How Do Pawn Shops Work? A Quick Guide

February 29, 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.

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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.

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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 $1,000?

You need money for rent, for food, or a medical emergency because of our dumb health care system that causes 65% of US bankruptcies.

You can pawn the following items for roughly $1000:

Diamond Rings

Diamond rings are great to bring into pawn shops. You’ll usually get much closer to market value if you bring in a diamond ring. Here’s why.

There’s a huge culture in America of young couples going into pawn shops to buy diamond rings. When you enter the pawn shop one of the first things you’ll see is the large glass case of diamond rings. Do you have a really nice ring? Add your ring to the pawn shop collection for $1000. I heard of a guy pawning his ring for $7000 on PawnGuru a few weeks ago. This is one of your best bets. Here’s advice on how to get the most for your ring.

Also, the metal and the diamonds are worth money even if the ring doesn’t sell. Pawn shops know that they can’t sell every item, but if a diamond ring doesn’t sell, pawn shops can always sell the diamond and the metal. What is your ring made out of? If it’s gold, look for an engraving inside that has a number and a K. The higher the karat the higher the price. If it’s silver, look for 3 numbers. If the 3 numbers also have a pt, a plat, or a platinum next to them, congratulations your ring is platinum! Platinum is worth more than gold. If your ring just has 3 numbers, it is silver. The 3 numbers correspond to the purity of the metal. The closer it is to 999, the more the ring is worth.

Other Jewelry

Have a ring, but it isn’t a diamond ring? Have a necklace or a bracelet or a brooch? These also pawn and sell for a good price at pawn shops. Remember, they are small with a high turnover rate. They require little storage for the shop and sell for a lot of money. If the pawn shop can’t sell it, they can always sell the parts of the jewelry for scrap metal and scrap gems.

There isn’t as big of a culture around non-diamond rings, but they are still worth a large amount of money. The same goes for all other jewelry. The more the metal of your jewelry is worth, the more the jewelry is worth. The more the gemstones of your jewelry is worth, the more the jewelry is worth. Also, the better your item looks the more it is worth. Please clean it, please keep it in good condition, and please take care of it on the way to the pawn shop.

If your item isn’t in good condition, you can always sell it for scrap metal and scrap gems to a pawn shop. You can sell broken necklaces, broken bracelets, and broken rings.


Some watches are worth $1000 at a pawn shop. How much did you pay for your watch? Is your watch a collector’s item? Is your watch in good condition? Is your watch made out of precious metals? Is your watch a Rolex, Breitling, Chopard, or Panerai? Rolex watches went for an average of  $2805, Breitling watches went for an average of $1325, Chopards went for an average of $1500, and Panerais went for an average of $4500 in 2019 at PawnGuru..

Take a look at our article on how to pawn a watch for more info.


Some guns are worth over $1000 at a pawn shop. Most guns aren’t worth over $1000 at a pawn shop. Remember what pawn shops like. They like small, high-quality, high worth items which sell fast and for lots of money. Make sure your pawn shop specializes in guns. If your pawn shop specializes in guns, they have a much higher turnover rate for guns. Higher turnover rate=more money. Use PawnGuru to pawn your gun and you’ll get the best deal from the shops which specialize in guns.

A good gun can be like a good watch. Go to to find your specific gun and it’s face value worth. If your gun is in good condition, if it’s a collector’s item or an antique, or if it’s a high quality brand, all of these things will make your gun get a higher price. Please make sure it is functional and clean. Please clean your gun.

Also, this is very important. Have all of the licensing and all of the forms that say that gun is yours. You cannot pawn or sell a gun to a pawn shop that isn’t registered in your name! If it isn’t registered in your name, go and register it in your name. If it was gifted to you, go and get the paperwork from the person who gifted it to you!

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 the 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 fewer 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
  • Powerchair
  • 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.

Get local cash offers for it – free, fast & easy.

Pawn or Sell My Item

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 Angela


November 18, 2019, 9:31 PM

My son passed away. I have his 2010 Apple laptop model A1278, CRA model:RCT6503W12H1 and a WD My Paasport Ultra. Not sure if I have the proper cords. In a momentary insanity sort of, greiving distress, I started throwing things out; regrettably so. Just wondering what I could get for pawning these items without the proper cords.

Avatar for Eileen Benson

Eileen Benson

January 2, 2020, 7:07 PM

Thanks for the tip to clean our power tools and ensure they have all their parts before we sell them to a pawn shop. My husband and I were thinking about selling some old things to a local pawn shop to help us pay our bills this month. We do have a couple of power tools we could part with, so the info you shared here will come in handy!

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