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Before there was a quick loan store on every corner, pawn shops were there to help everyday people make ends meet. If you needed consumer credit in America before the 1960s, odds are you had to head to a pawn shop. And today, most banks aren’t there for that $300 loan to get you through to payday.

Highlighting the age-old pawn profession is a History Channel television series, and now a cult hit, called Pawn Stars, which takes you inside the colorful world of the pawn business. It takes place at the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas where three generations of the Harrison family run the business. Like many other reality shows, what they do has basis in real life, but the action tends to skew toward the entertainment realm. Regardless, the show does bring to mind many questions about pawning items: “What are these things worth?” and “What’s the story behind them? Texoma’s real life pawn stars talked about how the pawn business in Texas may not reflect the made-for-TV pawn world we see on the History Channel.

 

Jack Baca

Jack Baca of Wild West Pawn

Jack Baca, owner of Wild West Pawn in Sherman, has been in the pawn business for two decades. He said that unlike the TV show, people don’t come in from all around the country with very specific, valuable goods. The day-to-day grind of the pawn business is mostly making loans on rings, jewelry, and firearms. Wedding and engagement rings are the most common things he sees coming in for pawn. The most expensive thing pawned was a Rolex watch, Baca said. The most unusual thing ever pawned? A pair of false teeth. Baca said he can’t remember what he loaned on it, but the gentleman did come back for the set of chompers.

 

Cliff Montgomery

Cliff Montgomery of Best Pawn in Sherman

Best Pawn on the Sherman-Denison line at FM 691 and Texoma Parkway, has seen its share of power tools and weaponry come through the door since it opened in 1990. Owner Cliff Montgomery called pawn shops “the common man’s bank,” and touted heavy regulation pawn shops face as a testament to their strength in America’s finances. Tools are the most common items that come into his shop for pawn or sale. The most expensive things in the shop? A 1910 gold coin worth about $16,000, and  a five karat diamond solitaire. So what about the most unusual item someone brought to pawn at Best? A Doberman Pinscher. “We loaned fifty dollars on it, and the guy brought the dog house and dog food up here. We had it for about two months before he came and got it out of pawn,” Montgomery said.

Cindy Kuneman

Cindy Kuneman, F&I Pawn in Denison.

Along Denison’s Main Street, F&I Pawn Shop has been in business for four decades. In a ring around the top of their store sits many of the unusual and valuable items the Marr family has collected through pawns and buys. Without hesitation, second-generation pawn star Cindy Kuneman said the strangest thing she’s seen come in for pawn was a pair of hearses, oldstyle with big fins. They’ve had a KGB issue handgun, a Winchester sniper rifle from way back, and a blinder for a one-eyed mule. Atop the shelf in the back of the store, visitors can also see the wooden leg a man pawned right off his stump. It’s a story that still makes the F&I folks shake their heads. The most expensive item to come through the pawn shop is a $20,000 diamond solitaire, and one gander at the large array of jewelry, and one can figure there’s a small fortune in these glass cases.

 

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