Pawn brokers need no fixing

Pawn Brokers Need No Fixing

Kearns Pawn Brokers

The business of pawnbrokers stretches back to Ancient Greek and Roman times and even today their daily lives can be seen chronicled on a US reality TV show called Pawn Stars. As times have changed so has the way pawnbrokers do business. Pat Kearns, who owns and runs Kearns on Queen Street, has seen this change first hand. “Years ago it used to be the clothes and shoes. That was finishing when I started. It was in on a Monday and out again on the weekend. That’s finished over thirty years and now it’s all jewellery.”

Walking into a pawnshop is an odd mix; it seems to hover somewhere between a jewellery shop
and a bank, which is exactly the position it occupies. Retail jewellery and the loan business usually go hand in hand. However, many people have a negative view of the trade. In reality pawnbrokers provide a service offering secured loans, with a two per cent interest rate, with personal property used as the security for both parties. “People think the main interest of the business would be if people leave the stuff. It’s not because it has to be sold by public auction, and that costs money, time and hassle.” says Pat.

Their ideal situation would be if people came in at the end of their four month contract and redeemed their loans. “It would be in our interest if everybody came in and took back their stuff, it would be an easier life.”

In recent times Dublin saw Cash Converters shops set up all over the city, only to go the way of the Dodo. The business model was a very different one from places like Kearns. In essence one would sell them an item and only have one month to buy it back, with a hefty “interest rate” of 30 per cent.

In Dublin there are only three pawnbrokers left: Kearns, Brerton’s on Capel Street and Carthy on Marlboro Street. In times past there would have been as many as 30. Pat’s family has had the business for over 100 years and it was a pawn premises before that. His great grand uncle bought it in the early 1900s, Pat took it over in 1978, but there has been a pawn business on the site for close to 150 years.

The keen eye of the pawnbroker is the invaluable tool used to conduct the day to day business. They can’t accept stolen goods, because they won’t get a license if they do,  and often the, shall we say, demeanour of the customer will tell them this. Fake items are another big issue. Pat says “I’ve seen situations where women were told that the boyfriend bought a ring and paid x number of thousands and all of a sudden you have to let them down gradually. He was called sweet things going out the door.”

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