Lightning Pawn

John King, left, discusses an item at Lightning Pawn & Music with employee Rick Inmon.

Area pawn shops not only carry interesting, rare and quirky items, but they provide an option for people seeking short term financial support.

“You have people who need to make a house payment or want to go on vacation and then you have the people who may be really desperate and say, ‘OK, how much can I get for this? I need a pack of cigarettes,’” said Branson Pawn Owner Scott Velvet.

Velvet said customers come in with anything from common pawn shop items like gold and silver to engagement rings.

Velvet said his store sees a fair amount of regular and repeat customers. He estimates about 50 percent of customers come back to the store.

Velvet said his store sees about an even split of selling to pawning.

“We try to buy as much as we can,” Velvet said. “Sometimes people just need a pawn on their tools because they say, ‘I don’t have a job this week, but next week I’ll have a job and when I get paid, I’ll come back and get my tools.’”

Of those who pawn, he said, about 50 percent will come back to make the payment and retrieve their item.

“Everything that comes in is interesting because people have different stories,” Velvet said.

He said the store gets celebrity-owned items, antiques and classic guns.

On the more unique side of the spectrum, Velvet said the store currently has Harry Houdini’s handcuffs, Eva Braun’s hair brush and a Grammy Award.

Beverly Maggard, co-owner of Hillbilly Pawn in Hollister, said her customers opt to pawn more often.

“We have a lot of people pawning this time of year,” she said.” I think there are a lot of people that are in need for just a short loan.”

Maggard, who co-owns the business with her husband, said 75 percent of their business is in pawning with the remaining 25 percent in buying.

“I just think it’s the economy,” she said. “There are differences in times of year, I think people do better at the first of the year when they get their income taxes back.”

Unlike Velvet’s store, Maggard said Hillbilly Pawn doesn’t often deal with collectibles or antiques.

“Game systems, TVs, tools, jewelry and we do guns and ammunition,” she said. “That’s all stuff we usually stick with. We try to pawn things that, in case people don’t pick it up, we can resell to the people in the area that can afford and would be interested in it.”

Velvet said pawning isn’t the only option people take to get quick cash. He said the store conducts in a fair amount of selling to get people by financially.

Velvet, whose background is in museums, said he has been bartering and haggling with customers for years.

“I have people all over the country, all over the world that call me and say, ‘I need to make my house payment.’ I just bought, last week, a TV that Elvis (Presley) shot out.”

Tourists, he said, are usually wanting to sell their items to take advantage of the current markets, gold and silver primarily.

Velvet said the increasing popularity of reality TV shows about pawn shops has contributed to a little more traffic through stores, but finding rare items has become more difficult.

“I think people are looking for a good deal,” he said. “I think more people are going to storage auctions and pawn shops and I think (the shows) have helped a little bit, but at the same time nowadays everyone is a picker. The housewife, the businessman, everyone is a picker. In a way, it’s made it more difficult to find the rare stuff that we like, it’s been picked up.”

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