Real reality bites

Know what this is and how much it's worth?

A ribbon issued to welcome US Navy sailors to Honolulu during the war with Spain.

The excitement is building, but a little nervousness, too, as we prep Kamaaina Loan for filming the Pawn Stories reality TV show Thursday. As we said earlier, this is real reality, no script.

Now that we’re about to go on camera, the idea of a script begins to show its advantages.

 With a script, you not only know for sure you’ll be getting something, but you know what it will be. You can cheat a little and do some research beforehand. Come Thursday, we’ll be working the flying trapeze without a net: If you bring in a whatzis that we’ve never seen before, we might be stumped. Or not. There are a lot of reference books upstairs, and with a combined cenjury or so of experience, there are not that many things that have never come over the counter before.

It doesn’t have to be bizarre, though.

What's this Hawaiiana item and what is it worth?

Hawaiiana item

Hawaiiana items are sure to be a hit with the Mainlanders. Come on by, starting at 9 a.m. Thursday, 9 a.m. again Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday.

(What’s the weirdest thing anyone ever brought in? Hard to say, but the Egyptian sarcophagus has to be a contender. It took a while, but we found a buyer for it.)




‘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.




Secrets of reality TV

Secrets of reality TV


Most reality TV shows are staged. You knew that, right? I mean, all those coincidences in “The Amazing Race” didn’t just happen.


There’s an exception, though, and it’s right here. Only we need you to make it happen, fo’ real.


On Thursday and Friday (and maybe Saturday, too), Pawn Stories will be filming at Kamaaina Loan. No script, no fakery.


What we are trying to do, however, is to compress the interesting things that really do happen in the pawnshop over a month, or six months into two days – in the interest of efficiency with the production crews.


Thus, we want you to bring your most curious item in and let us give you a reading. Did tutu tell you the diamond in her wedding ring was “perfect”? You always wondered if it really was. Find out.


In reality, Kamaaina Loan does get a lot of curious stuff. Not every day. Jimi likes to talk about atmospheric clocks, “the closest thing to perpetual energy.”


We really do get atmospheric clocks in. We have one on pawn right now, and we purchased another about three years ago.


They’re real but rare.


So what we’d like you to do for us is help us concentrate all that reality into two days. Should be fun.


We’re open 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and the early bird will get the worms.


Call 242-5555 if you have questions.


And, yes, if you have regular business and don’t want to be filmed, we’re setting up a no-camera area.

Comb through your attic, then your hair . . .

. . . and then bring yourself and your strangest or most interesting possession down to Kamaaina Loan on Thursday or Friday. You’ll want to comb your  hair because you can be on TV.

Reality TV production company Pawn Stories will be videoing in our shop both days, and you can be part of the show!


No kidding, Most reality shows are scripted, wholly or totally (you knew that, right?>), but not this one. Our customers and staff will do what they do, and the cameras will catch it.

If you prefer to keep off camera but have business anyway (like paying off a loan and reclaiming a pawn), we will have a separate, camera-free area for you.

We’re combing our hair, too, and looking to have a lot of fun, and we’d like you to be part of it. And stay for Wailuku First Friday.