Sifting Through Other People’s Junk (Part 3)

Now onto a darker side of other people’s junk: pawn shops. Pawn shops come across as icky sometimes. I definitely used to watch a ton of Pawn Stars as a kid. Then I sold some of my stuff to a few pawn shops to get some money to buy my first handgun. Nowadays I USUALLY only go if I have something specific in mind or need to transfer a firearm. To cut to the chase, pawn shops kind of suck. But they also kind of kick butt.

Why Pawn Shops Suck

People generally don’t sell to pawn shops unless they need money, like now. Often things get pawned for a quick, high-interest loan and get abandoned. Other things will get just sold, for low prices—I would beat 17/18-year-old me’s butt for selling stuff to them. Less well-meaning clientele will try to fence stolen goods at pawn shops, but many shops do try to avoid this. Afterall, it’s not in the shops best interest to buy stolen goods. It mars their reputation and can bring Johnny Law to their doors.

But the biggest reason a lot of them suck is the desperation you can feel with some items. I’ve visited a lot of pawn shop, probably 50-75%+ of my local ones. But it wasn’t until recently that I saw people pawning shoes like Air Jordans. Seeing that just hit a nerve, it made me realize how lucky I am. It brought back a memory of watching a guy pawning worthless tools like a caulk gun…yea.

Since a lot of goods at pawn shops were originally collateral, prices can outright suck. There’ll be a lot of junk items too: AliExpress tier electronics and instruments, guns in the worst condition you can think of for more than MSRP, and tools that look like they’ve been left to nature for far too long. It takes a lot of digging to often find nice things.

Why Pawn Shops Kick Butt

Occasionally, get really good deals at pawn shops. There’s two big things I keep my eyes out for in them: guns and tools. Many pawn shops sell guns, lots of guns. Since buying and selling stolen firearms is a felony, shops are a lot more careful about buying guns. Sometimes you’ll find really cool, fancy guns and other times you’ll find something that makes a Taurus look like a Rolls Royce. My very first gun was a Marlin Model 60 that I got from a pawn shop for my 18th birthday. I still have that rifle, and I still love it.

One of my favorite finds was a Detonics Combat Master in .45 ACP. It’s a largely unknown gun that spurred the entire subcompact 1911 craze. Made from full-sized 1911s, Detonics cut them down to be tiny and easy to carry. I’ve since sold it to a buddy who just had to have it, but the thing was an awesome little fireball machine.

Another thing you can basically swim in at any pawn shop ever is tools. People often pawn or sell entire sets of tools; maybe they only needed it once or maybe they changed trades. Anything from small hand tools to bench top planers can be found at thrift stores. A shop up in Sebastian always has a wild assortment of new and used tools. If only I had room for some of them. I once bought an orbital palm sander that had been obviously used for drywall work. I turned it on in my kitchen (I was restoring my rusty cast iron pan). Be smarter than me, people.

Another thing to keep an eye out for is music equipment. Some shops dedicate themselves to selling new and used instruments in addition to the normal pawn junk. You’ll usually find the expensive stuff right next to the cheapo stuff. But if you want to learn guitar or bass, you can sometimes find a decent set up at one a good shop.

Should You go to One?

Yea, why not. Just make sure it is a reputable shop. Do keep in mind, many pawn shops are in the rougher parts of town and be respectful. They can be pretty fun to go to. Just keep in mind you USUALLY won’t find good deals. They’re one of the few places you can still haggle over prices and you can still find cool stuff. I once found a box of $1 point and shoot film cameras. Go out there and check your local pawn shops for some goofy stuff. My local one has a PlayStation racing wheel attached to a walker that was painted blue, it’s awesome.

Next up we’ll talk about online marketplaces. Hope to see you there! And if you’re just now joining me, check out my posts on Flea Markets in Part 1 and Thrift Stores in Part 2.

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