Pawn Shop Shopping? I do it!

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Doing your holiday shopping at the pawn shop? WWJ’s Sandra McNeill reports that’s not so odd anymore.

Tom Blaine owns the Garden City Exchange and says his business though October is already up 49 percent over December of last year. The bad economy means he’s getting people selling new and high-end electronics like iPads and he says the popularity of reality shows mean people aren’t as embarrassed to shop there.

If you know a good pawn shop, one that is clean, reputable, up-front with you about the condition of things you’re purchasing, and prices fairly, it’s a good way to go. My husband had sold his drum set while in college, and missed playing them, so about ten years ago I found a terrific pawn shop — one where a lot of musicians seem to go to give up the goods. Got him a great set of Tama drums, complete, for an extremely reasonable price, and he is still pounding away on them.

I’ve never purchased jewelry or electronics from the pawn shop, but I find them to be great places to go for musical instruments, particularly if you’re trying to keep costs down while buying for a musician like my son Buster, who can play many instruments and wants to keep trying new things. When he expressed an interest in the banjo, I headed to the pawn shop and was happy to find a cheap one that the seller said was “a so-so quality.” That was really all Buster needed to discover that, while he liked the instrument, it would never be (like the sax, guitar, keyboards, bass or uke) something he’d be returning to regularly. He still picks it up from time to time, but for now — until he gets serious about it, if he ever does — the “so-so” quality banjo I got for under $100 seems like the right purchase and doesn’t make me feel like I spent too much.

It was via a pawnshop that we also got his 70-year old clarinet, which plays with such a sweet tone it breaks your heart (he still uses that) and the older flute which he hasn’t used much — I think he’s decided a 6-foot, 240lb guy looks incongruous with a flute.

But perhaps when he needs cash, he’ll head down to the pawnshop and turn it over for some Benjamins, and some other lucky kid will get a good instrument at an excellent price.

Truth be told, we hit the pawn shop again for this Christmas, again for Buster, but I can’t go into detail about that for obvious reasons. Suffice to say we found something terrific (an older piece, again, but when polished up it looks brand new) and bargained our way down to under $250, for something worth four times that.

And while we were there, my husband saw some tool he liked (a “chop saw” or “shop saw”?) that he said was three times cheaper than a new one would be.

Who knows, if we ever get around to renovating our 40-year old, dilapidated kitchen, perhaps I’ll buy him one. Used.

Buying stuff for a life I don’t live

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