Stefany Anne Golberg in the Washington Post:
Pawn shops thrive in the United States. They are the country's original institutions of consumer credit, offering quick cash (sale or loan) for goods. Giant retailers such as EZPAWN and Cash America offer a Costco-like setting. Since the economy soured and bank loans dried up, Americans are becoming increasingly reacquainted with such stores. Pawn America, a chain in the Midwest, reported a 15 to 20 percent increase in revenue in 2008.
Offering a window into this world is “Pawn Stars,” whose viewers watch the amusing ins and outs of pawn shop life and learn about the business. The show is pulling record ratings for the History Channel. In one clip, proprietor Rick Harrison boasts about a 2001 Super Bowl ring once owned by a player he doesn't name with a story he doesn't remember. We learn instead how Super Bowl rings are made and how their worth is determined. In another clip, Harrison shows off two anonymous Olympic bronze medals, explaining that their value is determined by how, where and when they were won.
But why are Gold & Silver's customers pawning their most cherished belongings?