7 Ways To Get The Best Price For Your Items At A Pawn Shop


If you need money in a hurry, you might think of things like a credit card cash advance or a payday loan. While these options can solve your cash flow problem, they’re not without their downsides like sky-high interest rates and fees.

An option you might not have considered is a pawn shop. If you need money fast, a pawn shop may be your best resource. To get the most money, you need to know these 7 ways to get the best price for your items at a pawn shop.

What is a Pawn Shop?

Pawn shops have an undeserved reputation. When we hear the words “pawn shop” we may think of a run down shop behind bars and bulletproof glass in a shady section of town.

But pawn shops are legitimate businesses and serve people and communities that traditional banks may not. A pawn shop makes loans using items that banks would not accept as collateral. And as the loan is backed by collateral, a pawn shop does not need to run a credit check on its customers.

You hand over the collateral, a loan is made based on the market value of the item, and if the loan is repaid with interest within the agreed upon time frame, the collateral is returned. If the loan is not repaid, the pawn shop keeps and sells the collateral.

Most pawn shops limit the amount of a loan to 10 to 50% of the market value of the collateral. A pawn shop loan would be considered short-term. Usually, the term of the loan is 30 days.

The interest rate a pawn shop charges vary, usually in the 20-25% range. Each state sets the maximum rate a pawn shop can charge and as long as the store stays below that number, they can charge whatever interest rate they choose.

What Items Can You Pawn?

Pawn shops accept a variety of items, but some things are in higher demand and will fetch the borrower the best loan amount. Popular items to pawn include precious metals (jewelry mostly unless you happen to have some gold bars lying around), gems (again, mostly jewelry), watches, electronics like tablets, laptops, and smartphones, power tools, and sporting goods.

Do keep in mind that if you’re unable to pay back the loan on time, you’ll forfeit the item so maybe precious family heirlooms don’t make the best items to pawn even if they have a high monetary value.

Where to Find a Pawn Shop

You may never have seen a pawn shop, but they’re certainly out there. I live in New Orleans, a city with a population of just under 400,000 and found two pages of results when I Googled “pawn shops near me.” My parents live in a tiny town of only 295, and I found seven shops near them.

So big or small, rural or urban, wherever you live, you won’t have trouble finding a pawn shop. If you live on Mars or maybe prefer to do things online rather than in person, you can find online pawn shops.

If you’ve ever used Gazelle to sell old electronics, online pawn stores work basically the same way. You describe your item, get an initial offer, send the item in, get a final offer, and if you accept it, get the loan.

Getting the Best Price for Your Items at a Pawn Shop

Because pawn shops typically don’t offer to loan the full market value amount of collateral, it’s essential to get the best price you can. You’re doing this because you need money, so you want to make sure you get enough to cover your needs. Before heading to the pawn shop, consider these things.

1. Sell it Outright

Many pawn shops will offer more money if you sell an item outright rather than offer it as collateral for a loan. This is because they can sell the item immediately (after meeting any legal time requirements) rather than hold it for the term of the loan.

When considering what to take to the pawn shop, start with the things that you’re willing to part with to get the best price.

2. Do Your Research

To know if the offer you’re made is a good one or a bad one, you have to have some idea of the worth of the item you want to pawn. Compare prices on a site like eBay.

3. Bring Documentation

If the thing you want to pawn is a high-value item like jewelry, have it appraised before shopping it around and bring the appraisal report with you to the pawn shops. If it’s something like a piece of art or another type of collectible, bring any documentation you have regarding provenance and authenticity.

4. Shop Around

If you were looking to take out a conventional personal loan or to refinance a student loan, you would shop around for the best rates and terms. It should be no different (although there is a lot more leg work involved) when you’re looking to pawn something.

Check out the local pawn shops and don’t forget to check out online pawn shops too. Some pawn shops specialize in particular items. If your item falls into a category, a shop specializes in, target that shop first. A specialized shop won’t be as flooded with merchandise as a more general shop so you may get a better offer.

5. Negotiate

For many people the idea of negotiating or haggling is intimidating. But you need money so negotiating for the best price is essential. This is where the research you did into the value of your item will come in handy.

Rule #1 of any negotiation is not to speak first. Pawn shop owners are better than this than we are as it’s literally part of their job and something they do every day. But hold your ground. If you’re asked how much you need, don’t throw out a number. Instead, ask how much they’re willing to offer and go from there. (I’m sweating just writing that!).

You’re going to be beaten by experience, but you’ve got a better shot at getting more money for your item with even a clumsy attempt at negotiating than no attempt at all. Practice at home in front of the mirror before you go!

Remember, you’re under no obligation to accept an offer, and there are plenty of other pawn shops out there if the first one you try doesn’t make what seems like a fair offer to you. Have a minimum number in your head, a cross between how much you need and how much your research has shown the item to be worth. Walk away if the offers you’re getting aren’t coming close to either.

6. Understand the Rules

While pawn shops are a legitimate business so are banks, and we’ve all seen how banks skirt rules and regulations. Most pawn shops operate above board, but they don’t have a somewhat shady reputation for nothing. Before you go into a pawn shop, understand the rules and regulations they must follow.

Laws regulating pawn shops vary by location, but they are all subject to federal laws that apply to other entities designated as financial institutions including the Truth-in-Lending Act, Bank Secrecy Act, and IRS regulations that require reporting of certain cash transactions.

Because pawn shops are a natural place to turn stolen goods into cash, sellers and borrowers are required to provide identification and a full description of the item being pawned or sold. The information is then sent to a law enforcement agency.

7. Clean it Up

If you were selling your home, you wouldn’t let the realtor show it while there were dirty clothes and dishes everywhere and an inch thick layer of dust coating everything. The same is true for whatever you’re pawning. Clean it, shine it, make it sparkle.

It Works Both Ways

Because Wall Street Insanity is about all things money, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the other side of the pawn shop business. A pawn shop can be an excellent resource for buying a wide variety of items at much better than retail prices and is a more environmentally friendly way to shop.

And if you’re going to go shopping at a pawn shop, much of the same advice applies. Do your research, shop around, and negotiate.

Think Outside the Box

I’ll venture to guess that most people have never ventured into a pawn shop, nevermind considered them a source of quick cash in a financial emergency. But many of the conventional sources of fast cash are either closed to some people or come with interest rates and fees that can make an already bad financial situation even worse.

If you need quick cash and don’t have an emergency fund, a pawn shop can be a good solution. In fact, with a little research, buying items at places like garage or estate sales and reselling them at pawn shops can even be turned into a nice little side hustle. Happy pawning!