Pawn shops are like antique shops for a new generation: all the things you want to buy at a decent price, without all the dust on top. An afternoon in a pawn shop is an afternoon well spent. But as you wander around, you may find a few... interesting items.
Pawn shop salesmen were asked: "What is the strangest thing a person has tried to pawn at your shop?" These are some of the best answers.
This could have ended SO badly!
A guy literally brought in a rocket-propelled grenade. He was doing yard work for this old lady whose husband had passed. She gave it to him for doing some yard work, not realizing it was live and active. This guy was career military, and after the bomb squad came and disabled it, they went to her house and found a trove of similarly illegal military grade weapons.
Not everything old is worthwhile
We had plenty of sketchy people coming in with their kid’s old YuGiOh and Magic cards thinking they were extremely valuable. Usually, it was just a mismatched starter set from the early 2000s or the like. I’m not sure what started the idea that old trading cards were going to be ridiculously valuable. But no, I won’t give you meth money for your Dark Magician. The level of disappointment, and often outright rage on their part was difficult to deal with. I began just telling creepy-looking people (who weren’t store regulars) that we didn’t purchase cards.
I’m pretty sure that’s illegal…
Someone came in with an obviously recently used dialysis machine (still had blood sprayed on it like they ripped it away while it was in use) and tried to sell it for thousands of dollars. We passed.
That escalated quickly!
A guy comes in with a brick he spray painted gold. Then he got mad and threw it at my co-worker when he wouldn’t look at it. So my co-worker grabbed a cattle prod he keeps beneath the counter and chased the guy into the street. Never saw him again.
You can keep that to yourself, thank you very much
I once had a guy try to pawn a sterling silver penis ring. At least he said it was sterling silver. I wasn’t touching that thing to find out.
What an absolute idiot!
I had a guy try selling me a gun. Before I could even get him out of there, he began to point the gun around with people all over the store, PULLING THE TRIGGER. That guy… That guy was a special kind of guy. Fortunately, the gun wasn’t loaded. But still.
To buy more cookies
I had a guy come in with a 40-inch 10k gold linked chain that was massive. This chain had a Cookie Monster charm bigger than my fist with 2.0 karat diamonds for his eyes. The whole thing itself weighed 153.4 grams. I could easily have given him $1500, but he only wanted $100.
Drugs really do mess with your noggin
A customer tried to pawn a truck that we already had the deed too. That’s right, we already owned the truck and he wanted to pawn it. I guess he forgot because of drugs.
Uh, no thank you
My dad had some woman come in and try to pawn her crack.
Maybe one person’s trash is another person’s treasure though
We had this guy who would dig through garbage cans and try to bring us stuff to sell. That’s not uncommon, but it was very obvious that this stuff was straight up from a dumpster and he had dug it out like 10 minutes before he walked in the store.
One time, we had to kick him out because he was losing his mind over the fact we wouldn’t give him $15 for a desk lamp that had a broken neck, despite the fact the pawnbroker pulled up the exact lamp on Target’s website selling for $10. This guy just did not get it.
Some people are just that desperate
People try to pawn prosthetic appendages (yes more than one person). Like, their own. As in, “I’ll just leave my leg and hobble home.”
I feel so bad for this man
He tried to pawn a loaf of bread and 4 cans of soup. Then he threatened to kill us when we denied him.
Like, how desperate was this person?!
Somebody brought in their dead grandmother’s gold tooth, plucked from her ashes. We told her that the tooth had to be separated from the gold for us to weigh it. They desecrated their loved one’s remains for less than $2.
Nope nope nope nope nope
Someone brought us diamond-encrusted sex toys. The store manager ended up taking them in; I can’t remember for how much though.
‘You can keep your… leg…’
was offered a prosthetic leg and a portable 8-track player at the same time just last week. I bought the 8-track.
What a loser
I once had a customer walk up to the counter, slide a gold coin to me, and say, “I think this is gold, man.” This particular customer reeked of bile and looked like he was high on everything possible. I looked at the coin and slid it back to him and replied, “I think it’s a Chuck E. Cheese token. I can tell by the mouse on it.” He just said, “Oh,” and walked away.
‘It’s worth millions I tell you… millions!’
A couple came in with an old 1990 30″ TV claiming that it was an antique and refused to leave the store until we gave them $800 for it. We showed them selling online for literally a couple of dollars, but they refused and said they knew what they had.
Some things are better left unexplained
A coworker told me about these little pony figurines he took in. There were probably 5 of them and he did like 10 bucks each. The lady ended up paying interest on them for about five years before finally getting them out.
Nor do I want to ask
I had a young guy come in with two gold teeth. He pawned them and actually got them back. The thing was though, he had a full set of teeth, so I don’t know whose they were…
This could easily have been googled
I had a friend who worked in a coin shop. A lot of people thought it was a pawnshop, so he would get wheat pennies all the time; people were convinced they were worth $50 each.
What a waste of everyone’s money and time
A guy brought in a stone painted green claiming it was “ancient gold” and that after eons it had developed a patina. I tried to explain to him that all gold is ancient gold made in supernovas, but he insisted it was gold. After about 30 minutes of discussion, he forced me to test it. When I showed him it wasn’t gold, he told me he spent 4k buying it off some guy.
Now that’s one for the books!
I used to work for one of those roadshow businesses, where we would set up shop in hotel banquet rooms and buy people’s collectibles from them. Most of the time, people brought in things like coins, gold and silver, and vintage guitars. We were doing a show in Tennessee, and while I’m sitting there at my workstation, one of the guys who worked for me just burst out laughing. I look over and I see the lady who had been sitting at his table walking out of the room. So I went over and asked him what was going on.
He told me that she set shoe box down on his table and when he asked what was in it, instead of her saying jewelry or coins or something normal that we see every day, she told him: “Back in the 1960s, I had a one night stand with Elvis Presley. When he left my apartment, I went into the bathroom and realized he didn’t flush. sS I saved it.” She literally saved Elvis Presley’s poop for 50+ years. We didn’t actually get to see it, nor would we have wanted to, but I couldn’t imagine that it would’ve still been preserved at all.
If you say so…
Someone brought in a clump of bent and slightly melted forks and spoons claiming it was a meteorite fallen from the ISS trash dump shot into space.
Keep it yourself
We had a woman bring in this bizarre looking machine. She sets it on the counter and says, “I want five hundred for it.” We’re just staring at the machine, and then looking at her. Finally, the pawnbroker goes, “Uh, what is it?” It was a homemade breast pump. Yeah. This woman made her own breast pump and thought she would get $500 for it. So weird and gross.
I mean, can you blame her?
A lady comes in with 4 or 5 Folgers cans filled with wheat pennies and wanted some exorbitant amount of money for them. We offer her the value of the pennies, because that’s all they’re worth. She proceeds to flip out and gets so upset that she decides to leave the cans on the counter rather than lug them back to her car.
They’re worth something but not that much
I have a buddy whose parents run a pawn shop. He had a lady come in with one of those gold plated Pokemon cards from a Burger King promotion in the ’90s, swearing it was solid gold and worth thousands. He told her there was no way it was gold and that it was probably plated steel. But she wouldn’t have it, and refused to leave until they examined it.
To appease her, he offered to test it, but warned that if it wasn’t real gold, the test would scar the card with a permanent black mark. He had her sign a waiver, did the test, and the card got scarred, proving it was worthless. She immediately got angry and threatened to sue. He reminded her about the waiver and she stormed off, leaving the card behind. I think the shop still has it too.
The money in your pocket is worth exactly what it says on it
I work at a coin store, and it is amazing the number of people who think their pocket change is worth thousands. It is always weird when we get dental gold too; it is super creepy looking.
A guy walked in with a metal lockbox and said he had something worth billions. He opened the lockbox and there were wood chips, accompanied by the smell of spray paint. He claimed they were relics of the cross Jesus was crucified on. He is descended from an ancient and noble line of knights who took oaths to protect the cross. He wanted $2000 for the lockbox and wood chips.
How would you even deliver it to the pawn shop?
I had a guy a couple years back trying to sell me the bathroom in his apartment. He’d written up this kinda-legal looking thing, but when I told him the whole proposal made no sense, and that he didn’t own the bathroom anyway, the guy got very upset. He told me it was where he pooped, that had to be of some value, and that I was a con artist. He was yelling about writing the governor on his way out the door.
Some people really need that $$$
Someone brought in a “Rolex” watch, claiming their father gave it to them. When I showed her that it actually said “Rolflex” and “Skiss made,” she claimed that those were misprints and meant it was worth more because of it. After I opened the watch to show her the movement, I saw that there was no movement at all but just a weight in the back.
Had to Google an insult.
Pawn shop manager here, been in the pawn business for about seven years. I have seen just about everything, but I have this one customer who takes the cake.
Guy comes in to pick up his pressure washer that he has already pawned several times, signs that he has redeemed his item after checking it out and saying, “That’s the one, have a great day.” He then proceeds to walk out to his car with it and then promptly storms back into the store with it proclaiming it isn’t his. I calmly try to figure out what the problem is as he is going ballistic. Turns out the serial number was put in our system incorrectly so I could not prove it was his. I went ahead and informed him a mistake was made on our side and I would replace it with a new one from Home Depot. Apparently that was not okay, he then called me the B word several times over, as well as another name. I’d never even been called that and I had to Google it. I ended up having to call the police on him to have him 86’ed from the premises. It turns out he’s bipolar and doesn’t take his medication.
I recently had a young kid come in who said he had a rare one dollar coin. It was a U.S. one dollar coin with Ulysses Grant on it. He claimed his grandfather gave it to him at birth and he had it over 10 years before he was born. He supposedly found it on the internet for over $100. I had to be the bad guy and tell him the coin wasn’t even minted until after 2000, and it was still only valued at a dollar in the current condition it was in.
I also have this lady customer who comes in with jewelry and wants close to retail price. I struggle with her every time she comes in. One time I offered her $15 for a piece she had and she told me, “Well you’re just gonna turn around and sell it for over 30!” I replied, “That’s how it works otherwise I wouldn’t be in business.”
Oh, yes. This is totally our stuff.
Not an employee but I know of a story that happened in London, Ontario where two greasy potheads brought in what was obviously a very high quality set of hockey goalie equipment in London Knights colours (they’re our OHL team so it’s kind of a big deal and really well-known in town). They got it from a break in if I remember right. The employee said, “Yeah, just wait right there while I figure out how much we can give you for this.” They then called the cops, who came and took the red-eyed stupid criminals to jail.
There’s value if I say there’s value!
I managed a pawn shop in Michigan (that was not American Jewelry and Loan) and these were the highlights:
Someone brought in brass paperclips trying to convince me they were gold.
Someone else brought in what was clearly the top of a TV tray and tried to pass it off as an antique painting.
And my personal favorite:
Teeth. Because they were around a gold tooth.
Sir, you forgot your money.
I used to work I a pawn shop in Los Angeles. One time this guy brought in 100 $2 bills (non consecutive) and wanted a loan of $120. My boss told me to do the loan so I followed instruction and gave the guy $120. The guy then managed to not come back for the bills so we made an $80 profit from sheer stupidity.
That took a turn.
I work at a used bookstore and had a customer come in with very good condition DVDs, books, and CDs. Our old way of buying things used to be that we would judge every single object that came in based on condition, and determine the price from there (usually around one dollar if the book was in good condition). However, we now had a scanning system where we would scan a barcode and a price would be generated based on prices of it online, regardless of condition.
Back to the customer. She’s a scrawny old lady and looks pretty much like your stereotypical witch, but with a tank top and shorts. She comes into our store often and usually sells a few cartfuls of books and dvds. With our old buyback system, her total would usually come out to around $70 (a higher amount than most buybacks), and would sometimes throw a small fit if she didn’t get enough.
Now she comes in after we implement our new buyback system. She sells the usual: cartfuls of books and DVDs in really good condition. But now her total came to around $17. And she flipped her lid. She asked “Why do you have to use this buyback system?” started calling us random slurs and insults. She also knocks her books down and calls us racist “just because I’m white? You gotta be racist against me? Why do I have this treatment?” She demanded to talk to the manager, and he came. He told her that’s “just how it is now. You don’t have to sell to us if you’re not satisfied.” He mentioned that the company had to change the system because we weren’t buying books and stuff at an accurate price. The lady didn’t want to take it and tried to shame us by telling everyone around her and the mall that we were racist against her and that she’ll call the cops.
She called the cops on us, but when they came, she instead got arrested for public disturbance and was subsequently banned from our store for some time.
It’s not worth what you think.
I’m the local “I’ll buy your stuff” guy. I resell stuff and I’ve been doing it since I was 13. Everyone tells me that I should just open up a pawn shop.
About once a month, and especially since Pokémon Go has become popular, I have someone contact me about buying an “ultra-rare Pokemon card worth, like, $2,000.” No matter what, I bring the cash, and they show me the card, which is always a non-first edition shadowed Charizard in poor condition. Then I have to spend the next 45 minutes explaining to them why I won’t buy their card and why it isn’t worth $2,000.
Also, I am extremely tired of explaining PSA grades to people.
Another is the first appearance of Superman. What upsets me the most is that it’s a game of “are you more stupid than I am” from people who are trying to sell off their 1970’s reprint of Action Comics #1. The comic is also known as the first appearance of Superman and I’ve already discovered it’s a reprint. Those people just want to see if I would pay anything for it.
I can generally tell if something is stolen within the first 20 seconds of the conversation. I’ve bought probably 100 bikes for $20 just to see if they were reported stolen by the police and to return them.
As for dumbest, and not just ignorant… last year I had someone try very hard to sell me a “very old” antique statue of a Japanese Sumo. He said he had it appraised to be worth $30,000. To be fair, it was very cool looking. It looked familiar. I peel away some stuff on the bottom and I see a date that is hard to read. I look it up and realize I’m looking at a child’s well-made pottery project depicting E. Honda from Street Fighter. I legitimately wanted it for the story at this point and offered the guy $20 for it which he declined because he “knew what he had.”
Tales from the pawn shop.
-We had a very large woman bring in this bizarre looking machine. She sets it on the counter and says, “I want five hundred for it.” We’re just staring at the machine and then looking at her and finally the pawnbroker goes, “Uh, what is it?” Homemade breast pump. Yeah. This woman made her own breast pump and thought she would get $500 for it. So weird and gross.
-So many people trying to bring in their tattoo guns/equipment. I don’t know if other pawn shops take stuff like this but any in my area is a HARD pass due to bodily fluid. Gross. And some of these people get upset when you tell them no. Screaming about how they spent $6000 on this and how can we not take it?
-We had this guy who would dig through garbage cans and try to bring us stuff to sell. Not uncommon but it was very obvious that this stuff was straight up from a dumpster and he dug it out like 10 minutes before he walked in the store. One time we had to kick him out because he was losing his mind over the fact we wouldn’t give him $15 for a desk lamp that had a broken bendy neck. Despite the fact the pawnbroker pulled up the exact lamp on Target’s website selling for $10 not broken. This guy just did not get it and was calling us all names over it.
-One of my favorites is the lady who called asking if we take books. We told her we’ll consider collector item books but before we could explain she got all excited and hung up saying that’s exactly what she had. Now when I say collector’s items I mean first editions or one of those special edition movie books or whatever. This lady proceeds to come and ask for help carrying in her 10, yes that’s right, 10 totes of “collector books.” These collector books? 10-cent romance novels that you can buy in bulk from any thrift store. The conversation was the following:
Pawn Broker: “Ma’am these are not collector’s items. We can’t give you anything for them.”
Lady: “What do you mean? They are collector’s items! They are all from the same publisher and everything.”
Pawn Broker: “Yeah… that’s not what makes them collector’s items. I’m sorry we will not take these items. You could consider donating them to a thrift store.
Lady: “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY YEARS I’VE SPENT CHERISHING THESE? THEY ARE COLLECTOR’S ITEMS! I AM COLLECTOR AND I COLLECTED THESE!”
Pawn Broker: “…I’m sorry, ma’am.
Lady: “I will not be leaving this store until I get at least three hundred dollars for my collection!”
We ended up having to call the police because she sat in the parking lot for five hours ranting and raving about us and how we’re a scam. The last straw for my boss is when she opened the door and screamed at the top her lungs like a five-year-old and then slammed the door.
Some of this material has been edited for clarity.