Throughout history, pawnbrokers have provided monetary loans in exchange for valuable items. If the loan is not paid back during the contractual period, the pawnbroker can sell the item.
The History of Pawnshops can be traced back 3,000 years ago to ancient Chinese Buddhist monks. Pawn broking thrived in ancient Greece and Roman Empire helping individuals and small business get started. Later prominent families such as the Lombards of England and the Medicis of Italy became known as money-lending families. England’s King Edward III famously pawned his jewels to the Lombards in 1388 to help finance war against France. Queen Isabella of Spain is said to have put up her jewelry as collateral to fund Christopher Columbus expedition to the New World. During the Great Depression era, pawn shops were among the only institutions offering cash as banks failed.
The universal symbol for pawn broking is three golden balls suspended from a bar. Legend has it that a member of the Medici family slayed a giant with 3 bags of rock. From that day forward the Medici family wore the three balls on their crest as a symbol of success. Later, Lombard merchants would place the three golden spheres outside their shops as a symbol. In Europe, pawn shops are called a Lombard. In London, England a family in banking is called a House of Lombard.
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