Would You Do Your Holiday Shopping At A Pawn Shop?

Smart shoppers look everywhere they can think of for a good deal. But does that include heading to the local pawn shop to see if they can scrounge up a good bargain when looking for holiday gifts?

One Michigan pawn shop owner tells WWJ Radio that he’s seen a 49% increase in sales over last year’s holiday months. He attributes this in part to the fact that cash-strapped individuals are pawning newer, nicer electronics. So people in search of a low-priced iPad aren’t so ashamed about heading into a pawn shop to make a purchase.

“Sometimes I’m sure they are [embarrassed]. They might want to try and make it look as new as possible,” he tells WWJ. “But, you know, times are tough. People don’t mind as much. They’re looking for a deal more than anything.”

One shopper says he goes to the pawn shop because he gets good deals on video games for his daughter. Another pawn shop peruser explains that the used good stores are better than malls because “you can find more unique stuff here at pawn shops.”

“It’s the thought that counts, right?” says the man, who once bought his girlfriend a diamond ring at a pawn shop (but didn’t let her know the source). “If it looks good, I mean, you shouldn’t ask questions like that.”

So we wanted to know from y’all if you think pawn shops are a decent destination for doing your holiday gift buying:

Is The Pawn Shop The New Spot For Holiday Shopping? [CBSlocal.com]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

    Not if they’re all like the PawnStars pawn shop.

    “A meet-in-the-middle fair price for you’re whatsahoozit? Uh…how about ‘no’? Sure, the expert said it’s worth eleventy-billion dollars, but I’ve got the price to prep it, overhead…how about $100 bucks?”

    • catskyfire says:

      As Rick has said on the show, he’s a business reseller, not a collector. It’s unlikely he’d get the collector’s price either. As he told one guy, yeah, it might sell for that at auction. But when’s the last time you heard of a (particularly unusual item) auction?”

      • DariusC says:

        Lol, Pawn Stars is horrible. I watched it and while it’s entertaining, the fact that they rip off the owner is horrible. I totally said the same thing while watching the show, and so did a friend. I don’t think anyone, business or consumer, can support the crap they pull.

        • Powerlurker says:

          No one is being ripped off. If the customers don’t like the price offered, they’re free to take their stuff and try to sell it on their own.

        • maxhobbs says:

          How are they being ripped off? I’ve seen countless times someone brings something in that they have no clue about, they want $300, he brings in his expert that says it is worth $2,000 and they walk away with $1,000 over 3x what they wanted.

        • Kuri says:

          Maybe you can try to explain the time a lady wanted a thousand for a jeweled spider and Rick gave her close to 20 grand.

          If it wasn’t a somewhat honest pawn shop they wouldn’t have a show.

    • jebarringer says:

      So is it the “need to make a profit b/c we’re a business” or the “top dollar is only found on a really good day when you have several people fighting over the item” part that you’re having trouble understanding?

      • Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

        So is it the “need to make a profit b/c we’re a business” or the “top dollar is only found on a really good day when you have several people fighting over the item” part that you’re having trouble understanding?

        Actually, neither.

        It is the “lame-assed excuse-laden con game where even after a knowledgeable third party has given us information equity and told us what this should fetch in the marketplace, I’m going to try to rook this person by squeezing every last dollar out of them” thing that I don’t understand.

        No one begrudges “making a profit”. Making an obscene profit on the backs of people who are desperate by using information inequity (which you know he does when the cameras are off) is unethical in my book.

        • Powerlurker says:

          It’s not an obscene profit. In most retail settings a gross margin of 50% can easily correspond to a net profit of less than 5%.

    • dolemite says:

      I always laugh: “Well, in great condition, this would be worth $5,000. In this condition, maybe $2,000-$3,000.” “So how much do you want for it?” “Let’s start at $3,000” “Let’s not”.

      I don’t begrudge the guy a profit, but does he REALLY need to turn double and triple profits on every item he gets in? I’d feel like a sucker selling him anything. You are guaranteeing at least a 50% loss right off the bat, if not more. That’s like me selling a car with a blue book of $10,000 for $5,000.

      • NashuaConsumerist says:

        The seller could always say “No thanks” and sell it on their own. No one is forcing them to buy you know…

        • dolemite says:

          Oh I know, but I’m always shocked that so many agree to it. “Well, I had hoped to get $1,000, and the guy said it was worth $1500 but I got $350…at least now I can go play the slots.” really? REALLY???

          • StarKillerX says:

            Well the question becomes, do you want the sure thing now, or put time, effort and maybe money into trying for more?

            As for how many accept it, one of the little trivia things at commercial breaks once said deals were only made something like 20% of the time as I recall.

            What blows me away is people taking items, valuable or not, to a pawnshop and expecting to get full retail price for it, or those who expect to get more because the item has sentimental value to them.

            Also the fact that high value items are taken in repeatedly surprises me as well. I mean I can understand the occasional “Oh crap I need money now” but selling a $500 item for 50% or less of it’s full value is one thing but selling a $50k car at 50% or less is another.

            • dolemite says:

              Or what about the historical items? “This was the original copy of the Declaration of Independence, but John Hancock sneezed while writing his name after everyone else had signed it, and made a big line that swept across the page, so they had to all resign it again on a second copy that is in the museum. This is just now coming to light, and this artifact is beyond value!” says the expert. “I’ll give you $600.” “DEAL!”

      • LMA says:

        Why *shouldn’t* he get double the money on something he’s selling at his store? That’s a normal markup for many kinds of retailers of merchandise. And it’s downright cheap when you consider that jewelry stores markup their goods about ten times the cost!

      • lucky13 says:

        How else is he gonna cover the “overhead”? Somebody’s gotta pay for Chumley to sleep in the back room, while Corey is goofing off somewhere else.

    • PortlandBeavers says:

      I don’t know if you’ve ever paid enough attention, but when they buy rare coins, the spread is a lot narrower, because the values are a lot more well-established. On the oddball stuff, the expert’s value is just an opinion. I can assure you that if you ask an expert what he’d pay for it, the estimate would come down considerably. If you don’t build a lot of potential profit into an oddball item you purchase, you will be going under in the near future.

  2. Bob Lu says:

    I will only buy something that can be considered as collector’s items.

  3. DogiiKurugaa says:

    I buy stuff at pawn shops pretty often. Why would anything change just because I’m shopping for Christmas instead of personal use or ebay?

  4. mattyb says:

    I think it really depends on the item that you’re buying. I wouldn’t have any problem buying jewelry or guns or collectables, but everything else… not for a Christmas present.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Yeah, stuff like collectibles is fine but I don’t really wear expensive jewelry and I don’t buy used electronics, so pawn shops are useless for me.

  5. humphrmi says:

    I heard about this story on the radio this morning, and I was kicking myself for not going to a pawn shop myself. Because of the economy, they’re getting much more stuff – computers, TVs, etc. I bought two laptops for my kids this year, probably should have looked at the pawn shops first.

    • Luke says:

      I wouldn’t go to a pawn shop for a computer. A brand new battery is one of the best things about a new laptop.

  6. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    If it’s an item that is normally new, in a box…I wouldn’t buy it from a pawn shop as a gift. Maybe for myself, if I’m 100% confident in the condition.

    If it is an odd item, like a piece of furniture, something unusual enough that “used” doesn’t matter…then I’d buy it as a gift.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      Does it really matter if something like a rifle, guitar, or set of golf clubs are used, as long as they’ve been maintained?

      • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

        Those things, I’d say it doesn’t matter if it is used. The higher up you go in quality, I think the more forgiving it is to buy used. Like a used car. If it’s a very nice set of golf clubs, or men’s watch, then the quality of the item outweighs the fact that it is used.

        But if it is a DVD, an MP3 player that sells for under $99 new, a microwave, etc., then buying used stands out more because the savings are so small.

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          I completely agree. I think I’d be hesitant to buy any electronics from a pawn shop, especially for things that are essentially disposable commodity items.

    • cosby says:

      It can be more then that. Video games for kids for example. Get them a bunch of misc games for their gameboy or psp for cheap.

      Anyway my stepfather use to do a bunch of work for pawnshops in the area(repairing stereo gear, vcr’s, etc). I’ve gotten a few gifts that came from pawn shops when I was younger. Hell one local pawnshop was in the process of loosing their FFL. My stepfather got a great deal on a shotgun for my younger brother(the three of us hunt waterfowl).

      It all depends on what it is. Their are deals to be had.

  7. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    Pawn shops are a very good place to get used products that someone else impulse bought and then had to get rid of. You can’t beat the prices for things like jewelry, instruments, guns, power tools, and sporting goods.

    • Fumanchu says:

      yes! guns are where its at in pawn shops. Many times they will beat they cheapest price you can find on the internet and you won’t have to pay the trasfer fee.

      Gunshows and pawnsshops are where I get my guns when I buy guns, they are always the cheapest easiest ways to get guns with the added bonus of actually getting to look at the actualy gun you are going to buy in person.

  8. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    I don’t have much choice, do I? My brother-in-law is a strange one to buy for. And where else am I supposed to find tranny-on-donkey scat flicks that involve baseball bats, fire hoses and…

    Oh PAWN shops. Pawn shops. Gotcha.

  9. Quirk Sugarplum says:

    I must be doing it wrong because the few pawn shops I’ve wandered into never had good deals or merchandise that didn’t look well worn.

    Well…there has been some nice sparkly jewelery yeah. But I’m skittish about buying that there. Though I have friends who love doing that.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      Did you try haggling? Most pawn shops have ridiculous sticker prices, with the assumption that the customer will haggle down the price.

      • Coffee says:

        Ugh…I hate haggling…it just feels dirty to me. I can’t buy anything when I go to Mexico because they always try to rip you off with the assumption that you will talk them down.

        “Real silver bracelet! Only 1,200 pesos!”

        “Wow…that’s too much…I won’t pay that much.”

        “900 pesos today only!”

        “No, that’s okay…I’ll be going.”

        “700 pesos! 600! No 500!”

        The only thing a situation like ensures is that I have no idea how much anything is actually worth, so I just avoid it.

      • Inglix_the_Mad says:

        Bah! Most are ripoff joints IMHO. At least on electronics, particularly computers they’re a bloody joke.

    • Coffee says:

      I wouldn’t buy jewelry or anything else at a pawn shop…too many bad memories or potentially bad juju on the items there…I wouldn’t want to buy my lady friend a ring, then wonder all the time whether it was stolen from someone, or lost, or sold off to pay for a drug habit.

  10. Jack Doe says:

    I already do, but then again, I’m a fairly regular customer (purchases, not pawns) at two local shops. You can’t beat prices for jewelery and coins, and if you find a really honest pawnbroker, you’ll always walk out with a good deal. I bought a beautiful 20″ 18kt gold rope-style necklace with a sweet charm ($5 gold eagle in 18kt bezel) for the spot price of the metal. Took it to a jeweler who said the same thing would have been $300 more from him. Find a good, honest broker and become a regular, and you’ll never go wrong.

  11. Ablinkin says:

    Nothing says “tacky” like a used gift from a pawn shop.

    • dolemite says:

      Especially this sign I bought in the pawn shop that says “Tacky” in pink bedazzled jewels.

    • DariusC says:

      Nothing says ungrateful like insulting a gift that was given to you. How snobby! Some people cannot afford elegant gifts and a pawn shop gives you the best value. You dont need it new, you don’t need it now. 2 tips for financial security.

    • CPC says:

      I’ve found some really rare coins, guitars, etc. at pawn shops, at dirt cheap prices. I would have loved to get any of them as a Christmas gift.

    • emax4 says:

      I was thinking the same thing, but on the other hand, does the recipient need to know? I wouldn’t get them an item I can get new elsewhere. However, if it was a rare item, one not easily found on eBay and of course something they’ve wanted for a long time that was in great condition, I’d buy it. Let’s say you stumble in to a pawn shop and find a souvenir, perhaps a painting of a place that your grandparents had gone to on their honeymoon and went again when they renewed their vows. If the grandparents always talked about it and had such good memories, I would think it would make a great gift. The odds are unlikely you might find something like that, but still…

  12. Saltpork says:

    Most of the pawn shops where I live are also gun stores. I always use the for ffl dealings locally and I’ve picked up some really good deals on a few select items.
    Pawn shops are the original craigslist or ebay. Just know your price cap, learn how to haggle and know the difference between a good deal and a bad one.

    Also, if it’s an electronic item, make sure they will show you that it works and try it out in front of them. If they won’t, leave their store. Some of them will drop the price, some will show you, some will tell you to piss off. It depends on the owner.

    Pawn shops are also really good places to pick up non-complex tools. My wrench set is a snap-on that came from a pawn shop for about 20% of the original cost.

    As for gift giving, it depends on the gift and the complexity of the item. The more complex something is, the higher chance of breakage without a warranty. This can lead to gift remorse very easily.
    If something is simple or known to be robust, it’s less of an issue.

    Also, compare prices. Most of us have smartphones. See the price on ebay/craigslist/amazon and see if they used that as base price + their markup %.

    Lastly, if you’re selling, get another opinion. I’ve sold old gold rings before and got offered a full 30% more at one pawn than another simply because I walked in the door and asked how much the items were worth.

    Hope this helps.

  13. sven.kirk says:

    Once every year I think that pawn shops might have a good deal for on or off season products, but always leave disappointed. Usually, prices are almost as high as a new product, or if the price is good, it is way past its useful life.
    E-bay usually has a better deals.

    • JohnDeere says:

      you can always talk them down. my father in law never pays more than half of what they are asking. hes a contractor and a hunter so he has bought guns and power tools this way.

  14. dolemite says:

    Most of the deals I see on used items are usually 15-20% off retail. If I simply pay attention to sales, I can usually find a better deal on a new item WITH a warranty and associated paperwork.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      Most of the pawn shops have sticker prices that are at or over retail cost. But like antiques, used cars, gun shops, and flea markets, you really need to haggle.

  15. HSVhockey says:

    I don’t buy gifts for adults. But I’d buy a gift for a kid at a pawn shop, sure.

  16. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    Sure, for my mother-in-law.

  17. smo0 says:

    I don’t know if I can shop where people’s dreams are shattered.

    • crispyduck13 says:


      I’m not trying to be a snob or anything I just would not want to buy something that had such bad juju sprinkled all over it. I buy things on Craigslist and at consignment shops all the time but it just seems…different, somehow less depressing. I think the absolute worst thing to buy from those places is jewelry (especially engagement rings) and children’s toys. Think about how desperate a person has to be to pawn their engagement ring, or their kid’s toy??

      I’ll never begrudge someone of running a legitimate business but I want no part of that.

      • smo0 says:

        Exactly – they provide a service (I hold them in higher regard; above pay-day loan sharking places) but its still a rampant source of negativity.

        I know its the foundation for some online trading; ebay, craigslist, but they do make a huge profit off of people’s pain. I cannot partake. :(

        I once pawned off something I, to this day, regret doing….and I was desperate to keep a roof over my head when finding work was hard, being 18 and out on your own.
        I’ll never get that item back – who knows who has it now….

    • Krystal says:

      I agree with you. I don’t want to buy stolen goods, jewelry hocked for drugs, and what have you.

  18. JohnDeere says:

    my wife just got a .50 cent fijit at a junkstore. said it works fine and looks brand new. i spent $50 for a fijit 2 weeks ago. my little girl is going to be so happy to have 2 fijits that comunicate with each other lol… im pissed i spent 100x what she did and all i got extra was a box.

  19. jeni1122 says:

    I would, no problem. I try to buy used as much as possible as a form of recycling. Plus, if I purchase something used as a gift, like a game, I will spend the money I saved on another game for the same person so they can get two or three games instead of one.

  20. NashuaConsumerist says:

    Really, in my area you’d find vastly better deals on craigslist or ebay than the prices you’d pay at a pawn shop. I’ve found plenty of things priced HIGHER at a pawn shop that buying new due to sunk costs and long sits on a shelf while the product drops in price in retail stores.

  21. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    i don’t know about gifts, but i am in the market for a new tv in the next couple of months and i might be checking out pawn shops.

    • Powerlurker says:

      Don’t bother, the merchandise will be outdated and overpriced. Wait for a good sale and buy new.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        oh, i’d be updating from a 75 pound CRT tv from the 90s. anything would be more up to date

    • dolemite says:

      Well January/Feb is when the new TVs start rolling in. You’ll be able to buy older models for probably half off or something if you keep an eye out.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        yeah, that’s the plan: either a used TV from someone who upgraded for the superbowl or a post superbowl TV sale

  22. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    The couple of pawn shops near me are VERY reliant on an uninformed shopper.

    Based upon what I know the value of, they price things to sell at 2-3 times used retail/ high ebay prices.

    Used video games for more than Gamestop, low end digital cameras for over $100 and G4 Macs that are worth $30 for $150.

    • SecretShopper: pours out a lil' liquor for the homies Wasp & Otter says:

      Yes, this has been my experience as well, I think it’s b/c the ones around here have eBay stores as well so they figure if it doesn’t sell they can find a sucker online. The one I went in 2 weeks ago was selling 2yr old sports games for ps3 & x360 for 55.

    • SecretShopper: pours out a lil' liquor for the homies Wasp & Otter says:

      Yes, this has been my experience as well, I think it’s b/c the ones around here have eBay stores as well so they figure if it doesn’t sell they can find a sucker online. The one I went in 2 weeks ago was selling 2yr old sports games for ps3 & x360 for 55.

    • loggg says:

      That’s why I don’t shop at pawn shops. I don’t trust them to have fair deals. I don’t want to take the time to come up with a decent estimate myself.

  23. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I’ve never thought to do this, and I’ll have to look on line to see where the local shops are located in my area. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one while out and about.

  24. yospiff says:

    I shop in pawnshops a fair amount, though not usually for gifts. This was the exception, however. Their mom can’t afford to get my nephews new bikes for Christmas, and it’s still more than I can spring for, so I made a couple of stops on the way home from work. Both bikes need some and some work, but they have “good bones”. $40 for a Mongoose mountain bike, missing the seatpost and saddle, and having a cross threaded pedal. The other was an awesome deal on an old Trek 800 for $30 that just needs some cleanup and tuneup. I don’t think the girl at the shop realized this dull looking black bike was a decent bike store model in a lineup that was filled with flashy department store junk bikes.

    The best deals I’ve gotten have usually been on items where I have some product knowledge and the store staff has underpriced a good item. I’ve also seen many things that have been way overpriced. Point and shoot cameras can be bargains in pawn shops if you know what you are looking at. They usually tend to overprice DSLR’s, however. I’ve seen 6 year old Rebel XT’s with asking prices of what the current model costs.

  25. AllanG54 says:

    There are a few shops that I pass on the way to work and there’s one in my neighborhood but they’re more interested in just buying jewelry for pawn or scrap than they are for reselling.

    • blognc says:

      Exactly! I live in New York, and I had this great idea a few years ago to take my fun of finding bargains and oddball items offline by visiting a pawn shop, and I checked in Google Maps. Every place I visited was only looking for gold an jewelry and reselling it to dealers, and didn’t sell anything themselves. Where do these pawnshops hide?

  26. PortlandBeavers says:

    Just don’t assume it’s a good deal because it’s in a pawn shop. Learn what stuff is worth first. Based on some of the prices I’ve seen in them, there must be some people who just blindly buy there no matter what the price.

  27. Outrun1986 says:

    The pawn shop prices here are insane, by shopping around on amazon and slickdeals you can probably score just as good of a deal on a brand new item with a warranty.

    Assuming the pawn shop you are buying from has a no returns on anything policy.

    I wouldn’t buy a gift from a pawn, especially if its something that could break easily. If its a non breakable item and I am getting a better price than I can get elsewhere then I might consider it. But as far as I am concerned here the prices are not in my range for pawn shops. I wouldn’t consider electronics from a pawn shop, you don’t know where they have been, either that or they are likely stolen. Besides I can almost always get a better deal on a brand new electronics item by scouring slickdeals for deals on brand new stuff.

    However, this can also work in your favor. I do dealings with the local flea market, where I sometimes can get more for my stuff than I can on ebay especially if counting fees. I am also paid cash on the spot. This is because their prices are very high. I bring vendors stuff to sell. Especially if its something that just won’t sell on ebay, it will often sell at the fleamarket for at least a few bucks. I really don’t care if they resell it for more, as I am making money myself on it since I probably bought it really cheap.

  28. philpm says:

    I’m usually looking for guitars at the pawn shops in my area. The locally owned ones usually have a lot of crap, low end stuff at prices I’d never consider paying. The national chain shop (Cash America) that’s only about a mile away has several great guitars at excellent prices, along with some overpriced crap. They work off their own database that gives the workers buying prices, but their database seems to not be very consistent on what things are worth, which, if you do your homework, can really work to your advantage. I picked up a very nice Washburn acoustic guitar this summer for $60. On the other hand, they have a low-end Washburn that the bridge is pulling off of for $70 right now.

    My advice: take some pictures, do your homework on Craigslist, eBay, and Google, and figure out if its a good deal or not.

  29. Ivory Bill says:

    I have found really good deals on gold jewelry without gemstones (earrings, rings) and camera lenses at pawnshops. The prices on those items in my area seem to be about 25-30% of actual (not manufacturer’s) retail. Those are also items that really can’t wear out, although they are subject to breakage. Damage is relatively easy to spot. At one hock shop where I shop, they even provide new jewelry boxes for rings ‘n bracelets ‘n things. Makes me look like the perfect SO without having to break the bank. For the lenses, I bring a camera with me and test the lens right in the store. All in all, pawnshopping can be a good deal if you are careful.

  30. snowmentality says:

    It all depends on the person and the gift. Like, someone who wants to learn to play the guitar — a pawn-shop guitar is a great idea for a gift. Someone who likes unusual vintage jewelry — a pawn shop would be a perfectly reasonable place to look for a gift for them (along with estate sales, estate-jewelry websites, etc.)

    And if the person you’re shopping for is a known bargain-hunter, and the gift is something they want that’s in great condition, they will probably think it’s even more awesome that you got a great deal on their gift.

    Some people want to feel like you spent a lot of money on them, and some people want to feel like you put a lot of thought into a gift. Don’t go to a pawn shop for the first set of people.

  31. lostalaska says:

    Voted “Sure. A deal is a deal”

    I just picked up a couple of nice electric guitars an Ibanez and a EPS at a pawn shop for super cheap for a couple friends I’ve been teaching guitar to, but didn’t have their own guitars. After cleaning them up, replacing the strings and adjusting the action and intonation they sound great. I picked them up for about 1/3 of what they would have cost new and the Ibanez had it’s electronics and bridge swapped out with gear that costs more than the original guitar would have cost (guessing the pawn shop had no idea about the upgraded electronics). So you can get some smoking deals, but it’s probably best you have a solid knowledge of what you want to buy if you have hopes of getting a great deal. Since it usually means doing a little work on it to make it perfect. I’ve also bought quite a few beat up guitar and bass amps from pawn shops spent a weekend repairing them and then turned around and sold them for double what I paid for them once they were working flawlessly. I miss living in a larger city, I used to live in Phoenix and they had a pawn shop that only dealt in music gear. Since they knew their stuff the prices were generally very accurate for what you were going to get depending on how beat up it was, but they had so much vintage equipment that it was and still is one of my favorite pawn shops I’ve ever been to.

  32. Torchwood says:

    Pawn shop over Gamestop anytime.

  33. Krystal says:

    I don’t shop at pawn shops, period. I don’t want to buy someone else’s stolen property. They make me feel icky.

  34. TomClements says:

    I rarely see deals at pawn shops and more often see very used products that may or may not have been well cared for going for 85% of retail.

  35. Krazycalvin says:

    I wouldn’t do that if I were you… I have taken stuff to the pawn shop because it was on its last legs.