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.


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



Like a deer in the headlights

Iraq has purchased 1.1 million — yes, MILLION — ounces of gold, according to Kitco.

Some of Kamaaina Loan's gold inventory.

Some of Kamaaina Loan’s gold inventory.

Analysts speculate that this quiet buying helped support the world gold price recently. Shucks, we thought it was because the world was afraid Vladimir Putin was starting World War III.

In any event, if Putin spooked the market, that’s over. Gold was back down to $1312 in New York today. It had nudged up to $1380, which was $100 an ounce higher than at the beginning of the year.

That’s a gain of nearly 8%. All gone now.

Here at Kamaaina Loan, we feel like we imagine a deer feels in the headlights — transfixed but helpless to do anything about it. For our Maui pawn shop, transactions in fractions of ounces are our bread and butter. A  purchase or sale of 10 ounces would be a red letter day.

We, of course, like to see the price of gold go up. We have a sizable amount of gold in our jewelry store at 98 North Market St., so rising prices make that more valuable. Even more important, if gold goes up, we can lend our pawn customers more, earning more interest for us.

If the smart money is right, though, the trend is not in our favor. Goldman Sachs and Societe General, big playas, are looking for an average 2014 price as low as $1225. Bloomberg News reports:

Bullion, which slid last year by the most since 1981 as some investors lost faith in the metal as a store of value, rebounded 9 percent in 2014 as the global expansion faltered and tensions escalated in Ukraine. Those bullish influences are “transient,” and the U.S. economy will recover from a weather-driven slowdown, pushing gold lower, Goldman’s Jeffrey Currie reiterated in a March 20 report.

Since the year is already almost one quarter over, it will take a 6+% decline just to get to $1225. To get to an average of $1225, the bottom price would have to go lower still.

What can we tell you? If you want to sell or pawn your gold jewelry sometime this year, Goldman Sachs thinks you should do it now rather than later.

We have no idea.

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:


More teevee pawn

Why not us?

As you may know, Kamaaina Loan shot some trial scenes for a pawn shop reality show. You may even have helped us by bringing in your strange items. While not entirely dead, that one hasn’t been picked up by a producer yet.

Yet another pawn reality show debuted over the holidays, called Game of Pawns, shot in Branson, Missouri.

What caught our attention was not the new wrinkle — it’s a combination of a pawn reality show and a game show —  but its location in a tourist mecca.

With the notable exception of Hard Core Pawn set in Detroit, it seems most of the leading pawn reality shows are in tourist towns — Las Vegas, Beverly Hills, now Branson. What more touristy place to have another than Maui?

We’re ready for our screen test, Mr. DeMille.

On the other hand, according to this other story about the big dog among pawn shows, Pawn Stars, being a pawn star brings with it its own problems:

“Their life has completely changed because of this show,” Mason said. “They used to be just guys working in a pawn shop – now they’re celebrities.”

Now, when they’re taping the show, they have restrictions on who can come in, because they’d never be able to get anything done otherwise. But the extras you see in the background are picked out of the actual crowd.

So if you go, you could be in the background on the show, but they’ll make you sign a waiver and instruct you not to walk around staring into the camera.


What was he thinking?

From Albuquerque, a short piece about how pawn brokers and police interact to catch bad guys.

There’s something new here. We have often cautioned that pawn shops are bad places to sell stolen goods, since we take your name, address, phone number, driver’s license and thumb print; plus each transaction is videotaped.

To heck with Sherlock Holmes examining footprints in the snow.

But, in Albuquerque, there was one thief who pressed his luck even further. If you watch the report, it says  a regular customer at University Pawn snatched a tray of chains and ran out. Then went to a different pawn shop to sell them.

What was he thinking?

The KOAT report mentions a pawn shop network that tracks thefts in Albuquerque and also gives the example of a woman whose ring was stolen who emailed pictures to every pawn shop, resulting in a recovery.

First, you have to have a picture available to email. Second, on Maui, you can use, Kamaaina Loan’s exclusive website where crime victims can post information about their losses. That simultaneously alerts both our pawnbrokers and the Maui police, and provides descriptions.

The irony here is that we make it as easy as possible to alert us, and we (helped along by state reporting laws) make it as hard as possible for thieves to fence at pawn shops in general and our Maui pawn shop in particular. Well, that makes it less likely, on the whole, that a recovery will be made through our shop.




One place pawnshops get respect

Pawnbrokers — including Kamaaina Loan blog — often lament that the image of pawnshops with the public is generally low. But there’s one place where we rank high. In fact, as far as we know, the highly-regarded Fender company is the only business that uses “pawnshop” as part of its branding.

Fender has just announced an addition to its fairly new Pawn Shop Special series, a small amp called the Ramparte that

looks the part of the perfect pawnshop prize.

Who knows how many now-famous musicians would never have been heard of if they hadn’t scored cheap used amps and guitars and mixing boards from a pawn shop when they were starting out poor, hungry and working gigs for free? Many, we think.

Tools 086

Maui, whose tourist business supports a high concentration of talented players, is awash with quality instruments (and some of middling goodness), and there are always a few in our retail store at 98 North Market Street.

There are even more in the warehouse, but most of those you’ll never see in the store. They go back to the owners, who have pawned them. Not because they needed money but because they are off on a tour or for a recording date — as the pros so often are — and the akamai ones have figured out that it’s a whole lot cheaper and safer to pawn their instruments with us than to put them in storage.

Our bonded and insured warehouse is climate-c0ntrolled.

The musicians may have come on this cool trick on their own, or they may have learned it from Jerry Clower’s Uncle Versie Ledbetter.

90% of life is just showing up

Or 100% for a man named KK Ho, who lost his job but kept showing up anyway, pretending to be a bond trader. The Bloomberg News story does not explain how, or if, Ho got income from showing up.

I recall a story, from 40 years ago, about a guy who lost his job, which was something in demand, aerospace engineering or something like that. The story did not explain why, since the field was good, he didn’t just get another job; but instead he made a sort of a living for a couple of years by sending out resumes.

In those days, men with his background were sought after, so employers would send him plane tickets to come to an interview. He cashed the tickets and drove instead, living off the difference.

But the story of the parking lot attendant who just showed up and after years disappeared with millions is urban legend, according to

I feel sorry for the other Mr. KK Ho, who may (or may not, who knows?) be a legit trader in the same city. Bloomberg could not satisfy itself about that. But with only 100 Chinese surnames, and a fairly limited roster of given names or initials, the possibilities for confusion in an increasingly connected Chinese working population appear to be enormous.

It’s bad enough with the US Office of Foreign Asset Control, which keeps a list of foreigners with whom designated businesses (mostly financial, including our Maui pawnshop) cannot trade. Not even to buy a $10 silver ring.

There are a lot of alleged drug dealers on the list, and if one Juan Garcia in Colombia comes to the attention of the DEA, then Kamaaina Loan is forbidden to deal with any Juan Garcia, unless we can prove ours is not the DEA’s.

Not easy to do.

Thoughts about buying gold now

Is now a good time to buy gold? Maybe.

The price is the lowest it’s been in about three years. Which does not mean it couldn’t go lower still. But if you think gold is near a bottom and you want to accumulate, here are some things to consider.

Trust, trust, trust.

Somewhere in China, clever guys are busy counterfeiting gold coins, bars and nuggets. We see it all the time.

Want to hear a horror story? About a year ago, a customer brought us a “native nugget” (that is, as found in nature) of what looked like gold from a well-known deposit in China. (All gold is yellow, but this gold, probably because of the other minerals combined with it, is noticeably paler than most.)

Gold was selling high at the time, and the nuggest weighed close to a pound: If genuine, we would have offered about $26,000 for it.

But first we tested. At our Maui pawn shop, we always test (and, yes, once in a while, even with our experience we miss a fake). And when the “nugget” was sawed in two, it proved to be lead.

We don’t know where the guy got his nugget. Probably he wasn’t a counterfeiter. Just some poor schmoo who bought his “nugget” from somebody he could no longer get back to. Maybe, who knows, from an address in Internetland.

Even “slabbed” coins and bars, with serial numbers, are showing up fakes these days. And the fakers are getting better and better.

So, first, know and trust your vendor.

That means, among other things, avoid those “pop up” gold buyers that appeared everywhere — including kiosks at shopping centers and hotel meeting rooms — when gold was high.

Funny thing. It’s getting easier and easier to avoid those guys, because a lot of them have already disappeared. Several have closed on Maui in the past couple of months. One was a “chain” that had outlets on several islands.

Until one morning, it didn’t.

If you bought a “gold eagle” from those guys and you are dissatisfied now, lots of luck trying to do anything about it.

If you don’t like what you buy from Kamaaina Loan And Cash For Gold, bring it back. We were here 37 years ago, we’re here now, and we’ll be here tomorrow.

Other things to think about, if you are going to hold gold:

1. Put it in a bank safe deposit box. The annual rent is cheap insurance compared to just about any other place you could keep it.

2. Keep your records. There are plenty of legit places that will happily buy your gold. Our Maui pawn shop is one of thousands of reputable pawn shops that belong to the National Pawnbrokers Association. There are other reputable buyers, too.

Unfortunately, there are also too many shady ones.

3. If you are buying $50,000 worth of gold, or more, in a calendar year from one agent, that agent is supposed to file a report to FinCen (the government anti-money laundering agency). We will.

4. If you are converting cash to gold, a FinCen report is required for any purchases of $10,000 in a day. “Structuring,” or dividing up deals to avoid having to report is not allowed.

5. If you are selling gold (as jewelry, coins or bars), in Hawaii (and many other jurisdictions) the buyer is required by law to file your ID. In Hawaii, that means a government-issued picture ID (usually a driver’s license), and, at our Maui pawn shop, a thumbprint, and a physical address (P.O. Box won’t do). If the business you are dealing with does not ask for your ID, they are flouting the law, and that should make you suspicious about everything else, including the accuracy of their scales.

We have checked and found any number of pop-up gold dealers on Maui who do not follow this law, but it isn’t something that gets prosecuted. Be smart on your own behalf.

The same cautions apply to silver coins and bars as well. You might suppose that counterfeiters wouldn’t bother with silver, which is worth so much less than gold. And that’s true — up to a point.