Pawn Broker Versus Stock Broker: Chicago Pawn Shop Reflects on the State of the Economy

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One can learn a lot about the state of the economy by visiting a pawn shop. The pawn shop is a true barometer of the economy; just ask Everyman's Economists Randy and Wayne Cohen, owners of Chicago's oldest pawn shop group, Royal Jewelers and Loans, Chicagoans are selling gold in record numbers.

The pawn shop is the commodities exchange of the people.

"Want to know what's really going on with the economy? Visit a pawn shop," said Everyman's economist, Randy Cohen. "The pawn shop is the commodities exchange of the people."

It is the last day of the month, and Royal Jewelers and Loans is busy. Customers are queuing to pawn or sell such valuables as gold, diamonds, fur coats, and iPods. At times, the line runs the length of the show room.

Randy and his brother, Wayne, own Chicago's oldest pawn brokerage group. The business was started in 1900 by their grandfather, and now has three locations, with their flagship store, Royal Jewelers and Loans, at Clark and Congress, in the Loop.

"People talk about micro-finance as if it were a new thing. But the pawn shop is one of the oldest financial institutions in the world. Queen Isabella of Spain pawned some of her royal jewels to fund Christopher Columbus' voyage. Now over 500 years later and the pawn shop is still the only place where everyone, poor or rich, can get credit," says Wayne Cohen.

The record price of gold is one more reason people are visiting their local pawn shop. Today an interesting phenomenon is noticeable: an increasing number of the middle class are making use of the pawn broker's services. Wayne points out that even those who have never been in a pawn shop are coming to sell their gold, new, old and scrap. "Buy low, sell high - people know they can make a lot of money right now selling their gold. So, everyone wants in on the opportunity."

"When the economy gets tight, you see a surge in the number of people needing short-term loans on their valuables. Sometimes, even when the Ivy-league economists say that the economy is going down the drain, you don't see that surge. That means that many people are still doing O.K. The pawn shop is the true barometer of the economy," added Randy.

For more information, or to sell your gold or diamonds, call Randy or Wayne Cohen at (312) 427-6542. Visit

About Royal Jewelers and Loans:

Established in 1900, Royal Jewelers and Loans is one of Chicago's oldest pawn brokerage groups. The company specializes in paying people cash for their gold, silver, and other precious metals, and diamonds. Randy and Wayne Cohen are available for interviews for news segments and articles.


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