More oil for your gold

We are Kamaaina Loan and Cash For GOLD, so we are always fascinated by what gold does. Not that we have any control over it. We buy gold by the tenth of a gram; the big players trade a minimum 1,000 pounds at a time.

So we were as surprised as anyone when gold staged a rally this past week. Here’s what Bloomberg News reported:


Bullion jumped 4.1 percent last week for the best performance since August amid a global equity rout spurred by a stock market slump and a weakening currency in China.

Bloomber also reported that gold compared with oil is worth twice what it has been for the past generation — and that was before oil took another tumble yesterday:


An ounce of gold buys more than 33 barrels of oil, the most since 1988. The average ratio has been 16.

It sounds like an excellent time to bring your broken or unused jewelry, any gold coins you find behind the cushions in your sofa or any other unneeded gold you have to Kamaaina Loan and Cash for GOLD.


#mauigold #mauiretail

Advice to the clueless: How to buy your gal a handbag

pursesWe were so clueless we did not even realize that the handbag is “most beloved of all in a lady’s wardrobe.” We would have guessed shoes. Who ever talks about Imelda Marcos’s handbags?

But professional shopper Nic Screws (apparently a real name) at Bloomberg News corrects our misconceptions and then goes on to tell how to buy bags both practical and impractical.

Is his (or her, we are not sure)  advice worth taking? How would we know?

We know only that you can get gently used designer handbags at both our big store at 96 N. Market St. and our little store at 42 N. Market Street.

Genuine designer handbags. We attended a course on authenticating designer bags over the summer. The instructor did not offer any hints on how to pick the right bag for a lady, only on how to pick a real one. His advice to resellers of handbags: “If you are going to sell genuine, do not also sell fake.”

We took that advice.

Why we love pawnbrokers

pawnFrom the news:

In Chula Vista, California, thieves tried twice to sell a stolen flute at The Pawnshop Inc. Both times, pawnbrokers spotted the item as likely stolen and turned away the thieves.

(Side note: This is how the law works in Hawaii also. If no police report is available, a pawnbroker is able only to turn away an item even if he is pretty sure it is stolen. He cannot by law accept a stolen item, but if there is no official report, he cannot call the police. What if his suspicions turn out to be misplaced and the customer uis, in fact, honest? It’s a problem; would you — the victim of a theft — rather get your item back or have the thieves toss it in the river, which is likely what happens when they try twice to fence an item and fail.

(So, report the theft to police even if you are skeptical that the cops can do much. Without the report, it’s hard for anybody to do anything.)

Ron Krasner, owner of The Pawnshop, had a flute in stock and gave it to schoolgirl whose flute was stolen. He told Fox 5 News:

“We told them (the girl and her mother) they (the thieves) were here. At that point we went back to our video and got pictures of the thieves and gave them to police.”

Let’s hope that works out.

In Little Rock, pawnbroker Mike Willingham took what steps he could after reading stories about two small children who shot themselves with unlocked guns. He started giving away free gun locks. He told KATV News:

“Why don’t we give away these? We’ve got these, why don’t we give them away? We’re huge advocates of the second amendment and people owning firearms, but theres that safety aspect of it too.”

Let’s hope that works out.

Pawnshops in the service of literature

So far as we know, no desperately poor but brilliant novelists are customers at our Maui pawn shop. But you never can tell.


yenIn Tokyo, an old pawnshop has been opened as a museum because of its links to Ichiyo Higuchi, regarded as the first important woman writer in Meiji Japan. The building itself is also regarded as an important surviving example of a merchant building of the earlier Edo period (which ended 1867)..

Not many wooden buildings in Tokyo survived the great fires of 1923 and 1945.

Wikipedia says of Ichiyo:

She wrote relatively little as a result of living a brief life—she died at 24—but her stories had a large impact on Japanese literature and she is still appreciated by the Japanese public today.

Higuchi was unique among her peers in that her writing was based on Japanese rather than Western models. Her work is highly regarded for her use of language, and for that reason people are reluctant to update or translate it into contemporary Japanese, leaving it difficult for the majority of Japanese people to read.

Well, that’s a bummer. But still. She’s famous and some of that rubbed off on the pawnshop. Her diary records many times when she “rushed to Iseya” pawnshop, because she and her family were very poor.

Although her stories have not been translated into modern Japanese, they have been translated into English. And she’s got her picture on Japanese money, which is more than any famous American women have ever achieved.


Country music goes to the ‘Pawn Shop’

We can hardly wait to hear the lyrics of “Pawn Shop,” a new song by the moderately well-known duo Brothers Osbourne. In this interview, they promise to go back to the era when country music was good. We suppose they refer to the “Drop Kick Me Jesus through the Goalposts of Life” era, or something similar.

Evidently, they think highly of the song, since it will be the title of their January album, their first.

We hope the lyrics will be better than those written by the California ska band Sublime in their song “Pawn Shop.” According to, this was a tribute/ripoff of an earlier reggae number from Jamaica by the Wailing Souls. Sample:


So, why I’m down here at the pawn shop
Down here at the pawn shop, down here at the pawn shop, down here at the pawn shop
What has been sold, not strictly made of stone
Just remember that it’s flesh and bone

Come on, Osbournes, you can do better than that.

Backing off the pawn reporting law

Pawnbrokers under surveillance

Pawnbrokers under surveillance

This is something we haven’t noticed before. Across the country, there has been a wave of local ordinances requiring collection of data on pawn customers, with electronic reporting to local police.

But in Columbia County, Georgia, the sheriff is backing off such a law that went into effect in April.

Kamaaina Loan already collects information (as required by state law) and reports electronically (not required but good business). In fact, we take pride in being the first pawn shop anywhere to inaugurate daily electronic reporting.

However, we have opposed efforts in Honolulu to require using a particular out-of-state vendor to process the reports.

But it gets complicated. According to the Augusta Chronicle report, the objection was that the ordinance was too broad, that it extended to all kinds of second-hand dealers, not just pawnshops.

Not long after it was implemented, however, some businesses began questioning some of the new law’s provisions and expressed concerns about its impact on business. Local lawyer, Andy Tisdale said the ordinance could be interpreted to apply to almost any business that buys and sells used goods and equipment, including used cars, calling is a “second-hand dealer law.”

In addition, Tisdale said the ordinance had conflicts with Constitutional law, where it compels business owners to comply with warrantless searches or face arrest.


But we contend that second-hand dealers should be required to report, if the intention of these ordinances really is to deter fencing or assist in recovering stolen goods. It makes no sense to watch pawnshops with an electronic eagle eye while leaving other secondhand dealers free to take in questionable goods in secret. (In Georgia, part of the objection was that the local ordinance potentially applied to used car dealers. That seems unnecessary, since motor vehicles already have adequate regulations to monitor and track ownership.)

So while at first glance, we welcome resistance to these ordinances that compel businesses to deal with vendors they do not get to choose, the actions in Columbia County don’t appear to be the kind of pushback we would hope to see.

(The issue in Georgia about gun registries is outside our scope, since we do not deal in firearms and hardly any Hawaii pawnbrokers do so.)

Catching up with Rick Harrison

America’s most famous pawnbroker now has a bartender’s card, to go along with his saloon and other businesses opening in October.


He told the Las Vegas Sun he’s looking forward to the time when people will have only hazy memories of “Pawn Stars” but apparently coffee and donuts are forever:


Harrison also plans to open a wedding chapel, in part to revive the flagging industry along Las Vegas Boulevard South.

Otherwise, the businesses planned for Pawn Plaza are as odd a fit as the plaza’s mismatched color scheme. All are independent businesses or small franchises, such as Rita’s Italian Ice, Smoke’s Poutinerie, Vegas Flip Flops, So-Cal Speed Shop, Inna Gadda di Pizza and Pawn Donut & Coffee.

Java jive

A nice, doomed pawnshop Photo from East Sider

A nice, doomed pawnshop
Photo from East Sider

Well, excuuuse us, but $3 cups of coffee do not indicate gentrification.

A strange little story in the L.A. Eastsider is headlined:

There’s no place for a pawn shop in gentrifying Echo Park

As evidence of rampant gentrification, the East Sider notes

One by one, the adjoining Sunset Boulevard storefronts on either side of the Echo Park Pawn Shop have been renovated and replaced with new tenants . The high-ceiling interior of Sage Vegan Bistro is often busy with customers sharing plates of jackfruit nachos or ordering $3.99 scoops of vegan ice cream.  A few storefronts down, San Francisco-based Blue Bottle Coffee, where a cup of drip coffee usually goes for $3,  is preparing to open a shop.

So sorry, East Sider, but our little Maui pawnshop shares a block with a nice coffee shop (Wailuku Coffee Co.) where coffee is well over $3 a cup ($2 if you pour your own in the morning rush), and there’s no place on the island where you can get a scoop of ice cream for a mere $3.99, vegan or otherwise.

We don’t dispute the story’s statement that the landlord is pushing out the pawn shop in hopes of attracting higher-paying tenants. But $3 coffee? It takes more than that to separate the beautiful people from the rest of us.

Image v. reality

Almost since the Kamaaina Loan blog began, we have been writing about how “Pawn Stars” and other reality programs have tended to improve the public perception of what pawnshops are like. We are all too familiar with the image presented in the old Rod Steiger film “The Pawnbroker.”



Even then – and that was half a century ago –the movie portrayal was far from reality. Just as, when you think about it, the “Big Bang Theory,” the most popular show on network TV, doesn’t provide a realist6ic view of how geniuses live.

So, what are real pawnshops really like?  Are they dark places where thieves slouch in, looking to convert a hot laptop into a couple of sawbucks? Hardly. For one thing, pawnbrokers have embraced technology. Stores are bright and open, so that surveillance cameras can be effective. Most of the nation’s 12,000 pawnbrokers also use technology to record driver’s licenses, serial numbers and other detailed information about both the merchandise they are offered and the customers.

That includes a thumb print.

A scoundrel looking to break the law could hardly leave more evidence if he tried.

Then look at the goods in a pawnshop’s retail department. (Almost all pawnbrokers are also licensed secondhand dealers.) Diamond jewelry, good watches, gold, good guitars. Pawnshop customers are, overwhelmingly, people with jobs and therefore with assets and money to spend.

Most goods in the retail division were not pawns that someone failed to repay. At Kamaaina Loan  And Cash For Gold, redemptions are at an all-time high—90%.

Retail stock (when it is not new, like our Kala ukuleles and some silver jewelry) is good stuff people didn’t want to keep. Maybe they were moving to a different island, or they are buying a better guitar and want to sell us their old one to help pay for the new one.

Or they realized that that designer handbag in the closet hasn’t been used for months because they have a new style that suits them better.

So they sell it to us and we sell it to you.

Maybe, in the movie, Rod Steiger dealt with down-and-outers, but when we take in a designer handbag that cost $2,000 new and that we resell for $800, we are still talking about upscale consumption.

To put it another way, the goods we sell are the same goods that were originally sold at the mall. Just used a little and marked down a lot. And our customers are the same as the shoppers in the mall, just with maybe a sharper eye for a bargain.



Gold — and not only gold — takes a powder

At the start of this year, the mavens at Goldman Sachs — who had called the price movement of gold quite closely in 2014 — predicted it would finish 2015 as low as $1200 an ounce.IMG_3692

Maybe it will, but already in July it is plunging near $1,100. We think it is fair to say that no one foresaw this. Certainly at our little pawn shop, we didn’t.

But it isn’t only gold. Bloomberg News reports that world commodity prices have fallen to levels last seen in 2002. Gold, by contrast, has fallen to 2010 levels.

Raw materials are losing favor with investors as the dollar gains amid signals from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen that the central bank may raise rates this year on the back of an improving U.S. economy. Higher borrowing costs curb the attractiveness of commodities such as gold, which doesn’t pay interest or give returns like assets including bonds and equities.

The other commodities include things like iron, natural gas, oil and wheat. At Kamaaina Loan And Cash for Gold, we like to say we will buy (or make a loan on) “anything that doesn’t eat. But we don’t buy (or lend on) oil or wheat. And salesfor that, just now, we are thankful.