Pawnbroking has been with us for thousands of years. Being a pawnbroker was a respected profession in the ancient Greek and Roman empires. Our current laws pertaining to pawn shops crafted on the same laws that have been passed down from the ancient Roman law. As the Roman empire spread throughout the entire world, pawnbroking went along with it. The same thing happened in the East as well. The pawnbroker business model existed in China over 3000 years ago, and it remains largely unchanged today. Back then, it was strongly regulated by the Imperial government and other local governments much as it is for us in the United States today.
In Europe, in the middle ages, the House of Lombard in England owned and operated a group of pawn shops throughout the city. As a matter of fact, the three golden spheres that we associate with pawn shops today came directly from the House of Lombard all those hundreds of years ago. They used the three golden spheres symbol on all of their signs and correspondence.
The pawn industry became more or less established in the United States just after the turn of the 19th century. These shops were usually designated by the three-sphere symbol that the House of Lombard used many years earlier in England. Once established, the pawn industry grew rapidly. This was fueled by the new industrial manufacturing sector’s practice of paying its rapidly growing supply of workers low wages. Even then, a pawn shop worked as a very important helping-hand for workers between paydays. These pawnshops would provide ready cash for food and other basics or even rent on the security of other goods and services while they waited for payday.