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Best Things To Pawn To Get Quick Cash: What Do Pawn Shops Buy?

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If you’re a fan of reality shows like “Pawn Stars” or “Hardcore Pawn,” you’re already familiar with how pawn shops work. While you can sell almost anything at a pawn shop, certain items are more in demand than others and are more likely to fetch higher dollar amounts. Knowing what to expect can be helpful if you’re in a pinch and need a certain amount of cash quickly — say $500.

What Is a Pawn Shop?

There are about 10,000 pawn shops nationwide, according to the National Pawnbrokers Association, many of which are family-owned businesses. You bring an item to a pawn shop, and the pawnbroker will offer you a short-term loan based on the item’s value. If you pay off your loan in time, you get your item back. If you don’t pay the loan in time, the pawn shop is free to sell your item. You can also sell your items outright.

A personal loan from a bank is a better alternative if you qualify. Otherwise, pawning might be a viable option.

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Pawn Shop Advantages

Pawn shops have several distinct advantages. First, they don’t care about your credit, so you can get a loan even if you have poor credit. Also, if you fail to pay back your pawn shop loan, it won’t affect your credit score — you’ll simply forfeit your pawned item. Another advantage is that you’ll be able to get cash on the same day, so if you need money in a hurry and have no other options, a pawn shop may work for you.

Disadvantages of Pawn Shops

Pawning items for cash has serious drawbacks, the largest of which is the exorbitant annual percentage rate you’ll pay on the loan. The shops are regulated by states, so how much interest they charge varies widely but can range anywhere from 12% to over 240% APR, according to Nolo. A 240% APR means you’d pay 20% interest per month until the loan is paid off.

Note that pawn shops only loan you about 25% to 60% of an item’s resale value. If you pawn a piece of jewelry worth $1,000, you might get a loan amount of between $250 and $600, but you won’t get the value of the item. And, of course, you’ll risk forfeiting a $1,000 piece.

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The average loan from a pawn shop is $150 and lasts 30 days, according to the NPA. About 85% of people do pay back their loans and reclaim their items.

What Will a Pawn Shop Not Buy?

You can sell almost anything at a pawn shop, but some items command higher prices. Keep in mind that if you never pick up your item, the pawnbroker needs to sell it to make a profit. However, if the pawn shop has a lot of inventory of whatever you’re selling, they might not buy it at all, or you may get a very low offer.

High-Demand Pawn Items

Pawn shops know certain things have good resale value; here are some of the best things to pawn.

You can try to negotiate the price they offer you if you think it’s too low. Different pawn shops make different offers, and loan amounts can vary widely depending on the broker, the popularity of the item in a particular market and the item’s condition. If you have time, visit several pawn shops to get the best offer.

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What Can I Pawn for $50?

The following items can often fetch $50 or more:

Clean items in excellent condition have the best chance of getting top dollar.

What Can I Pawn for $100?

According to Pawn Guru, these items bring in $100:

Certain in-demand items can be worth more than $100. A new, in-the-box Nintendo Switch can net you between $200 and $230.

What Can I Pawn To Get the Most Money?

Since pawn shops typically offer somewhere between 25% and 60% of an item’s resale value, you’ll need to pawn an item worth between $835 and $2,000 to get $500.

Jewelry

Concentrate on items with gold, diamonds or platinum. Pawn shops sell a lot of jewelry, and they often have someone on hand with specific expertise in gold and precious stones. They’ll be familiar with things like cut, carat weight and melt value. If you aren’t familiar with current prices on jewelry, it might be smart to bring the pieces to a jewelry store that sells pre-owned and estate jewelry to get a quote for comparison, and perhaps a better deal.

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Other Precious Metals

Precious metals are easy to pawn because they tend to appreciate over time. This makes them a good risk for a pawn shop.

New High-End TVs

If you’re looking to pawn a nice, new TV, it needs to be high-definition or 4K to fetch a significant price.

Collectibles

Collectibles can be tricky, with some commanding far more money than others. Some collectors’ items are worth well over $500, so do your homework by researching values on WorthPoint or checking sold prices on eBay before you head out to a pawn shop. Note that some collections aren’t worth much at all; your collection of Beanie Babies, vintage band T-shirts or royal memorabilia probably won’t get you much.

Coins

Much like collectibles, coins can vary widely in value. A 1964 Kennedy half dollar is worth about $10, whereas a 1913 Liberty Head V Nickel averages over $3 million, so be sure you know what your coins are worth before pawning them.

Firearms

High-end firearms that are registered to you and are in good working order can easily get you a $500 loan.

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Vintage Technology

If you happen to have one of the following, you can probably get $500 for it at a pawn shop:

Final Take

If you need cash in a hurry and you have an item you won’t miss, a pawn shop could be a good option for you. Keep in mind that interest rates and finance charges can be quite high, so consider other sources of cash if you can afford to wait a bit.

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Pawn Shop FAQ

  • What items are pawned most?
    • Jewelry, electronics, sports equipment, musical instruments and power tools are items that are commonly pawned.
  • What's worth a lot of money at a pawn shop?
    • Items such as fine jewelry, collectibles, coins and firearms can be worth a lot of money at a pawn shop.

Daria Uhlig and Cynthia Measom contributed to the reporting for this article.

Information is accurate as of Dec. 2, 2022.