Need to make some quick money for your jewelry, gold, antiques? Pawn shops may be the answer. How NOT to get ripped off, and get the most cash.

While a pawn shop may be a quick way to sell your used items for cash — or get an immediate loan to pay bills, there are better ways to get the cash you need, fast.

This post breaks down the pros and cons of selling to a pawn shop, make sure you don't get ripped off, as well as better alternatives to get the most cash, safely and quickly for your diamonds, gold, jewelry, antiques, power tools, collectible gold and silver coins, or guns — often without leaving your home.

Gold, diamond and silver jewelry, scrap metal and coins is one of the most popular things that pawnshops nearly always buy.

Our No. 1 recommendation to sell gold and diamond jewelry, coins, watches, silver and other scrap metal is CashforGoldUSA. This website has:

  • A+ Better Business Bureau Rating
  • Pays within 24 hours
  • Fox Business News found CashforGoldUSA to pay 3X more for gold than its competitors
  • Complete the entire process online or phone, and via overnight FedEx (no need to leave your house)
  • 10% bonus if you send in your item within 7 days
  • 100% guaranteed highest price, and easy, free returns.

Get a free estimate with CashforGoldUSA now >>

While pawnshops serve their purpose for quick cash for those in a tight spot, there are many serious buyer beware warnings. Keep reading!

What is a pawn shop?

A pawn shop, or pawnbroker (same thing), are one of the oldest financial institutions, and also one of the financial institutions with one of the worst reputations — which is not always warranted.

By definition, a pawn shop offers small loans using collateral that a traditional bank would not accept. For example, pawnshops typically take jewelry, firearms, electronics and furniture against a cash loan — which your local bank or credit union would not.

Pawn shops are also a way to sell their items immediately for cash — opposed to trying to sell to the public via CraigsList, Facebook Marketplace or eBay.

Pawn shops typically help out people who do not have other access to credit due to poor credit and/or low income. As such, pawnbrokers can get away with high interest rates and fees. However, the pawn business is a basic financial transaction, with roots dating to ancient China, the Roman Empire and ancient Greece. A famous pawndeal was in 1388 when England’s King Edward III pawned his jewels to the Lombards to finance war against France, and Queen Isabella of Spain used her jewelry as collateral to fund Christopher Columbus’ expeditions to the New World.

Despite having a seedy reputation, pawnshops are regulated by state and national laws, guided by the National Pawnbrokers Association, and your local pawnbroker is likely listed and rated by the Better Business Bureau, subject to Yelp and Trustpilot reviews, and other ways to determine whether the pawnbroker near you is reputable and honest.

How pawn shops work

Before we offer tips that can help you maximize your next pawn shop visit, here’s a basic rundown of how these dynamic retail stores work:

Pawn shops offer cash for items you don’t even want, and on a much faster timeline than if you sold your items yourself. The money they offer comes in the form of a loan you must repay back within a specific length of time, usually 30 to 60 days. If you don’t repay the “loan,” they’ll keep the items you put up as collateral.

This is usually the plan all along. While some pawn shop regulars do use their items as collateral for a short-term loan, but there are just as many who have no intention of coming back for their stuff.  

When you use a pawn shop that way, you’re really just selling your items in the fastest, easiest way possible — albeit for less money than you might get elsewhere. Still, the important key word here is “might.” You may get more or less money if you sell your stuff yourself, but you won’t really know unless you try.

How do pawn shops determine value?

Pawn brokers base the value of your item on an appraised value, condition and what the pawn shop thinks he or she can sell the item for. They make these estimates based on research tools, recent sales, experience, and in the case of gold and jewelry, market rates for precious metals and gemstones.

Pawn shop loans

If you don’t want to sell your item at a pawn shop, but still need the money ASAP, you can get a loan from the pawn shop.

Pawn shop loans are based on the value, condition and resale potential of the item you bring into the pawn shop. This is how a pawnshop loan works:

  1. Bring your item to the pawnshop, where you will be made an offer for a loan.
  2. You leave your jewelry or other item at the pawn shop as collateral in return for a cash loan with a set term with documentation (often called a “pawn shop loan ticket”).
  3. You walk away with your cash. If you return with your ticket within the set terms of the loan — typically 30 days or more, you cash in your ticket in exchange for your item.

Sound too good to be true? It is.

A pawn shop loan will never equate to 100% of the value of your item. Instead, expect about half of the resale value of the item, plus a pawn shop can legally charge you fees for storage, appraisal, and insurance. For example, if you bring in a diamond engagement ring that is worth $2,000, a pawn shop may loan you $1,000 for 30 days, and charge you $150 in fees — which equates to an APR of 182% APR. 

You must be 18 years old to do business with a pawn shop, provide proof of identity, and in many cases, proof of purchase or proof of ownership of the item. In other words: Don't try to sell hot items to a pawn shop.

How long do you have to pay back a pawn shop loan?

Typically, you have 30 days to pay back a pawnshop loan, though this can be negotiated or extended.

What happens if I don’t pay back my pawn shop loan?

If you are not able to repay the loan with the fees within the agreed-upon time, the pawn shop can legally keep the item and sell it. You may have gotten a quick $1,000 for your ring, but had you sold it outright to a reputable jewelry buyer, you would have $2,000. 

Pros of pawn shop loans 

  • Quick money
  • No credit check, co-signer or bank account required

Cons of pawn shop loans 

  • Super-high interest rates 
  • Risk of not getting your item back, having received a fraction of its value — though you may be able to negotiate an extension or renewal for the pawn shop loan.
  • In-person transaction, which may not be convenient for you, and may be intimidating or otherwise uncomfortable.

What can you sell at a pawn shop?

There are very few things that you cannot sell to a pawn shop — but each pawnbroker decides what they want to buy, or issue a loan against, at any time. Sometimes they may not buy an item because they already have a lot of inventory, or otherwise do not think they can sell it.

Best things to pawn —what pawnshops always buy:

The following are things that pawnshops almost always buy:

  • You can nearly always pawn jewelry, gold, watches, coins and precious metals
  • Firearms
  • Electronics
  • Computers / laptops
  • Smart phones
  • Sports equipment, including bikes
  • Tools and yard equipment
  • Musical instruments
  • Video games

Other items that you can sell at a pawn shop for cash or a loan, in some cases:

  • Comic books
  • Porn
  • Clothes
  • Animals — livestock and pets
  • Real estate
  • Vehicles: Cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles, scooters, ATV, golf carts

Pawn jewelry

Have an engagement ring to sell after a nasty divorce? You may consider pawning your ring to a pawn shop near you, although it may be better to sell your jewelry online. Also, instead of pawning old or broken gold jewelry, gold coins, estate and antique jewelry and other scrap metal, online gold buyers may pay more, and be easier to work with. Here is what you need to know about pawning jewelry:

How much do you get for jewelry at a pawn shop?

As with other items sold to pawn shops, you will get 25% to 60% of the retail value of your item from the pawn broker. This may be tempting if you really, really need the money very quickly, but there are other ways to get a much higher return on your jewelry — which is likely one of the most valuable things you own.

CashforGoldUSA buys all kinds of gold and silver jewelry (including broken jewelry), as well as diamond rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings and other jewelry — and they pay within 24 hours of receiving your item.

Pawn diamonds

Pawning diamonds may be a good way to get quick cash, but you can likely make more money on your diamond ring, loose diamonds or other diamond jewelry by selling to a jeweler near you — or to an online diamond buyer.

How to sell a diamond ring to a pawn shop

Before you pawn diamonds, consider that precious gemstone grading and pricing is a highly scientific process that should be done by a gemologist with a lab report, or at least a certified jeweler who understands the intricacies of diamonds, and the value of your jewelry — expertise very, very few pawn brokers offer.

Worthy.com‘s online jewelry estimator will help you understand the value of your item — and if you send in your ring, bracelet or earrings, Worthy pays for your item to be evaluated by a gemological laboratory such as the GIA, which will provide a grading report.

Worthy only accepts items they can sell for at least $1,000 (a diamond center stone of .5+ carats), Worthy will send an overnight FedEx mailer to your home, 100% free, and your engagement ring or other jewelry will arrive at Worthy's offices where it will go to auction, and hundreds of vetted jewelry buyers will bid on your item — driving up the price.

Worthy has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating, and praise from the New York Times, TODAY show and others. Get a free estimate for your jewelry from Worthy now >>

CashforGoldUSA and its sister site, CashforDiamonds, accept diamonds of all sizes.

Learn more about the best online diamond buyers, and what you need to know to get a fair price for your diamond.

Both Worthy and CashforGoldUSA will send back your item immediately, 100% free, if you choose not to sell after receiving their offer.

Pawn gold

If you are thinking about pawning your gold jewelry, gold coins, broken jewelry, dental or other scrap, online gold buyers often offer a higher price.

What will a pawn shop pay for gold?

How much a pawn shop will pay for gold depends on lots of factors, including how competitive the pawn market is in your town — the larger the town and more pawn brokers in your area, the more competitive the price a pawn broker is likely to offer.

The price a pawn shop, or any gold buyer, will pay for gold is based on today's gold price, minus their commission. The price a pawn shop will pay for scrap gold, vs gold jewelry may be the same if they plan to melt down the jewelry for scrap, or a slightly higher price per gram if the pawnshop plans to resell the gold jewelry as-is. Broken jewelry is often bought for scrap, but is sometimes repaired resold.

Gold prices are at a 7-year high. As of today, , the gold price in the USA was at a near-record price of $ per ounce, or $ per gram.

Is it better to sell gold at a pawn shop?

An online gold buyer has an advantage over a pawn shop near you for taking a lower commission, and offering you a lower fee:

  • Pawn shops have to pay for retail space, which can be expensive
  • An online gold buyer does huge volumes of gold purchases and sales — which allows them to offer higher prices.
  • Online gold buying is a very competitive business, as these buyers compete with all the gold buyers on the internet — as well as all the local pawnshops and gold buyers. More competition = lower commissions, and higher payout for you.
  • Gold buyers are experts in gold buying, whereas a pawn broker buys and sells items in lots of categories — making it hard to be an expert in any of them.

CashforGoldUSA our #1 recommendation for online gold buyers.

Pawn watches

Fine timepieces are a highly specialized category that can require an expert with deep knowledge of the history and marketplace for these sophisticated collectibles to truly understand what your watch is worth.

Can you pawn a watch?

If you have a lower-end watch, including a smart watch, that you can sell for $50 to $200, pawning your watch may be a good deal.

However, if you have a vintage Rolex, TAG Heuer, Hermes watch, Omega or other watch brands, Worthy works with top New York City watch dealers who can offer a fair price for your timepiece — much more so than most pawnshops.

How much will a pawn shop give you for a Rolex?

The resale value for a used Rolex watch is anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 or more — which a pawn shop will give you 25% to 60%, with an average of 50% of what they think they can sell it for. If yours is a high-end watch, the broker may sell it to a wholesaler, or middleman, which means that your cut will be far less than a retail value. An expert site like Worthy is likely a better bet than pawning your watch.

It is usally a better deal to sell your timepiece via an expert site like Worthy than to pawn your watch.

What can I pawn to get money?

What can I pawn for $100?

Jewelry and gold is always a go-to item that pawnshops nearly always buy. Depending on what you own, you may get $100, $1,000 or more for your jewelry, coins, gemstones or scrap metal or silver.

A gun, some power tools, a lawn mower or a quality stereo or laptop computer in working condition may bring $100 or more.

What can I pawn for $1,000 for quick cash?

Again, you can easily pawn gold and diamond jewelry. A used vehicle or boat, HD TV, or a riding lawn mower may bring $1,000 or more.

Keep in mind that a pawnshop will typically offer you far less for your diamond and gold jewelry than an online buyer. CashforGoldUSA promises to pay a 10% bonus if you send in your item within 7 days, free overnight FedEx from your house, and payment within 24 hours.

Can I pawn my phone?

Yes, if your smart phone is in decent condition and working, many pawnshops will be happy to accept your phone as a pawn or sale — or offer to pay scrap electronic prices for it.

What do pawn shops give the most money for?

This is a relative question — are you asking what items pawn shops pay the highs margin for (what percentage of profit they earn)? Or the highest ticket items?

Pawn shops may buy a vehicle, jewelry or even a piece of real estate. However, higher ticket items, antiques and items of quality will likely fetch a higher price if you sell to a buyer who specializes in those items, and takes a lower fee.

What you need to know about pawn shops and pawn brokers

If your goal is taking the money and never coming back, there are several things you should know before you head to a pawn shop to get rid of unwanted valuables — once and for all.

Pawn shops only loan you 25% to 60% of an item’s resale value

According to the legal experts at NOLO, pawn shops normally give you significantly less than the retail value of your items — 25% to 60%, with abou5 50% of the resale value being average. If you are trying to unload a diamond engagement ring that might sell today for $4,000, for example, you could walk away from the pawn shop with as little as $1,000 in your pocket. That’s better than nothing, of course, but far below the market rate of your valuable.

This is part of the reason why it is rarely advisable to sell your engagement ring and gold and silver jewelry at a pawn shop — and consider selling them online instead:

  • More money right away
  • No steep hidden fees
  • Guaranteed return if you don't agree to the sales price
  • Payment within 24 hours

How much money can you get from a pawn shop?

Expect about 50% of the resale value if you sell or pawn your item to a pawnshop.

How much does a pawn shop make?

You do the math: If a pawn shop sells a diamond ring for $1,000, but pays the seller 50% of that resale value, the pawnbroker makes $500 revenue on that ring.

How much interest do pawnbrokers or pawn shops charge?

In the event of a loan, many pawnshops charge interest rates between 12% and 24% on top of storage costs and insurance fees, according to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. If you want your jewelry or guns back, plan to pony up a lot more cash than you received in the first place.

If you get a $1,000 loan on a gun, you can pay as much as $200 in interest and fees — which goes straight to the pawn shop owner.

The pawn shop also has to pay rent, insurance, utilities, salaries and taxes for employees and other business expenses.

Investopedia reports that pawn shop net profit margins average 15 to 25%.

Advantages of pawn shop loans

  • Quick money
  • No credit check, co-signer or bank account required
  • Won't hurt your credit score or appear on your credit report
  • Receive multiple loans

Disadvantages of pawn shop loans 

  • Super-high interest rates 
  • Risk of not getting your item back, having received a fraction of its value — though you may be able to negotiate an extension or renewal for the pawn shop loan.
  • In-person transaction, which may not be convenient for you, and may be intimidating or otherwise uncomfortable.
  • Pawn shops buy a wide range of items, making it difficult for the pawnbroker to be an expert in everything they offer, and making it hard to give an informed quote for every transaction.

Pawn shops near you vs. online pawn shops

Do you get more money pawning or selling?

Note that nearly all items are worth more if you sell them online instead of in a local pawn shop.

If you have gold, silver or diamond jewelry, coins, scrap, watches or other precious metals or jewelry to unload, you can also get more if you sell online through CashforGoldUSA. This website has an A+ Better Business Bureau Rating, pays within 24 hours, and was found by Fox Business News to pay 3X more for gold than you’d get at a local pawn shop. Plus, you can complete the entire process online and via secure mail.

CashforGoldUSA pays a 10% bonus if you send in your item within 7 days.

Learn more about selling gold for the highest price, and check here to see you gold's value based on today's gold price:

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Look for online pawn shops

Look for online pawn shops that have great online reviews. Are they fair in pricing? Do their customers say they bought their gold, silver and engagement and wedding jewelry at fair prices? Also, make sure the pawn shop is licensed and is in good standing with the Better Business Bureau. Lastly, make sure their policies are clearly stated, such as pawn shop loan application, appraisal, storage and insurance fees, and interest and that you can easily reach their customer service by phone or email.

Looking for online pawn shops where you can sell your gold, silver and jewelry?
Trying to modest gold jewelry? Try CashforGoldUSA >>

Have silver jewelry to sell? Try CashforSilverUSA >>

Look for pawn shops near you

Finally, don’t forget that some items you may consider selling to be at the nearest pawn shop instead of online or through the mail. Other good options include CraigsList, Facebook Marketplace or other local sites where the buyer can come in person to purchase your item.

While it’s easy to sell small valuables like jewelry and gold online, selling larger items (e.g. musical instruments, power tools, etc.) or items with shipping challenges (e.g. firearms) can be a pricey hassle. If you have bulky or heavy items to sell, consider searching for pawnbrokers near you instead of trying to sell them on a platform that requires you to pay shipping costs on top of everything else. Shipping a chainsaw to an online second-hand store will not be a profitable endeavor — no matter what anyone says. Instead, head to your nearest 24 hours pawn shop.

Here are a few other pawn shops. Note that these are national pawn shops with online and brick and mortar retail locations.  

Cash America Pawn

Buys: Typical items (gold and silver jewelry, smartphones, tablets, electronics and firearms).

BBB Rating: C-

Customer Service Review: 1 out of 5 stars, 85 customer complaints

EZ Pawn

Buys: Typical items (gold and silver jewelry, smartphones, tablets, electronics and firearms). Pawn, auto pawn and gun pawn loans available. 

BBB Rating: A-

Customer Service Review: 1 out of 5 stars, 59 customer complaints

First Cash Pawn

Buys: Typical items (gold and silver jewelry, smartphones, tablets, electronics and firearms). Items accepted vary by location, and items must be presented in store for proper valuation. Cash pawn shop loans are available.

BBB Rating: A-

Customer Service Review: No reviews, 8 customer complaints

Pawn America

Buys: Typical items (gold and silver jewelry, smartphones, tablets, electronics and firearms). Online quotes available with guidance on how to photograph items. Prepaid debit cards available. $10 minimum dollar amount on pawn transactions.

BBB Rating: B-

Customer Service Review: 2 out of 5 stars, 8 customer complaints

Why use a pawn shop vs. a consignment shop?

Both pawn shops and consignment shops will pay you around 50% of your item's retail value, up-front, in cash.

The question for any sale of your used item should be: Can I get a better price elsewhere? and, How much work do I have to do to sell this elsewhere?

For clothes, a site like Crossroads Trading, or Buffalo Exchange (in-person or online) likely will be the fastest way to sell a pile of your used clothes, quickly, for some cash. If you have very high-end, luxury items, another consignment store may also be a good option. Here, you can learn more about consignment shops, including three popular online shop: ThredUP, Poshmark, and Mercari.

It is very hard to sell your items yourself directly via eBay, Facebook Marketplace or other online marketplaces, as these typically only work if you have a true online ‘store,' with a lot of products, are experienced at photography, merchandising, online marketing and otherwise running a retail site.

Local consignment is also often a good option for selling your furniture, as furniture consignment stores tend to be experts in vintage, used and antique furniture, and can sell large quantities as customers come to them shopping specifically for used household goods. Plus, shipping furniture is difficult, time-consuming and expensive.

A pawnshop may be a great option if you need cash more than you need your gun, but many other items are better sold for a higher price online to experts who buy electronics, gold, jewelry, and phones.

Alternatives to looking for pawn shops and consignment shops near you

Here are other ways you can get rid of your old items for cash:

  • eBay
  • CraigsList
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Hold a garage sale
  • CashforGold and Worthy instead of pawning your gold and jewelry
  • Donate your items to charity — and enjoy the tax deduction

About Holly Johnson

Holly Johnson is a financial expert, award-winning writer, and Indiana mother of two who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting and travel. Her personal finance articles have been published in the U. S. News, Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, and Life Hacker. Holly is founder of of the family finance resource, ClubThrifty.com, and is the co-author of Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love. Learn more about Holly here.

1 Comment

  1. Taylor Wright on November 4, 2019 at 11:20 am

    It’s interesting that the most in-demand items are watches, jewelry, power tools, electronics, and video games. Personally, I have always thought watches and jewelry have the most bang for your buck. My wife and I are wanting to go on a nice vacation this year and I want to pawn some stuff for extra cash. Thanks for the helpful information.

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