Pawnbroking Through The Ages

Pawnbroking is one of the world’s oldest professions and can be traced back through various documentations over three thousand years. For an industry to last three thousand years and not only still be going today, but be thriving in today’s tough economic climate,  it must have a stable centre set of values and principles that it has stuck to whilst also adapting with the times and to the ever changing needs of its customers. 

So what has changed over the years and what has remained the same in this now thriving industry? 

Pawn broking Origins 

Surprisingly it is said that the earliest pawnbrokers were Buddhist monks in China in around the 5th century. However, it was not common for pawn shops to be seen outside of the monasteries at all unless wealthy laypeople formed partnerships with the monks and opened up for business in nearby towns. People from other religions soon got on board although in a few, including Judaism and Christianity, pawnbrokers were forbid from lending to the poor at high interest rates. 

Along the way Pawnbroking has created some exciting stories. For example, the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus would never have happened if it wasn’t for pawnbroking. His voyage was almost entirely funded by the proceeds of the pawning of jewels from the collection belonging to Queen Isabella of Spain. 

Development of the Standard System 

The industry as we know it today, however, can be easily linked back to fifteenth century Italy, a time when the powerful Medici family were very much a financial force to be reckoned with. The Medici family split into two and whilst one half of the family continued the banking successes the other half became pawnbrokers. In fact the widely recognised sign of the pawnbroker today comes directly from the  Medici family crest, the three golden balls feature prominently on the originally medallion. 

It should come as no surprise that the origins of our modern system are so intertwined with banking as pawnbroking really is just another form of banking. 

Pawnbroking Today 

Today pawnbrokers cater for a wide range of customers from all sorts of backgrounds from the very wealthy to the impoverished as there is always a need no matter what your financial background for short term loans. The largest pawn broker in the UK is H&T Pawnbrokers with almost two hundred stores nationwide and the country as a whole has well over two thousands stores, proving what a thriving industry it is. 

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