How do pawn shops determine value?

How do pawn shops determine value?

Pawnshops see a wide variety of second-hand items and need to consider a range of factors when determining the value of each item. An evaluation would take into account the condition of the item, the ability to re-sell the item, the current economic situation, and in some instances the circumstances of the person selling the item. Where necessary expert evaluators are brought in, however, pawnbrokers often depend on online resources and databases to obtain a general idea of the market value for most items.

Online value databases

Before the internet, pawnshop owners often relied on published "blue books" which provided resale values of almost every item available. Today, these databases are all accessed electronically. Pawnshops also consult with online auction sites such as Bid or Buy to get an idea of current market value for used items.

General Merchandise

Pawnshops are famous for dealing with a massive range of items. From power tools, jewellery and musical instruments to sporting goods, electronics and so much more. Each item has a unique set of considerations when determining the value, starting with the current market value. The pawnbroker will then fine-tune this amount taking into consideration the condition of the item, including details such as original packaging and accessories as well as the current economic trends and predictions of re-selling the item.


Jewellery is one of the items in pawnshops that bring in the most business. In most pawnshops, there is an employee or manager who specializes in jewellery appraisals and is considered an expert in their store. This would include knowledge on clarity and cut of diamonds, the carat weight of gemstones as well as expertise on gold. They are constantly aware of the melt price of gold and silver and make it their business to stay on top of daily changes with regards to these prices. Pawnshops often use a percentage of the melt price as a baseline for determining the value of gold.

Specialties, antiques, and rare finds

There are many pawnshops whose core focus is the specialty of certain kinds of items. Gold and jewellery are common specialties, however, pawn shops that focus on items such as firearms, classic cars, antiques, or various collectibles require a lot more expertise, not to mention rigorous compliance.

Pawnbrokers also often call in experts who focus on such rare finds to adequately appraise the items, or at least offer an expert opinion to influence the pawnbroker's assessment.

Sentimental Value

After considering the facts about an item, pawn shops often have the flexibility to consider the seller's personal circumstances or sentiment towards the item. Although not true for all pawnshops but there is value in repeat business and word of mouth marketing and offering a higher value based on the personal meaning of an item goes a long way.

If you have ever considered selling or pawning anything at a pawn shop, you would have realized that every pawn shop offers a different value on how much the item is worth to them.

Now that you know how pawnshops determine value, there's no harm in getting an estimate on how much your items are worth. Be realistic about what you would like per item by accepting an offer that is fair for both parties.

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