Pawn shop treasure: Peace out

In a sense, this is old news, but a Nobel Peace Prize discovered in a pawn shop is headed for auction in, of all places, Baltimore.

Identified as the Peace Prize, this medal is actually a Pulitzer Prize

Identified as the Peace Prize, this medal is actually a Pulitzer Prize

Old news, because the pawn shop discovery was made 20 years ago, when an alert collector recognized the hefty medal (nearly half a pound of 23-karat gold) in a pawn shop in some unspecified place. Presumably Argentina, where the medal was awarded to the foreign minister for helping to bring to a conclusion the Chaco War, a war fought over what turned out to be no oil.

You never can tell what will come into your pawn shop. From the story, it appears the pawnbroker may not have known it was a Peace Prize medal but knew enough not to melt it for the gold. At today’s prices (way up by the way, thank you Vladimir Putin), the metal is worth around $10,000.

As a collector’s item, the presale estimate is $50,000. That’s why at Kamaaina Loan, we say we will give you the highest amount based on either the metal weight, the artistic value or the collectible value.

Gold taking a breather?

We have been fascinated by the steady rise in the world price of gold, because we listened to the smart money (at Goldman Sachs etc.) that was predicting a fall in 2014.

Well, today, gold pulled back a little, but according to Kitco news, only because some holders were cashing in their profits from a 4-month-long rally:

Gold prices ended the U.S. day session moderately lower Wednesday, pressured on profit taking and chart consolidation following recent gains that saw prices hit a four-month high overnight.

#maui #mauigold #mauiretail

Gold offered for sale on Maui

Gold offered for sale on Maui

Pawn shop with ferris wheel

Loved this headline from the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:


Pawn Shop Opens March 6 With Ferris Wheel, School Bus, and So Much More

Was totally bummed to find out that the “pawn shop” is just a disco club called “The Pawn Shop.”

On the other hand, gold climbed past $1,340 today, continuing to confound the seers who predicted falling prices for precious metals.

#maui #maui pawn

Hey, wassup? Silver and gold. that’s what

It’s kinda puzzling. The Dow is up sharply, which usually has a depressing effect on metals. But gold is up, too. It was  briefly over $1,337 an ounce today. Silver, too. It got over $22 for the first time in a long while before slipping all the way down to $21.99.

Nowhere near the $1800 and $38 of a couple years ago,  but the trend is up not down.

Not only do we at our Maui pawn shop not pretend to understand what moves gold and silver prices, we find stock prices puzzling, too. Especially stocks in pawnshops.

Most of America’s 12,000 or so pawn shops are quite small, but there are a few  big chains.  Big  being relative compared to banks. Even local banks often have assets over a billion dollars. Pawn chains are not that size.

One of the ” big” ones is EZ Pawn, which reported an 8% gain in same-store sales over the holidays. The stock bounced up by 27%. How very nice for them, but hard to understand since “The company’s profit and sales actually fell during the quarter, by 27% and 1%, respectively.”

Profit down 27%, stock up 27%. It must make sense to somebody.

Bring us your old surfboard. We know how to value that.



Keeping up with ‘Pawn Stars’

First, according to formerly famous Alec Baldwin in his last interview in New York magazine, the autograph is dead. Not so, Alec, as we learn from this piece on “Pawn Stars” from the Ceres Courier.

(Ceres is near Turlock in case you haven’t ever been there.)

After indoor taping ended, Sarah and I were escorted to the Old Man’s office as Rick chatted in the hallway. He signed an autograph with few words and posed for a photo.

The rest of the piece is about a newspaper editor’s bid to get on the show. Did you know “Pawn Stars” is numero uno in Argentina?

We didn’t either.

The pawn business is almost universal.

Maybe we’re prejudiced, but we’d rather keep up with the Harrisons than the Kardashians.

Jeff and Sarah with Rick (Ceres Courier photo)

Jeff and Sarah with Rick
(Ceres Courier photo)

What in the world is gold doing?

First, our regular disclaimer whenever we blog about gold and silver prices: We have no idea what the trends will be. At our Maui pawn shop, we buy and sell metal every day but we are completely at the mercy of the world price.

Each day, when we open the computer to see where gold went, it is a surprise.

That said, we read the opinions of those who do claim to be trendspotters with interest. Late last year, the smart guys on Wall Street were pretty much agreed that gold would drop during 2014, probably to a price near $1,200 an ounce.

For a while, they looked like soothsayers. On Dec. 30, the price dropped below $1,200 for the first time in a long time.

So what did the world say to the smart guys? So far, it’s been a big Bronx cheer. Gold is up well over 10% even after taking a bit of a dip today.

Of course, most of 2014 is yet to come and maybe gold will start dropping in a big way.  There’s a scary report from the International Monetary Fund (summarized at Bloomberg News) warning about deflation, especially in Europe and emerging markets.

Deflation is generally bad for gold, as when you make fiat money (dollars, money that is money because the government says it is and everybody agrees to go along) more valuable, metal becomes less valuable. In fact, deflation is generally bad for everybody because it becomes harder for everybody to pay their bills.

Very low inflation, “if below target for an extended period, could de-anchor longer-term inflation expectations,” the IMF economists wrote. It “also complicates the task in the periphery where the real burden of both public and private debt would rise as real interest rates increased,” they said.

Translated, this gobbledegook means that inflation, which is good, or, at least, essential to a modern economy, has been tamed all too well and if luck is not with us, we could experience another crisis like we had in 2009.

Of course, some people think the IMF has been prescribing bad medicine since, oh, forever; and it would be a good thing to ignore those guys.



To catch a thief — or several

We have surveillance cameras at our Maui pawn shop, but we DO NOT do what Portland pawnbroker Mike Fink does:

Fink, who owns Guitar Grave, has been posting YouTube videos of customers who are trying to sell stolen items or have stolen from him.

Read more:

He does more than that. He posts videos from his shop about anything that strikes him as funny, and he is a humorous man. Some are what you might expect — stoners; but others are just Portlandians who seem to hear a different, more uncertain trumpet. You can watch a bunch of them by going here.

Portland Press-Herald photo

Portland Press-Herald photo

Fink also marries people. This is not that unusual. A number of pawnshops (but not Kamaaina Loan) will tie your knot. We have not watched all his  videos yet,  but our favorite so far is “A Very Guitar Grave Wedding.” The bride, Nikki Rae, who seems to be having a very good time, says, a few minutes after Fink ties the knot, “I want to be on top.”

For some reason a local radio reporter walked in during the ceremony and recorded it. It must have made for curious radio. He ended up being the witness for the marriage, too.

Guitar Grave is not the most obvious name for a pawnshop, but there’s a story behind that, too.

Fink says he started out selling games and was looking for a name. Marketing advice said to find something alliterative, so he started searching the database of available names for Game G-something.

Among the choices was Grave, and he picked that because it was the only one that his son, who was then 7, could spell.

Later, an employee persuaded him to expand into collectible guitars, and Guitar Grave was born.

Really, Kamaaina Loan (Hawaiian for “child of the land,” meaning native-born or, loosely, old-timer) seems pallid by comparison.  And nobody but a kamaaina can spell it.



The ‘lumpy incomes’ of the rich

the last egg

the last egg

A little late — and a lot more illiterate than the predecessors — Barron’s comes to note the arrival of Suttons & Robertsons pawn shop for the rich in Manhattan. Kamaaina Loan blog has already noted the incursion of the newcomer a month ago based on reports in the New York Times and other publications.

In some ways, the Barron’s report is better. It points out that while S&R can claim to have been in business for 250 years, it is really a new enterprise, having been taken over by a much younger, bigger firm with dreams of globalizing a local brand, sort of like what happened to Krispy Kreme donuts, although no doubt DFC Global hopes not to repeat that fiasco.

We like DFC chief Jeffrey Weiss’s characterization of his target customers as people with “lumpy incomes” and intend to steal that. Most of our customers are rather less rich than his but the conundrum of lumpy incomes is just as pressing. On Maui, with the visitor industry pulsing through peaks and bottoms and sides and saddles, lots of working people find  that — just like investment bankers waiting for the year-end bonus — the bills arrive before the money does.

Another interesting factoid — of no obvious relevance to us in Maui, though — is that while the uber-rich keep about 9.5% of their richness in tangible things (Aston-Martins, spare houses), that rises to 18% in places like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and China. It helps to have a handkerchief full of jewels you can stuff in your pocket when fleeing the revolution.

Pawnbrokers and second-hand dealers made a good thing out of the Russian Revolution, as the exiled aristocrats unloaded their Faberge eggs, jewel-encrusted ikons and silver-gilt tea services in Paris, London and New York. A La Vieille Russie (To Old Russia) moved from Kiev to Paris about 1920 and opened a branch in New York in 1934.

It’s still there, across the street from the Plaza, and as late as about 1970, you could still buy the sweat of Russian serfs, once removed; although after three generations the plunder of the oppressed had finally been processed through the digestive organs of the capitalist snake, and the last time we were at A La Vieille Russie, it was reduced to selling reproductions of Georgian furniture and there wasn’t an ikon in the joint. (There are some rather pitiful-looking ikons, no jewels, in their online store at; but the goose that laid the Faberge eggs is just about dead.)

The article is in Barron’s “Pentadaily,” which is described as “Insights and advice for families with assets of $5 million or more.” It’s a shame Pentadaily cannot afford any copy editors.

We are considering adopting a slogan for the Kamaaina Loan blog. Maybe:

“Insights and advice for families with assets of hard work, lots of children and an Hawaiian heirloom bracelet or two.”


Pawnbroker heads for paradise

From the headline

West coast pawnshop owner moving to Paradise

we thought we were going to get some more competition for our Maui pawn shop. But no. Newfoundlander Rod Lyver is just moving across the island to a town called Paradise. But it’s still in Newfoundland, where it’s cold!

Kidding aside, Rod’s story is inspiring, how a kid struck a deal with a local merchant to take over some unsold stuff, turned a slight ($32) profit and took off from there to create a successful small business.

Attaboy, Rod!






We like to say you should check into our Maui pawn shop frequently, because you never know what you will find. Neither, of course, do we, until we have it.

Like this snake deity: