pawn the following items for approximately $500 cash today.

  • Gamer Computer
  • High-End Laptop
  • New Large Screen HD or 4K TV
  • Riding Lawn Mower
  • Old Car or Truck (the title must be in your name)
  • Gold, Platinum & Silver Jewelry
  • Large Diamond with Great Clarity
  • High-End Watch
  • Motorcycle (the title must be in your name)
  • High-End Musical Instrument
  • Firearm (must be in your name)

What Can I Pawn for $100?

You can pawn the following items for approximately $100 cash today.

  • Hoverboard
  • Large Flat Screen TV
  • PS4
  • Laptop
  • Tablet
  • Bose Speakers
  • Mountain Bike
  • Golf Clubs
  • Digital Camera
  • Xbox One
  • Smartphone
  • Gun
  • Jewelry with Precious Metal or Stones (Watch, Ring, Earrings, Necklace, Bracelet)
  • Tools (particularly power tools)
  • Gym Equipment
  • Generator
  • AC Unit
  • GoPro
  • Vacuum
  • Yeti Cooler
  • Tattoo Equipment
  • Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer
  • Refrigerator
  • Apple Watch
  • Washer & Dryer
  • Designer Handbag

What Can I Pawn for $50?

You can pawn the following items for $50 cash today.

  • Designer Belt
  • Designer Backpack
  • Designer Handbag
  • Designer Sunglasses
  • Designer Shoes
  • Gold or Silver Jewelry
  • Brand Name Watch
  • Smart TV
  • Tablet Computer
  • Game Console
  • Smartphone
  • Laptop
  • iPod Touch (5th generation & later)
  • Printer and/or Scanner
  • Beats by Dre
  • Musical Instrument
  • Lawn Mower
  • Kitchen Aid Mixer
  • Dyson Vacuum
  • Leaf Blower
  • Sentry Safe
  • Washer and/or Dryer
  • Air Conditioner
  • 380 Cobra Gun (or comparable)

You may get more or less than the amounts here. It all depends on your brand of your item, the condition it’s in, and the quality.

Common Items Brought to Pawn Shops that Don’t Get Offers

As a platform that helps facilitate millions of dollars in offers for pawners, we also collect a lot of data that shows common items people attempt to pawn that often don’t receive offers.

The reasons why pawn shops give less offers for some items can vary. This could be due to the poor condition of a specific item, a lack of consistency with what the shop resells and many more reasons.

Take a look at this list of items below that pawn shops most frequently turn down.

  • Baseball cards
  • Pearls
  • Motorcycle helmet
  • Alternator
  • 22-inch rims
  • Refrigerator
  • Basketball cards
  • Crutches
  • Disney VHS tapes
  • Old cellphones (newer iPhones and Androids would be an exception)
  • Dresser
  • Jordan shoes
  • Oxygen tank
  • Transmission
  • Sofa
  • Tanning bed
  • Tattoo Equipment
  • Sewing machine
  • VHS tapes
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Broken TV
  • Dress
  • Chandelier
  • Dryer
  • Radiator
  • LG Tribute 5
  • Mirror
  • Hospital bed
  • Table
  • Painting
  • Safety harness
  • Tungsten carbide ring
  • Car amp
  • Piano
  • 24-inch rims
  • Baby swing
  • Grandfather clock
  • Typewriter
  • Gucci shoes
  • Formal dress
  • China
  • Bedroom Set
  • VCR
  • Desktop computer
  • Propane tanks
  • Power chair
  • Phone cases
  • Baby crib
  • Electric stove
  • Ugg boots

How to Pawn Something Quickly Today

In order to pawn something quickly today, you’ll want to list it online at PawnGuru. Not only will this help you pawn it on the same day, it will also help you avoid getting low-balled.

This is because we make it possible for you to easily receive offers from multiple pawn shops and deal with the shop that gives you the most money.

Here’s how to use PawnGuru to pawn something quickly:

  1. Visit
  2. List your item by clicking the “pawn” tab
  3. Enter the information (it takes only a few minutes)
  4. Be as thorough as possible with the information you enter, as this can help you get more accurate offers.
  5. Watch offers roll in
  6. Enter the pawn shop with your item
  7. The pawnbroker will evaluate your item in person to finalize the offer
  8. Walk out with cash in hand in exchange for your item
  9. Pay back your loan, plus fees and interest to get your item back. Make sure you make note of the payback date!

Final Thoughts

It is only natural you should ask, “how do pawn shops work?” when you are seriously thinking about getting some cash by pawning your items. The key to having a successful experience is to know how everything works and deciding if you want to sell an item or use it as collateral.

It is usually okay to negotiate so you can get the best deal. You should also do your research about interest rates in your state.

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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