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Jewellery is most common pledge as security for a loan, but during 30 years in the pawnbroking trade he says he has witnessed some more creative propositions from customers.

“Everything from designer handbags to Mont Blanc pens, and a lot of signed memorabilia; we even had people offer a racehorse and a fishing trawler,” says Mr Finch, managing director of Pickwick Pawnbrokers.

Media captionA pawnbroker reveals some of the unusual items in his vault

Through the thick, alarmed doors, in the cramped vault under his High Street pawnbroking shop, Mr Finch pulls out works of art, designer handbags, and even a Louis Vuitton dog collar.

His experience is not unique. Across the UK, various pawnbrokers are specialists in Rolex watches, luxury cars or antiques.

So why does anyone in possession of an Aston Martin or an expensive timepiece need to walk into a pawnbrokers’ shop to seek a loan?

“The typical reason that a customer might use a pawnbroker is almost exclusively cashflow. It is not that they don’t have assets, or that they don’t have wealth, it is just that they don’t have that money at that particular time.

“It could be school fees, it could be extra spending money for a holiday,
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it could be a crisis loan, like getting your car back on the road. It is a cycle of the need being driven by a crisis or some luxury spending.”

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Research suggests that day to day spending, and a need to pay utility bills are high on the list of customers’ need for quick cash.

“Pawnbrokers tend to get people through a short term cashflow issue and then the item is redeemed. I am happy and they are happy,” says Mr Finch.

How does pawnbroking work?

Customer “pledges” an item, such as a gold ring for a set period of time, usually six months

Pawnbroker gives 50% to 60% of the item’s value as a cash loan

Customer pays 7% to 8% interest every month

An item can be redeemed during the loan period by paying back the original loan and any interest up to that point

If the customer cannot repay the loan at the end of the deal the pawnbroker sells the item and returns any surplus to the customer

More information is available from the National Pawnbrokers Association. Consumer advice on pawnbroking is available from Citizens Advice and the Money Advice Service

This happiness may, of course, be short lived. Failing to pay back the loan, and the interest charged on top, means saying goodbye to the valuable possessions.

Even if the item is redeemed and in most cases it is then using a pawnbroker can be a relatively expensive way to borrow, says the Money Advice Service.

“You can usually only borrow a percentage of the value of the item you want to pawn. So if, for example, you have some jewellery worth 200 you might only be able to borrow 100.”

Interest is typically higher than a standard bank loan but normally less than a payday lender. But unlike those loans, anyone with a poor credit history can access pawnbroking services as long as they have an item to pledge.

The Money Advice Service suggests people who want to pawn should shop around for the best deal, and also:

Choose a company that is a member of the National Pawnbrokers’ Association, which has a code of conduct for members
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