So you've got a million Christmas gifts to buy for family, friends, acquaintances, acquaintances' cousins, the mailman, Roger Clemens (we're not the only ones to send the Rocket a gift each year, are we?), and various and sundry pets. You have a limited budget and a limited amount of time. It's best to expand your shopping horizons, which is why we thought we'd check in with local pawn stores to see what people are buying and selling this time of year.
"One thing about pawn shops that you might find if you haven't been to a few in the Houston area...you'll walk in [thinking] that you're looking for a bicycle, and walk out with a motorcycle jacket, or you'll walk in looking for a vacuum cleaner and you'll walk out with like three DVDs or something," says Vince Satascoy, a member of the Texas Association of Pawnbrokers, who owns Lone Star Pawn in Irving.
What Satascoy and others told us wasn't too surprising: The top sellers around the holidays are electronics and jewelry, with a lot of people also selling or pawning the latter. Satascoy says iPads, Xboxes, PlayStations and Beats by Dr. Dre headphones are huge sellers.
But some shops, like the Money Mart location at 5422 Bellaire, are selling their share of high-end purses, like Louis Vuitton, in addition to electronics. Store Director David Mata says layaway for the purses began in June.
"If you can't afford the Galleria, you might be able to afford us here," he says, noting that purses that sell new for around $2,500 can be as low as $1,000 at his store.
At the EZ Pawn location across the street, Assistant Manager Charles Cruz says, "A lot of stuff we get here [is] pretty much brand-new." Like Money Mart, his store's shelves are brimming with TVs, laptops and game systems.
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But over at the independently owned Wright Pawn & Jewelry at 6218 Westheimer, owner Jack Wright has a jewelry- and antique-heavy inventory. Lots of Tiffany and Cartier.
He says that, over the years, he's seen an increase in middle-class clientele, folks who tell him, "I never thought I'd have to come to a pawn shop." Many come in just to take out a loan. Wright likes to keep statistics on that sort of thing -- he tells us that, statewide, there's more than $1 billion in pawn shop loans each year. Between 85 and 90 percent of these are "one and done" transactions.
The interest varies widely, anywhere from 1 to 20 percent, Wright says, but there is no credit check, and it's easy for customers to renew loans.
But one thing in particular caught our eye at Wright's shop -- an autographed Roger Clemens Yankees jersey. The perfect gift for the Rocket! Now, if we can just find some jewelry to pawn so we can snatch it up...