Is pawn lending fringe or mainstream?

pawnFor years, students of pawn lending have described it as an alternative to regular banking or — in the words of economist John Caskey — a form of “fringe” banking. Caskey, for one, is friendly to the pawn business, and even pawn lenders themselves have taken to calling themselves fringe lenders.

Unlike some other fringe groups, the designation is generally positibve.

Gun shy

This is just too silly not to pass on. In Florida, a man tried to shoplift a firearm from a pawnshop.


It was an AK47. He stuffed it down his pants leg.

And limped out till the pawnbroker stopped him.

The Sun-Sentinel has his mug shot. I’d keep an eye on him if he were in our pawnshop, even though we don’t carry firearms.ak

The Sun-Sentinel plays the story straight. HuffingonPost rewrites it with one of  the more obvious joke lines. But it isn’t funny.


We get calls

But the callers don’t always appreciate an honest answer.

Caller to Kamaaina Loan pawnshop: Do you buy jewelry if it is gold-filled?

Us: We’ll look at anything, but “gold-filled” really means “no gold.”

Caller: It means “no gold”?

Us: It’s something retailers have used for years and years. There is a microscopically thin covering of gold, but essentially it means no gold.

Caller (sounding kind of exasperated): That’s good to know. Thank you.


What’s a GG? Why should you care?

Last week, a young man came into Kamaaina Loan with a “diamond” in his hand, and another one in his ear.diamond

He explained that the earring had been his grandmother’s. Now, first, let us say we think it is sweet that a young man would wear his tutu-wahine’s earring. That’s not something that would have happened in the old days.

The stone had fallen out of the other earring of the pair, and he said he wondered: Is this a real diamond?

That was the easy part. Slap the stone under the electronic tester. Nope, not real.

But what if it had been real? That’s when a GG (Graduate Gemologist) is your friend.

That young man’s “diamond” was around a third of a carat, and it would have been worth serious coin if it were also of high quality. Most diamonds we see are, of course, average.

Value is based on the “4 Cs” (cut, color, clarity and carat size); and when you get into the bigger and better stones, a difference of opinion of one grade level can be worth hundreds of dollars. That’s when a GG comes in, and Kamaaina Loan is the only pawnshop on Maui with a GG on staff. (You can see her diploma on the wall at our diamond store at 96 N. Market St.)

The Gemological Institute of America is a non-profit research and educational organization ( Those certificates are not easily earned.


GGs don’t rely only on experience. They have expensive instruments (colorimeters, powerful microscopes), but when it gets down to it, experience is what counts.

This is even more crucial if the stone in question is “colored” (ruby, emerald, amethyst, and hundreds of others).

So if you want an accurate evaluation, now you know where on Maui you want to go.



The people’s bankers

It has been 80 years since the Pecora hearings exposed how big banks work against the public interest. New Deal regulations limited some of the worst depredations and, most importantly, initiated the longest period in history without a financial panic.

Since 1980, the trend has been to regulate less and less, or not at all. In 2008 the country realized the benefits of that policy with a giant crash.

This week the Senate held a hearing on “regulatory capture,” which means the regulators get too cozy with the banks. The New York Times headlined:

New York Fed Chief Faces Withering Criticism at Senate Hearing

So that even what restraints on banks’ antisocial practices remain in law are nullified. One way that happens is through “revolving door” hiring of former regulators by banks they used to oversee, with expectable bad outcomes.

Pawn shops are regulated, too, but there is no revolving door between America’s 12,000 pawn shops and federal and state regulatory agencies.

Just sayin’.

Pawnbrokers are the people’s bankers.

#mauipawn #mauigold

Keeping busy

This morning I went to the breakfast meeting of the Rotary Club of Upcountry Maui, to see two high schoolers receive the club’s Students of the Month awards. They were an impressive pair, and I will relay a little about them in a moment, but what I found noteworthy was the variety (and, apparently, also depth) of the opportunities students have today.

There was nothing close to it when I was in high school, 50 years ago.

Of course, not all students get the same opportunities. Money and transportation would prevent some. Babysitting obligations would stop others.

But the opportunities are there for both private and public school students.

It is nearly impossible, in some circles, to bring up the topic of education without being subjected to a tirade against public schools. And teachers. And unions.

I spent a lot of time on campus when my children were in high school, and what I saw was generally good. Certainly far better than the Catholic school I went to. I do not believe that anyone pushing vouchers has the interests of the students uppermost. And religious schools are, with some but not many exceptions, antieducational.

The selectees were Jamie Gomes from King Kekaulike High and Josh Higa from Kamehameha Schools Maui. As you can see from the photograph, happy-looking kids.

Jamie said she had been thinking of becoming a family physician until attending a boot camp at Berkeley last summer where she observed a knee operation and is now wondering if becoming an orthopedic surgeon wouldn’t be better.

She plays water polo and for her community service requirement has started Operation JAG (Jamie Against Bullying) to go to the community with a message. She would like to attend Oregon State and then Oregon University of Health Sciences medical school.

Josh wants to become a botanist, with an interest in native plants. He’s been learning about the Hawaiian uses of plants as medicine — la’au lapaau. He does judo and runs cross-country and is studying Japanese in school. He has been on reef and park cleaning trips.

He has Northern Arizona and Pacific on his college list.

There were quite a few other items on Jamie’s and Josh’s busy lists, and I asked Josh’s mother Terilyn if she worries about burnout. “Yes,” she said.

But I think the kids will be all right.

150 guitars in a DAY

I’ll say we are jealous, but then Maui is not Austin.


This piece from the Austin Chronicle is one of the longest features about a pawnshop we’ve ever read, but the CashAmerica (formerly and famously Doc Holliday’s) shop on South Lamar is a different kind of cat. Austin’s huge music scene supports a huge instrument market:

If pawnshops hold rock & roll together, then the vast CashAmerica on South Lamar is what longtime employee Ian Doherty calls, “The big bottle of wood glue that holds all the broken guitars together. We make it happen for all the musicians who are struggling to get where they’re going. Even the really big-shot guys still have bills coming up.”

Maui’s music scene, while vibrant, is nowhere near as big as Austin’s where hundreds, if not thousands of bands play at SXSW, and the South Lamar shop claims to have sold 150 guitars on opening day one year.



It is not made clear whether 150 bands showed up without guitars, or 150 kids were so inspired by the groove that they went right down and got their starter axes at CashAmerica.

Kamaaina Loan And Cash For Gold will not sell 150 guitars in a day. The two photographs show about two-thirds of our display inventory at 96 N. Market this morning. We like to think that our prices are as good as the musicians enjoy in Austin, and we can confirm that our pawnshop (96 N. Market, a few steps down the street from the guitars) has helped many a Maui musician between gigs pay the rent.

And here’s a pro trick you may not know. Quite a few musicians going on tour pawn their spare instruments. We store them in our bonded, insured warehouse. When the tour is over, the players reclaim their stuff, which is a lot safer way of ensuring their gear than leaving it behind and asking a friend to look after it.


#mauimusic #mauiguitar #mauipawn #mauiloan


Sell us your gold

We at Kamaaina Loan And Cash For Gold buy and sell gold every day. It matters to us whether the world gold market is up or down but we cannot do anything about that. Here is a Bloomberg News story that is very down on gold:

“There are no compelling reasons to be in gold,” said Brian Levitt, a New York-based economist at OppenheimerFunds Inc., which manages $251.4 billion. “There are no inflationary pressures. You have a central bank that’s going to tighten sooner than most of its trading partners. That to me portends a strong dollar and weaker gold prices.”

What that seems to mean is that if you are thinking you might sell gold anytime in the next little while, now is the time to do it.

Ditto for silver, which fell under $18 an ounce for the first time in a long while last week.

#mauigold #mauipawn #mauiloanIMG_3682

Gold price is down; reasons to feel good about that

Gold futures have declined, trading near the bottom of their recent price range, which is $1240 an ounce. (The spot price, which is what Kamaaina Loan uses to buy or lend on gold, is a little higher, about $1253 this morning; silver is below $19, which is the low end of its range, too.)

Thank goodness somebody is buying this stuff

Thank goodness somebody is buying this stuff

When the futures price is lower than the spot price, that suggests the big traders are expecting the price to continue to decline, according to Kitco.

So why should anyone feel good about that? Well, as pawnbrokers dealing in gold, we don’t feel especially good about it; but there is a bigger world out there, and falling gold prices generally (but maybe not always) suggest that people feel pretty good about the future. Despite bad news — fighting in Ukraine and Iraq and Syria, disease wrecking the already not-too-good economies of west Africa, nervousness about elections in America and Scotland, apparently “people” are feeling pretty chipper.

Well, what people? People who control the bulk of the world’s gold exchanges.

And why should we think they have an especially good handle on the future? Now, that is a complicated question. The short answer is that studies have shown that among people who make predictions (which is what futures trading is all about), the trend among the many tends (but only tends) to make a better forecast than any one particular guru.

In the Financial Times, Tim Harford reports (“How to see into the future”) on a study that supposedly supports that idea. Of course, for every trader who offered a pessimistic price, there was another who disagreed with him, but the trend is supposed to be the thing. And the price trend is down.

(There are some real problems with the study, the main one being that its time frame is so short, with participants being asked to make predictions one year out. As we know too painfully, someone who forecast in 2006 that the stock market would crash [and there were such people] was only too right, but he would have looked wrong for the next year and more.)

Anyhow, so the theory goes, precious metals are a refuge in times of trouble, and so when people are expecting trouble, they should be bidding the price up. Instead, the big money is bidding it down, which ought to forecast rosy dawns and blue skies ahead.

#mauipawn #mauiloan #mauigold #gold



Anti-scam for Internet sales

Another insight from this year’s National Pawnbrokers Association convention. This one came during the roundtable on Police Confiscations, but the speaker did not identify himself, so I don’t know whose good advice this is.

When selling electronics, like a laptop, over the Internet, he said he puts an identifier somewhere hidden on the item. He uses Whiteout or a scratch tool.

He also photographs — not just writes down — the serial number.

That way, if a “buyer” has a broken laptop, then buys a good one from you, then “returns” the broken one for credit, you are in a strong position to defend yourself when Paypal or eBay starts a dispute.


This won’t protect you from someone sophisticated enough to swap the good memory module in your machine for the bad one in  his, then return a “broken” machine to you, but it will screen out the less akamai scamsters, and that’s most of them.

Good to know.

#mauipawn #mauiretail