How Do Pawn Shops Determine Values

Brian McCracken


So you need a little quick cash but maybe you aren’t entirely sure where to begin. One of the options you have is to take something with value down to your local pawn shop and get a temporary loan against it. But how do pawn shops determine the value of the items that you bring them? Well, it’s not as complicated as you might expect. How pawn shops determine the value of items will normally be based on active markets like eBay and Amazon.

First of all, most pawn shops have been in business for over 30 or 40 years, some longer, particularly if it’s a family owned business that has been passed down over the generations. With that having been said, most pawn brokers are highly experienced and trained individuals and will often times know exactly what they can offer you on something just based purely on previous experience.

I understand that might not be the easiest thing for most people to break down and really get a firm grasp of, but it’s the truth. In this industry you get to know your customers and the types of merchandise that they will often bring in.
So it’s just nature to know, just by looking at something how the pawn broker should value it and what they can afford to pay you for something or even just loan against it.

That having been said, not all pawn brokers know everything – as much as some of us would like you to believe otherwise.
In addition, often times the pawn operation will involve staff that doesn’t have the years of experience that the pawn broker has and they need to use some tools to figure out the values of items that customers bring in. The good news is that the tools they are are website that you have probably used yourself in the past – and if you haven’t – don’t worry, they are pretty easy to figure out so that you can have a fair idea of what you might get offered for your items when you take them into the pawn shop.

How You Can Determine the Value of Items Before You Take Them Into the Pawn Shop

The fact of the matter is that when you take something into a pawn shop what you are doing is asking a pawn broker to pay you for something – even if you have every intention of coming back to get it at a latter point in time. Pawn brokers and pawn shop employees have to look at every transaction, loan or otherwise, as if they were being asked to purchase something.
It’s just the nature of the business to be honest. It’s just the plain truth that not everyone is able to come back and get their items out of pawn and because of that there really is no choice for pawn brokers other than to take into consideration that you may not be able to redeem your item.

Pawn Shops Are Actually Your Friend on These Things

Pretty much every pawn shop that I’ve ever really had interaction with always knew that most people who pawn their items REALLY want them back. Most people don’t want to leave their items at the pawn shops or do what is known as “Forfeiting” them.
Most pawn brokers just want to help get you the money you need right at that moment and understand that everyone just runs into hard times every now and then. It’s actually much more normal than you might think.

Having been in this industry for years, I can tell you that there is no one ‘Type’ of pawn customer. Rich, poor, male, female, it doesn’t matter – eventually everyone gets stuck or hits a moment when they need some quick cash to cover an emergency expense or something else that has come up. So trust me when I tell you that pawn shops are there to help and understand that in most cases, you are really going to want whatever it is that you are pawning back.

But – there are scenarios in which pawn customers just are unable to redeem their items. It happens. Pawn brokers have to keep that in mind because it is a very real possibility and because of that, they have to make loans on items as if they may end up owning that item one day. As such, they’ve got to work within the mindset that they may be in a position of having to sell your item(s) and in order to know how much they can sell it for, the best thing they can do is consult active markets where similar items are sold. The two easiest places for them to do that is on eBay and Amazon and because those are public resources – you can look into them as well to get a better item of what you may be offered for your items before you take them into a pawn shop.

eBay and Pawn Shops

When a pawn broker goes on eBay to look up an item they aren’t going to look at the top three or top 10 results and just base their decision off of that. Pawn Shops will often use sold eBay listing to help determine values. What most pawn shops are going to do is look up the make and model of your item and then look at what is known as the ‘Sold’ listing so that they can see what like items sold for at auction. They aren’t even going to consider anything listed as a “Buy It Now” as those aren’t really dependable.
The auctions are where your focus should be when trying to figure out how much your used items sell for. Obviously you are going to want to look at things in very similar condition and completeness to get the best idea.

If whatever you are bringing into the pawn shop is missing parts of pieces, or is scratched and marked up then you are going to want to try to find auctions where items with similar problems were listed and sold. This is even more true if whatever you are taking to the pawn shop has things like names or initials marked on them because virtually nobody wants to own something that has someone else’s name on it. That’s the kind of thing that really negatively impacts and item’s value and the offer a pawn shop will give you on it.

eBay Pawn Values

Now that you know that you can potentially look up the value of your item on eBay, what you are going to want to keep in mind is that a pawn broker isn’t going to offer you 100% of whatever that item sold for. They’ve got to build some ‘cushion’ into that dollar amount to make up for a variety of circumstances. For instance, what if there is something cracked or damaged that they didn’t notice at first – or what if the color of your item just isn’t a popular as the color of the other item listed and sold on eBay.
Additionally, they still have to pay someone to clean, list, packaged and ship the item if they have to sell it on eBay and none of that is free. So typically speaking, expect to get 40-60% of whatever the selling value of your item might be. This really isn’t a huge deal though because 9 out of 10 times, you are going to pick your item back up anyways.

Amazon and Pawn Shops

The other place that pawn shops might consult to find the value of a used item is on Amazon. Amazon can also be used to help determine pawn shop values on items. Now Amazon is a little trickier. Yes, while they mostly sell new goods, they do always have used items for sale. It can take a little digging to find them, but in most cases they are there. These prices aren’t as reliable as eBay though because anyone can list any item on Amazon for just about any price they want and that doesn’t mean that it will actually sell or that someone will buy it for that amount. In that regard, Amazon prices are a lot like eBay ‘Buy-It-Now’ prices and while some pawn shops will go by these values, it’s not as common as with eBay.

Amazon Pawn Values

Of course, the same principles about completeness and condition that applied to eBay items and auctions also apply to Amazon items. If you are going to look at the prices on Amazon listing then make sure you are looking at items in similar condition and just as complete. One of the things about Amazon that will normally trip a lot of people up is when they have a ‘Bare Tool’ or a tool without a battery or charger. If you are missing these things then make sure that you are looking up ‘Bare Tool’ items and not the same tools that have both the battery and charger. In addition, the condition rating system on Amazon can be a little touchy. They list items as like new, very good, good and acceptable. If your item couldn’t be considered to be in at least ‘Very Good’ condition then you may want to clean it up some or at least make it look as presentable as possible so that you can get the best offer possible.

Pawn Loan Values vs Buy Values

There is one thing that you should keep in mind about pawn shops and that is that they not only make loans against property but that they also buy items outright. If you need the most money possible, you are almost always going to get more by selling the item than by making a loan against it. How much more will depend on the item and the pawn shop in question of course, but it’s not completely unreasonable to get between 10-25% more for something if you just sell it outright.

There’s a lot of reasons for this, but some of them have to do with the pawn broker not having to wait and hold and item before selling it as well as knowing exactly what they are going to be able to do with the item in question. It just answers a lot of questions in their minds and that is something that will work in your favor if you are trying to get the most money possible.