Fun, fun, fun

Kandi and Bob share jewelry tips

Kandi of Kamaaina Loan and Bob McCullough of Pawn Stories, both veteran jewelry salesmen, trade tips at our store Thursday. Bob is showing the size of an ivory tusk he bought one time.

First day of shooting for Pawn Stories is in the can. Nobody showed up with a knickknack from tutu’s attic that was really a rare artifact worth $50,000, but we had fun anyway.

Filming continues today (but not Saturday), and you do NOT have to bring an item to take part. One customer brought her voice and sang an aria from “La Boheme.” Very loud.

Bob McCullough, owner of the Pawn Stories production company, says that was not unique. He has had one other singer show up for his reality show. Not La Boheme, though.

We are no threat to “American Idol.”

Tonight is First Friday on Market Street, so we will be here and be busy all day. Stop by and join the fun.

‘In Hock’ tells how pawnshops helped build capitalism

IN HOCK: Pawning in America from Independence through the Great Depression, by Wendy A. Woloson. 233 pages, illustrated. Chicago


Like a lot of people, social hisrorian Wendy Woloson had never been in a pawnshop, but she’d heard bad things about them. After a lot of research, mostly in obscure 19th century archives, she came to a different conclusion.


In “In Hock” she concludes that American industrial capitalism (the “second industrial revolution”) could not have occurred without pawnbrokers.


Industrialists depended on low-wage workers who were periodically no-wage workers as plants laid off workers, especially in the financial panics that swept the nation every decade or so before the New Deal tried to control banks. There were almost no provisions for out-of-work workers, and large classes (women, African-Americans, Irish, children) were paid subsistence or less-than-subsistence wages when they were working.


Only the pawnbroker stood between them and starvation.


No thanks did he get for it. Pawnbrokers, like their customers, were on the fringe, and the economic powers did what they could to destroy, or at least limit pawnbroking. Only a very few men – usually those with personal experience of the successful municipal pawnshops of Europe – understood the benefits of pawn lending.


Respectable” businessmen and bankers, much later, had to be forced to treat customers without prejudice by regulation. There were plenty of regulations of pawnbrokers, but there has never been a law requiring pawnbrokers to treat all people the same.


At a time when bankers would not deal with women, blacks, Jews or people with shabby clothes, pawnbrokers stood ready to lend cash to all comers. The only thing that mattered was that the pawner had something valuable to pledge.


For the truly destitute, even the pawnbroker was no help.


In her lively, but sometimes repetitive book, Woloson ferrets out the pawnbroker in popular novels and advertisements, in rapidly growing cities, in small towns.


According to respectable opinion, pawnbrokers served only to provide money for drunkards to drink. A long statement by Woloson is worth quoting because it exposes the falsehood behind the capitalist program:


Industrial capitalism begat wealth and poverty, winners and losers. It remained in the winners’ collective self-interest to create consensus among the larger public that capitalism was good for all of society, that wholesale and retail exchange were the ‘normal’ and ‘mainstream’ ways of doing business, and that this particular economic system was the only one befitting a modern, civilized nation. By its continued existence, however, pawnbroking demonstrated quite clearly that the promise of capitalism was broken for countless Americans. The true character of emergent industrial capitalism can be found beyond the shiny surfaces of retail show windows and the smooth pages of ledgers, revealing life at it was actually lived by most Americans, not simply the privileged few.


Tellingly, pawning remained a popular coping strategy throughout the nineteenth century, from the very dawn of capitalism through the second industrial revolution. The endurance of pawnbroking through radical economic shifts and perennial boom and bust cycles was an indication both of its ability to adapt to changing times and more important, of Americans’ enduring need for such an institution. Regardless of the rhetoric championing capitalism as a democratizing force, it created inequities that led pawners to their local pawnshops. Pawnbroking could not have survived without the continued expansion of capitalism. Yet at every turn pawners, pawnbrokers, and the institution of pawnbroking were denigrated and demonized. Why was this so? Counting the great number who put things in hock makes it evident that there were many more losers than winners. What did it say about capitalism that it generated so many pawners? The symbiosis of pawning and capitalism warrants further examination if we are to fully understand the living and working lives of those who came before us and comprehend the economic exigencies of the people who continue to struggle today.”


Woloson ends her history in the Great Depression. The New Deal and the postwar liberal economic system were nearly fatal to pawnshops. For a while, it was predicted that they would fade out.


The rise of brutal finance capitalism has created wonderful business for pawnshops, which are doing better today than ever.




First Portugal, now Gold selling sweeps Italy

Gold Selling in ItalyA few days ago, we linked to a report that in Portugal, out-of-work citizens have sold almost all their gold. Now, another report says that in Italy, the people also are liquidating their gold jewelry because of hard times.

Reuters: “Times are now so tough that Valerio Novelli, a ticket inspector on Rome’s buses, is planning to sell his old gold teeth.

” ‘I can’t get to the end of the month without running up debts,’ said Novelli, 56, who has to support an ex-wife and daughter. ‘I know I won’t get much, but I need the money .’ “

The story goes on to detail warnings that you have read about on this blog already: That the rise in the price of gold has brought in untrustworthy new gold buyers (in Italy, allegedly connected with the Mafia).

Italians are traditionally collectors of gold: christening, birthday and other gifts are often gold jewelry.

When times get hard, the gold gets sold. It’s hard, but when people get to that point, just think how much assistance they’d get from a bank.

Pawn 101: HIgh value pawns

At Bloomberg News, there’s a interview at Borro, a London pawn shop that brags it services the well-to-do. The owner says, “Where else can you get 50,000 pounds” on the same day?

Well, actually, you could do that at Kamaaina Loan, except we deal in dollars not pounds.

A $50,000 pawn is not that unusual. On Maui with its population of 150,000, we don’t do as many $50,000 loans as Borro might in London, with its population of over 10 million.

But a $50,000 loan is very doable, if you have the collateral. A couple of Rolexes might d — we have customers who have more than a couple of Rolexes.

We have lately opened a private transaction room to handle these big loans, and also to make it more convenient to do estate appraisals, which take some time.

But a $50,000 pawn loan? That doesn’t have to take much longer than a $50 pawn loan.

Call 242-5555 to make an appointment for your $50,000.

Don’t buy that iPhone now!

So say the tech gurus, because (unconfrmed) rumors have it that the iPhone 5 will be out in a month.

In the past, that has meant that the older models (which remain available) drop sharply in price: to $0 if you are willing to sign a 2-year contract, sometimes.

Whether the rumor is accurate or not, retailers have started dropping the price of the iPhone 4S.
For you as an iPhone carrying pawn customer, what this means is that you will not be able to borrow as much on your phone from now on.

Smartphones are a very popular pawn item. It must be hard to part with your phone, but, hey, sometimes you gotta get a bridge loan to eat or pay rent.

Rolex sues online reseller

Rolex has online watch seller, alleging it used counterfeit parts in older, pre-owned watches.

Melrose told the Los Angeles Times it has the right to sell used watches.

There are millions of authentic Rolexes out there, and at least millions of fakes. Know who you are dealing with if you are buying or selling.

To mall or not to mall

Some background on the controversy about the Kihei megamall:

Less than 30 years ago, the sum total of national retailers on Maui was Sears, National Dollar and Woolworth, among general retailers. No Kmart, no Wal-mart.

Today, no Woolworth and no National Dollar.

There weren’t a lot of specialized national retailers here 30 years ago, either: no Pier One, no Sports Authority (which didn’t yet exist).

Today we have outlets from Tiffany to Home Depot and it night seen that rural Maui has caught up with national urban retailing trends. Far from it,

Around 1990, a speaker brought in by the Main Street Association asserted that there were 140 national chains that were NOT on Maui.

I haven’t seen any more recent estimate, but although we have added many, many national chains since 1990, my guess is that the number today would be even higher than 140.

There are a lot more national (and even international) retailers like Ikea than there used to be.

If you think about just fast food chains, Maui lacks dozens. Chick-Fil-A is in the news, but on Maui you cannot either support or protest its position about marriage, because it isn’t here.

Neither is Sonic, Long John Silver’s, Popeye’s, Boston Market, Friendly’s and many more.

Among non-food retailers that are still absent are Target (probably on its way soon), Kohl’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Pottery Barn and on and on.

This helps to explain the desire of developers to build more malls on Maui. Maui may or may not be a top tier location — it wasn’t for J.C. Penney — but national chains have to expand to satisfy Wall Street.