Who is a pawnbroker?

As this editorial from the Wheeling Intelligencer demonstrates, pawnshops and other dealers in secondhand goods sometimes have to surmount poorly conceived local regulations.

In most places, including Hawaii, there are separate legal codes for pawnbrokers (whose primary business is lending but who buy and sell used merchandise) and pure secondhand dealers, who do not make loans. In a few places, like Florida, there are more than two sets of regulations, as secondhand dealers are further subdivided.

Not in Moundsville, West Virginia, though.

Pierson took his concerns about the ordinance to council last month. He explained his store is not a pawn shop. He merely buys and resells merchandise. He does not provide loans with items brought into the store held as collateral. Most reasonable people would agree Pierson is not operating a pawn shop.

But city officials have said Pierson is required to fill out pawn cards for any valuable items he buys, then hold the merchandise for 10 days before selling it. Police Chief Tom Mitchell explained requiring documentation and a delay in sale can help his department track stolen goods.

This appears to be nothing more than 1) poorly drafted legislation in a hick town; and 2) casual perhaps biased enforcement.

One of the continuing beefs at our Maui pawn shop is that enforcement of secondhand dealer laws is spotty to non-existent. Kamaaina Loan is registered as both a pawn shop and a secondhand dealer.

Following the two sets of rules is not extra burdensome. The same sorts of recordkeeping are required for both kinds of deals, and the difference is the holding period.

For purchases, our business is required to hold merchandise for 15 days before reselling. Pawned items have to be held 60 days, and if not redeemed by the borrower by then, can be sold.

And since Kamaaina Loan, as a pawn shop, makes daily electronic reports to police, the authorities can monitor both kinds of transactions at the same time. Secondhand dealers are regulated in theory but in practice with swap meets, Internet classified lists and other avenues for disposing of used goods, secondhand dealing is hardly supervised at all.