What’s the Difference Between a Pawnshop and antique shop?

The pawnshop is most likely subject to more regulation. Book and antique shops are criticizing a potential lapse in Utah law which would require all buyers of rare books and antiques to be fingerprinted, and a catalog entered of all the objects. At least part of the renewed calls for more regulation stem from a murder in November. Sherry Black, a prominent member of the community—mother-in-law to the owner of the Utah Jazz. She was a rare book dealer who bought $20,000 worth of books stolen from the Church of the Latter Day saints. The seller may have been a gang member who beat and stabbed the woman to death.

Given that kind of violence, a sensible increase in regulation seems warranted. It seems as if a running catalog of objects sold would be very helpful. Fingerprinting may be a step too far, but a simple photocopy of a drivers license perhaps would not seem out of the qustion, particularly if an objects value exceeds a sensible amount, $5,000 perhaps.

I was struck then by Ethan Trex’s discussion of pawnshops:

Meanwhile, European pawnbroking began to flourish during the Middle Ages. The Norman Conquest introduced the practice to England, and the Lombardy region of northern Italy was another hotbed of pawnbroking. In fact, pawnbroking became so strongly identified with Lombardy throughout Europe that the term “Lombard” gradually became synonymous with “pawn shop” and “Lombard banking” was a widespread term for pawnbroking.

Anyone who turns to a pawnbroker to scare up some quick cash is in good historical company. Pope Leo X, a notoriously free spender, once had to pawn his own palace furniture and silver to cover his luxurious lifestyle and patronage of the arts. (It’s no surprise, then, that Leo X was at the helm of the Church when it gave the practice of pawnbroking the official thumbs-up in 1515.) In 1338 King Edward III hocked his jewels to raise funds for the English military at the dawn of what would become the Hundred Years’ War.

  1. Derek P. Jensen, Utah’s used-book, antique shops fear crackdown, The Salt Lake Tribune, January 13, 2011, http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/home/51045760-76/says-law-antique-lawmakers.html.csp (last visited Jan 18, 2011).
Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

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