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.



A pawnbroker with a heart of platinum

Most of our customers don’t have even one gold album, let alone 5 platinum ones, so this incident from the Top Cash Pawn Shop in Plano, Texas, is unlikely to be repeated at Kamaaina Loan. But it’s a wonderful little story.

According to the Plano Star-Courier, it seems rapper D.O.C. left his five — count ’em 5 — platinum albums with a friend during a move and then lost track of the friend. Don’t you hate when that happens?

Years pass. Taylor Packwood of Top Cash Pawn makes a loan on the albums, which is renewed for years and years but eventually forfeited.

More time passes. Long story short, a D.O.C. fan spots the albums, uses social media to alert the musician, and Packwood says he’ll return them to the star, no charge.

“They’re both just in shock, No. 1, that they wound up here, but that they actually found them,” Packwood said. “What they’ve told me is that there are a few more out there somewhere, five more matching gold plaques.”


Trouble for diamonds

The following post should concern you even if you are not a diamond miner, which we assume most of our readers are not. Even if the only diamond you ever own is in an engagement ring, there is trouble ahead.diamond

At last year’s National Pawnbrokers Association convention, Martin Rapaport, publisher of the Rap Report guide to current diamond prices, spoke about the increasing appearance of synthetic diamonds and how difficult they are to tell from natural ones.

We are not talking only about artificial coloring of natural stones, which is impossuible to detect, but also about factory-made stones passing as dug-from-the-ground gems.

A year ago, Rapaport was saying that the problem was coming but was not yet a big problem for diamond buyers and sellers in pawn shops (and, by implication, for their customers). Well, trouble is here already.

As Bloomberg News reports, producers of natural gems are frightened enough to have, for the first time ever, formed an industry association:


The famously secretive diamond industry has lacked coordinated leadership since De Beers’s monopoly over the supply of gems ended after it lost a 10-year legal battle with the U.S. over price-fixing in 2004. The proposed association would represent the vast majority of the world’s diamond supply.

When we say that the value of a diamond is determined by the 4Cs (color, cut, clarity and carat-size), left unsaid is the fifth factor: rarity. Manufactured diamonds, of course, are potentially infinite in availability.

Diamonds have been made industrially since the 1950s, but the process was difficult, not too cheap and not well-suited to making gem diamonds. Technology advances.

Although a variety of factors have driven down the cost of genuine diamonds considerably (end of the deBeers control, new sources in Russia, South America and Africa outside South Africa), the cost of producing a look-alike has fallen even faster.

The Times of India reported last month that 110 manmade diamonds were discovered in a parcel in the Indian city of Surat, the world’s biggest cutting center. The undisclosed mixing of diamonds has been discovered on several occasions in the nation with India’s Gem Jewellery Export Promotion Council starting the Natural Diamond Monitoring Committee to combat the issue.

The fact that the unscrupulous traders were caught proves that it is still possible to tell the difference between manmade and natural diamonds, but is not easy, inexpensive or quick. (An artificially colored natural diamond is undetectable with current technology.)

It requires a specialized laboratory and days. At present, a retail buyer of stones, like our Maui pawn shop, cannot do the test, and the days required mean that customers are not likely to wait around for a distant lab to report. We can hope that the technology will improve and become cheaper, the way gene-splicing moved from custom work to mass production (to take one example from many). But who knows when that will come?

At present, there are not so many fake gem diamonds in circulation that pawn shops and jewelry stores are taking a big risk in making an offer for a customer’s old jewelry. But the incidence of fakes could accelerate rapidly.

Pawnbrokers have already seen how fake coins — made available in huge quantities from the world’s largest Internet scam business, Alibaba — have ruined the numismatic market for some coins, including Kingdom of Hawaii coins.

For the moment, Rapaport is sticking with the advice he gave his pawnbroker audience last year: Know who you are dealing with and stick with respectable vendors.

Addressing whether consumers should be concerned about diamond synthetics, Martin Rapaport said, “If you’re going to be buying diamonds, you better be dealing with a reputable source and that’s number one. There are a million ways for the consumer to be taken advantage of and it’s important for the consumer to buy from a reputable source even if it cost a little more.”

He also added, “Find someone you’re comfortable with and trust. Don’t feel you’re under pressure to buy. A lot of times you are under some pressure, you really want to get engaged, but I say relax and find the time to find someone that you trust. Comfort is king.”

#maui #mauiretail #mauijewelrydiamond

What will pawnbrokers think of next?

A rendering of the Badlands pawn shop. We think that 's a helicopter on the roof

A rendering of the Badlands pawn shop. We think that ‘s a helicopter on the roof

On little Maui, we refer to our retail store at 96 N. Market as “our big store,” because it’s about 4 times the size of our original location at 42 N. Market (now being turned into a framing shop by another business).

Everything is relative. On the Mainland, there seems to be a trend to mega-pawnstores, in the 20,000-square-foot range. But, hey, why stop there?

That appears to be the mantra of Chuck Brennan of Sioux City, Iowa, a concert promoter whose latest promotion is “the Disneyland of pawn shops,” a $15 million, 53,000-square-foot emporium of everything that would attract a shopper in northwest Iowa — a gun range where you can fire a .50-caliber machine gun; 20 restrooms such as you would find in a luxury hotel; a foundry where gold coins will be minted; an FM radio station; a tattoo parlor; and, oh yes, a pawn shop.

The report in the Sioux City Journal does not say anything about food, aside from nickel coffee, and nothing really about the pawn shop; but we’re guessing there will be a place to chow down on local delicacies like loose meat sandwiches.

That’s loose meat, not moose meat. Crumbled ground beef cooked so that the fat runs off and served on a hamburger bun. Gourmet dining in northwest Iowa.

We have heard of pawn shops that also performed weddings, but Brennan’s Badlands Pawn Shop Gold & Jewelry is the most ambitious expansion of the basic loan emporium we have heard of, and, to tell the truth, way beyond anything we ever imagined when talking over what we could do to make Kamaaina Loan an even better place for borrowers.

Sioux City is half the size of Maui and has weather about one-tenth as attractive, but Brennan’s venture is near the intersection of two Interstate highways, so maybe it will take its place with other improbable attractions that take advantage of Interstate off-ramps, like South of the Border in South Carolina and the original In-and-out Burger in Baldwin Park, California. (OK, nitpickers, it wasn’t on an Interstate, because in 1948 there weren’t any Interstatesw, but it was strategically situated near a freeway ramp.)



How pawn shops get stuff

On the Kamaaina Loan webcast from First Friday in Wailuku, Jason Schwartz and I tried to explain how pawn shops come by the odd and fabulous things we sometimes get to put on our shelves.

I was concentrating on tools, since in January we usually have some terrific bargains. You see, wives and girlfriends buy their husbands and boyfriends tools for Christmas, but they don’t know what they need, so they end up getting them stuff they already have.

The husbands and boyfriends then sell the duplicates to us, often still in unopened packaging. So akamai toolhounds know to shop the tool store at 50 N. Market St. in the weeks after Christmas for extraspecial bargains.

But today we find an ESPN story about how a pawnshop ended up with something even rarer and more special than a new tool — a Super Bowl ring awarded to someone who wasn’t on the winning team.

It isn’t an especially happy story, since the ring’s owner had to surrender it following a personal bankruptcy, but presumably his creditors got some joy out of it.

But remember, if you need money and want to sell something to your friendly pawnbroker, you don’t have to tell us why. You do have to attest that it is your property and leave your name, address, picture and thumb print, so if you stole it, you’d be pretty stupid bringing it to a pawn shop.

But if you are a little embarrassed — personally as well as financially — we sympathize — but we don’t have to know why, Lots of people tell us anyway, but that’s a topic for another day.

See gold go UP!

A month ago, gold was trading at $1,175 an ounce. This morning, it is a bit over $1,290.

That’s a gain of about 10%, and, no, we didn’t see that coming.

So bring us your gold, and we will buy it or lend on it, and either way, we can offer you more than we could afford to a month ago.

Will it go down 10% over the next month? We have no idea but it’s risk we have to take to keep delivering financial help with aloha to Maui people, just like during all the swings up and swings down over the past 38 years.

#mauiloan #mauigold #mauiretail

Crooked lawyers? Say it ain’t so!

The post below is copied from my other blog, Restating the Obvious Maui, at The Maui News. For Kamaaina Loan blog, the key point to add, if you are a borrower, is that pawn loans are “non-recourse loas, which means that if you do not repay, the pawnbroker can keep your collateral, but he cannot go after any of your other goods or income. He cannot ask the courts to make you pay.

And he does not report your default to a credit reporting agency. Something to think about if you have ever had trouble repaying a loan in the past.

* * *

The NY Times has a story about the New York attorney general going after corrupt practices of buyers of bad consumer debt. If you have consumer debt, it’s worth your time (and one of your 10 monthly Times looks if you are not a subscriber) to read.

When I say “going after,” I mean candy-assed sweetheart settlements, amounting to mere hundreds of thousands in frauds that appear to total billions. And no hint of sanctions against the lawyers involved for their culpability in perpetrating frauds upon the courts.

Eric Schneiderman is no Eliot Spitzer.

But unlike mortgage foreclosure lawsuits, consumer debt collection cases often play out far from public view, consumer lawyers say, because borrowers seldom show up in court to contest the suits.
As a result, an estimated 95 percent of debt collection lawsuits result in default judgments against borrowers, an automatic victory for the debt buyers that enables them to garnishee consumers’ wages or freeze bank accounts.

That’s half true. I’ve never seen a debtor show up at Circuit Court to contest a credit card collection action. There are typically 3 to 6 in a morning session. (These are usually suits by the lender not by a buyer of bad debt.)

But I’ve seldom seen anybody show up to contest a real estate foreclosure action either, at least in the years since the Crash of ’08.

In either case, very often the borrower has left Maui long before the lender goes to court.

(Style points to the Times copy editor for getting the correct verb — to garnishee, not to garnish.)

#mauiloan #mauipawn #mauiborrow #borrow

Farewell to 2014, a ‘meh’ year for gold

At Kamaaina Loan we look forward to 2015, because gold has got to have a better year than the one it just had.


Of course, we make loans and buy gold whether it is up or down, but like most people (bears excepted) we like the price to be up. That allows us to lend our customers more, or pay them more for their gold. They like that and we like it.

Gold started the year around $1230 an ounce. (The charts are available from In March it made a run up to $1380, but on the last day of the year it swooned, finishing at a disappointing $1182.

Well, it’s a new year and a fresh start and we wish you well and hope to see you sometime. We will deal for gold, however you want, and as always offer the best deals on the island, with aloha.

Hauoli makahiki hou!