How Do Pawn Shops Determine the Value of Items?

January 30, 2020 - Pawn Resources

Customers purchase products from a pawn shop because they want to get a great deal.

Like all businesses, a pawn shop will try to make a profit on the sale, so they make sure that they understand the value of the product they purchase. Pawn shops determine the value of a product in a number of ways and they mostly rely on research and experience to set the right price tag. This is how they largely determine the value of items:

Experience with Regular Merchandise

Experienced pawn brokers are always aware of the market values of certain products. They know the current values of regular products like gold, silver, precious stones, watches, musical instruments, etc. and can set the pawn shop prices based on just experience and industry knowledge.

They don’t need to consult specialized files or databases in such cases. Of course, if something truly unique comes along, they’ll adjust the price accordingly. For example, an antique gold ring worn by a famous person would be worth more than its weight, simply because it’s an antique and unique. In such cases, the pawn brokers will research the merchandise and find the right price.


The pawn brokers will research unusual or rare items that they’re unfamiliar with. There are some online databases that provide information on rare books, stamps, prints, etc. Brokers will also use merchandise networks like eBay and Craigslist for information.

They’ll perform advanced search on eBay and look beyond the first few results to get the right information. Brokers actually look at eBay auction bid prices rather than the buy-it-now option as it gives them a clear idea of what the product is worth, in the buyer’s eyes. Brokers usually spend hours of research on rare and potentially valuable items before they decide on the pawn shop prices.

Expert Opinions

This doesn’t happen often because despite what’s shown on TV, experts on merchandise don’t just sit around the corner and appear whenever pawn brokers need help to determine the price of a product. However, there are some times that they do need an expert opinion.

For example, if a customer comes in with a firearm, or a painting, or even a vintage car, they need to get expert opinion on the value. In such cases, the pawn broker will call someone with the right expertise to help them determine the value.

Sentimental Value

Some merchandise doesn’t have traditional value, but has sentimental value. The value of such merchandise isn’t easy to establish. A book that’s autographed by the author might sell for exorbitant prices or be valueless based on who the author is. For example, a signed copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings would be of immense value.

Similarly, a pawn broker will also consider personal sentimental value. If you want to pawn your mother’s earnings for some urgent cash, a pawn broker might offer a bigger amount because of the sentimental value. Smaller pawn shops usually do this for clients they’re familiar with.

If you have any questions comments or concerns, please send them to We’re 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 Alex


May 30, 2016, 5:57 PM

I am an owner of pawn shops Goldbuyers at Greece. I read your article and i agree. Of course the products value it isn’t always teh same it depends from the use of the product, the price of the gold the exact period if the product it is a golden one and many other things. In my opinion the most right is both sides to benefit from the transaction.

Avatar for Jalene


June 27, 2017, 11:12 PM

Great question! Self-employment to me means:-Living life on my terms-Being able to fully express myeFrf-elesdom-Have more time with friends and family-Being able to serve and share my gifts-Having complete control of how I want to live-To name a few ;)xoxoAlara

Avatar for John


August 16, 2017, 2:51 AM

Alex I commented this on a separate article, Because I agree, I think it’s really a judgement call on the margins, and that is up to the owner, but there needs to be more regulation of the knowledge base of the owner….
Putting a piece of 14Kt gold jewelry on a scale, multiplying it by 58% and then looking at the price of gold online, to come up with an “expert opinion” is not adequate in my opinion…

And I think that’s pretty much the general knowledge base of pawnbrokers… Here’s why I say:

I was curious as to the knowledge of pawnbrokers, so i borrowed a pair 2.15 Ct Diamond stud earrings, that had been certified by GIA, and appraised at over $10,000 dollars, just to see if the “average pawn shop” knew whether or not the diamonds were real… Was not looking for any other information, just curious if they were able to tell if they were real or fake…..

I had no intention on pawning or selling them, I was just curious as to the knowledge base…
So that’s exactly what I did, Just walked in and asked “Are these real?” (acting like i had no idea),
4 places I went to, all four said “No”….

And at least 2 of the places had signs that said “JEWELRY, DIAMONDS, ETC….”

I think it’s important for these shop owners to be more regulated,

If no one is able to even tell whether or not a diamond is real or fake, they should not be lending money on jewelry,

So thats my take on it….

Avatar for Earnest Watkins

Earnest Watkins

March 15, 2018, 3:21 PM

It’s good to know that a pawn shop considers sentimental value when appraising things. I’ve never done business with a pawn shop before, but this is definitely helpful information to have. I have some things that are sentimental to me, and it’s comforting to know that a pawnbroker would consider this when deciding how much my things are worth.

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