History of Pawn

Uncle Dan's Pawn - the original three ball crestThe History of Pawn

How and When Did It Start?

The history of pawn* can be traced back thousands of years. The word pawn is derived from the Latin word pignus, for pledge or pawn. A pawnbroker is an individual or business that loans people money and uses personal items as a pledge to repay the loan.  If the loan is not repaid, the pawnbroker will sell the property. While many items can be pawned, the most common are jewelry, gold, musical instruments, computers, video game systems, televisions, cameras, power tools and other valuable items as collateral.

Pawnbroking first started in ancient China by Buddhist monks over 3,000 years ago to give loans to peasants and small businesses. The practice also was recorded in ancient Greece and throughout the Roman Empire. Some pawnbrokers operated independently, but over time most pawn loans were made through pawn shops.

In medieval Europe, prominent families such as the Lombard’s of England and the Medici’s of Italy became money-lending families. By this time, kings and queens used the practice to raise money. England’s King Edward III famously pawned his jewels to the Lombard’s in 1388 to finance the war against France. Queen Isabella of Spain pawned her jewelry to fund Christopher Columbus’ expeditions to the New World.

The universal symbol of pawnbroking is three gold balls. Legend has it that a member of the Medici family fought a giant and slew him with three sacks of rocks. The three balls later became part of Medici family crest, and ultimately, the sign for pawnbroking. * History of pawnbroking