Pawn Shop History: Why It’s Called Pawn Shop

People have been using pawn shops for a very long time. There are pawn shops located all across the world. There are even popular TV shows that take a closer look at pawn shops. It’s clear that pawning isn’t anything exciting and new.

But while many people are familiar with the concept of a pawn shop, there are still a lot of questions that haven’t been answered for them. What kinds of items should they take to a pawn shop? Where did the name “pawn shop” come from anyway?

If you want to know why it’s called pawn shop, you’ll have to take a closer look at pawn shop history.

The Meaning Of The Word Pawn

A pawn has two primary meanings. The first definition is something along the lines of “foot soldier.” A pawn is someone that was once sent forth into battle, knowing that they might be captured or killed in the process. When a pawn was sent out, the person or persons that sent them out knew that they were willing to make that sacrifice.

This word comes from the Latin word pedonem. It can be translated as “foot soldier,” but it can also be translated to mean “going on foot.” It’s clear that the meaning of the word has changed over time.

This definition is the definition that applies to pawns in the game of chess. It’s not a big deal if chess players lose a pawn or two over the course of a game. After all, the game isn’t over until they lose their king.

The other definition of pawn means “something left as security. This definition can be traced all the way back to the 15th century. The word is believed come from either Old French or Old German. Those that believe it came from Old French think it derives from the word “pan,” which meant both “pledge” and “plunder.” Those that think it originated from Old German believe it came from the world pfant, which also means “pledge.”

You can see how both of these definitions apply to pawn shops. When someone takes an item into a pawn shop, they have the opportunity to buy that item back. If they want, they can re-purchase the item before someone else buys it. Some pawn shops will even hold items for a while before they sell it.

When someone takes an item into a pawn shop, they are using it as security so that they can obtain money. They are also demonstrating that they are willing to sacrifice the item. If they are not able to get the money that they need to buy back the item, they will lose that item. Items that are pawned are sacrificial in nature.

Other Names For Pawn Shops

While you may wonder why it’s called pawn shop, it’s important to remember that this isn’t the only name that these shops go by. They have been called a number of other names over the years. As a matter of fact, there was a time when the term “pawn shop” had a lot of negative connotations. People specifically tried to avoid using the name pawn shop during this time.

What are some of the other terms that were used? A lot of pawn shops simply labeled themselves as “loan offices.” Some pawn shops had separate offices for loans and for sales. People that needed a loan went to the lending offices, and the items that they sold to the pawnbroker were taken to the other shop.

Another term that has been used to describe both pawn shops and pawnbrokers is “collateral lenders.” It’s a fairly apt term. After all, if you take an item to a pawn shop, you are using it as collateral in order to secure a loan. There’s nothing incorrect about a term like that!

In this day and age, however, a lot of the negative associations with pawn shops have begun to fade away. People know that some pawn shops are bad, but they know that there are a lot of excellent pawn shops out there. Thanks to this, there are few people that shy away from using the pawn shop name.

If you find a pawnbroker using a different kind of name, there is a very good chance that you will find them online. Many people associate pawn shops with brick and mortar retail locations. If online pawn shops want to reach people, they may use words like “lender” instead. This will allow them to connect with people that wouldn’t think of using the word pawn online.

Of course, there are web stores that aren’t afraid to use the word pawn! If you look around, you’ll find a lot of examples of both. This has allowed the pawn business to grow tremendously. There are all kinds of different pawn businesses out there, both online and offline.

How Pawn Shops Have Changed Over The Years

In the past, pawn shops were strongly associated with loans. The vast majority of people that took items to a pawn shop had every intention of getting that item back.
Now, however, people are often willing to part with the items they are selling for good. They don’t feel like the pawnbroker they are working with is giving them a loan; they feel like they are selling an item to them.

This has made some people feel as though the term “pawn shop” is inaccurate again. After all, people aren’t using the item they sell as security for a loan; they are simply selling it off. People that go to a pawn shop aren’t sacrificing the items that they sell; they are getting something that they want in exchange for them.

When people hear why it’s called pawn shop, they often wonder if the name is due for a change. It’s true that the name could use some updating, but that name is probably here to stay. The name has so much recognition now, and switching to something else wouldn’t make a lot of sense. No matter what the original meaning of the name was, people know what they are getting when they go to a pawn shop.

What Pawn Shops Accept

When people learn a bit more about the meaning of the word pawn, they sometimes assume that these shops accept everything. The truth is that a lot of pawn shops are actually very limited in what they are willing to take. There are plenty of pawn shops that will only accept certain types of items.

There are some kinds of items that almost every pawn shop is willing to buy. It’s not hard to find a pawn shop that is happy to purchase newer electronics, for example. High-end jewelry is also something that a lot of pawn shops will be happy to purchase.

However, a pawn shop isn’t going to buy anything and everything. More importantly, pawn shops tend to know the value of the items that they buy and sell. While you may occasionally hear stories about someone selling an old book or a video game for a fortune, you’re probably not going to have the same experience.

At the end of the day, a pawn shop is a for-profit business. Whether or not they buy something that you are trying to sell depends on whether or not they think they can make a profit on that item. If they don’t believe that the item you’re selling will sell easily, then they won’t pay a lot for it. They may even refuse to buy it outright. It’s as easy as that.

Pawn Shops And Pawnbrokers

Lots of people know what a pawn shop is. These same people may be less likely to known what a pawnbroker is. A pawnbroker is just a person that operates a pawn shop. Like other types of brokers, they work to help people get the kind of money that they are seeking.

The term pawnbroker has been used for a very long time. Pawnbroking has existed since the times of Ancient Rome, and while we haven’t always used the same kinds of terms to talk about it, the terms that we use know have a long history of use.

Of course, some people that work at pawn shops don’t call themselves a broker. When someone runs a business, they are the ones that get to pick their job title. What they select is entirely up to them.

What Are Pawn Shops Called In Other Countries?

Pawn shops aren’t something that is exclusive to America. You can actually find pawn shops in countries all across the world. With that said, the term “pawn” isn’t one that is used in every country. There are plenty of countries that have their own names for these shops.

In France, a pawn shop is probably going to be referred to as a mont-de-piété. In Italy, the name used is fairly similar: monte di pietà. Other countries have names that stand out a bit more. In Sweden, these shops are called “pantbanks.” In Spain, they are called casa de empeños, and in Poland, a pawn shop is a lombard.

Because different countries have their own names for these shops, the words also have a different route. You have managed to learn why we use the term “pawn shops” in the United States, but you’ll have to do a bit of digging if you want to figure out why other countries use the names that they have chosen.

Different countries also have different relationships with pawn shops. Some countries, like Sweden, have strict rules about how pawn shops can be operated. There are caps on the kind of profits that a pawnbroker can earn. Other countries only use pawn shops for lending purposes. Pawn shops haven’t evolved into places to buy and sell like they have here.

While most countries have something that is similar to a pawn shop in some way, it’s important to remember that these shops may not be exactly the same as their American counterparts. There are all kinds of differences, and it can take a long time to learn them all.

Obviously, there is no one that knows exactly why it’s called pawn shop. There are a number of factors that helped to popularize this particular name. However, learning about this history of pawn shops can teach you a lot about where this name came from. If you have questions about pawn shops, hopefully you found some of the answers that they you are looking for here.