If you’re lucky, you’ve never had to pawn anything. It’s an odd process, equal parts desperation and perspiration — going into a place, broke, with a prized possession; coming out with cash, though you might not know if or when you’ll ever get your stuff back.
I’ve never been lucky. I’ve pawned shotguns, car stereos, jewelry. Once, I drove a friend to town so he could pawn his cowboy boots. Once, I pawned a cookie jar, to a guy who collected cookie jars. Once, in Benton — age 15 — I was accosted by a surly hockshop owner who growled “Where my goddamn radios at?” and threatened to whip the buttered grits out of me until his partner convinced him I whadunt the guy. The amazing thing was: I really whadunt the guy.
While pawning something can be a jarring experience for the newbie, that doesn’t mean you have to get taken. With that in mind, a few of our Best of Arkansas winners in the pawn shop category were kind enough to share some tricks to help you get the most for your misery.
According to Ken Parks of Pawnderosa Pawnshops, the key to getting the most money is knowing what to pawn in the first place. While Mom’s antique cookie jar might not fetch top dollar (mine was a special case), Parks said that diamonds, firearms, and high-end electronics (read: not the El Cheapo Especiale from Wal-Mart) can usually get brokers to open their pocketbooks a little wider, due to the fast turnaround if and when your former property hits their shelves. (Don’t expect miracles, however. Parks said the average loan is around 30 percent of the value of an item.)
Another simple trick that many people disregard is making sure to clean an item before taking it in. Renee Ikard, owner of Southern Trading and Loan (this year’s Best of Arkansas winner), said that condition — the most visible sign of which is overall cleanliness — speaks to how well the item was taken care of. According to Ikard, happiness is a clean gun, at least for pawnbrokers, who often assume that an item that looks bad is an item that works bad — and they’re usually right.
Finally, if all else fails, you could try breaking out the sob story. It might even work. While Parks said that tales of woe “bounce right off” after five years behind the counter, Ikard admits with a wince that they do work on her from time to time. “I hate to admit it, but they do,” she said. “Somebody comes in here and starts crying over a piece of jewelry, and I’m like, ‘OK, OK.’ It gets me every time.”
— By David Koon
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