A Brief History of Pawn Shops

Cash Canada

The origins of pawning date back thousands of years and have developed spontaneously in several different parts of the world in parallel. This is because the concept of pawning has a clear need to exist in any monetized society. It is almost impossible to build a business, increase personal wealth or sometimes just furnish your living space without some form of credit.

The pawn industry is in fact the original form of credit that can be traced throughout history. In Africa, pawning takes place in various cities and villages and is regulated differently region to region. In the United States and in Canada, the pawn industry is comprised of pawn shops chains, including Cash Canada, and is strictly regulated by local law enforcement, municipal, provincial and federal governments. In pop culture, there is a scene from Star Wars – The Force Awakens, where the main protagonist, Rey, goes to a local pawn shop to pawn some parts from an abandoned Star Destroyer on Jakku. If you haven't seen the movie yet, you should check it out, it's pretty awesome.

Today, Cash Canada owns and operates the largest network of pawn shops in Canada. When you come into any of our pawn shops, you can rest assured that you will experience our same great service standards combined with the peace of mind that your pawn transactions are properly regulated so your items are safe and protected. Cash Canada follows the Western history of pawn culture derived from Greek and Roman societies. Both Greece and Rome were filled with various independent pawn shops over the past 3000 years. In fact, Emperor Augustus, who is credited as the founder of the Roman Empire in 27 BCE and served as its first emperor, used a surplus of funds and property that was confiscated from criminals to loan money to citizens who could pledge collateral valued at twice the amount borrowed.

The Roman Empire was succeeded in global prominence by the Christian Movement which prohibited profiting from money without working. This stipulation made traditional banking actually a sin in the eyes of the Man Upstairs according to Pope Leo the Great in 441 AD. He forbid banks and other lending institutions from charging interest on loans via something he referred to as Canon Law. However Pope Leo was quite alright as the head of Christianity to allow for collateral loans. In other words, a Pawn Loan was not sin while the bank charging interest on their loans was. Pawn shops operated on the basis that at the end of the agreed upon term, if the money was not repaid to the pawn shop, they had the right to sell the valuables that they had collected as collateral to settle the debt. This basis of operation still exists today essentially unchanged. Obviously if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

A really cool aspect in the history of the pawn loan industry is that it has always transcended religion. That is pretty incredible in and of itself when you really think about it. People who practiced Christianity and people who practiced Judaism were allowed to freely lend on collateral between each other with no added stipulations or barriers, you really just needed to be able to read and write. No discrimination there. As different pawn shops were usually run by different families, each family kept the records to themselves as they tried to expand their own businesses within the merchant and trade communities.

The most successful of all the pawn shops clearly became the Medici families of Italy that came to prominence over the course of the 14th and 15th Centuries. According to fable, one of the Medici's killed a giant with three rocks in a sack and that is why the three balls became the international sign of pawnbroking. Pretty cool story eh?

How did Pawn develop in other countries, you ask? Several hundred miles west of Italy, King Ferdinand of Spain tried to expel all the Jewish people who refused to convert to Christianity in 1492; he clearly didn't believe that religion could be transcended. What a narrow-minded guy. So there was an exodus of Jewish people from Spain who went over to Portugal and proceeded to become quite successful in Portuguese port cities. One of the families was called the Lombards and they went from city to city during the Spanish Inquisition and created an international network of pawn shops. In fact, numerous European cities have a street named Lombard today after the pawn shop family. In traditional Dutch language, the name for a pawn shop is called lombard, along with some various forms of banks. Polish and Russian languages refer to a pawn shop as Lombard as well.

As the centuries went by, pawn shops were more and more often referred to as Lombard houses. Even in some cities like Boston and Philadelphia have Lombard streets. All in all, the pawn industry has a rich and interesting history. One aspect remains today though, pawn shops and pawn loans have been helping people get easy access to money and credit for thousands of years, and Cash Canada is hoping to continue that tradition for thousands of years to come.

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