When Downsizing, Don’t Overlook the Pawn Shop

Orderliness is a blessing you leave your children. Which is how I wound up this week in a pawn shop.

For the record, I had never been in a pawn shop. I assumed they were for other people: gun traders, drug addicts, gamblers, those seeking bail money or who were otherwise down on their luck ­— not that I haven’t run out of luck myself from time to time. But there I was, in my tailored blouse, good haircut and sensible pumps bargaining with a pawn broker as several closed-circuit cameras looked on.

Christine Gerardi got me into this. You may recall, a few months ago, I wrote about Gerardi, a jeweler who came to my home and helped me sort my jewelry. Besides giving me permission to let go of some dated costume pieces, Gerardi bought some gold jewelry I no longer wore for their melt value. (Huzzah!) During that one extended visit, she helped me downsize my jewelry stash by a third.

But I had more to deal with. Specifically, I had two pairs of my mom’s good earrings that I would never wear, but that Gerardi thought too nice to sell for melt, and, oh, my former engagement ring. Ouch. All were, honestly, a little tough to part with.

Gerardi’s visit prompted me to get my jewelry drawer, as the mother of a friend of mine used to say, “in dying order.”

Now let’s pause right there for a minute. I love that line. It’s not morbid. It’s thoughtful. Here is a woman thinking about the impact her belongings, and how she leaves them, are going to have on those after her, whether she lives to a ripe old age (which she did) or gets hit by a meteor tomorrow.

But back to how I wound up at the pawn shop.

“So much of our jewelry is laden with history that is not always sunny,” Gerardi said. Sure it’s easy to shut the drawer and say you’ll deal with it someday. But someday is really code for I’ll let someone else deal with it, which is plain lazy and inconsiderate.

“What do I do?” I asked her.

Gerardi recommended a pawn shop she’d worked with and trusted. The owner would likely give me more than melt value because he would resell the items as they were.

I asked my girls (again) if they were interested in any of the items. (Please say yes.) No.

Who was I kidding? I was not bequeathing heirlooms. I was leaving a headache. If I did nothing, one day my girls would be saddled with figuring out what to do with their grandma’s old earrings and this vestige of their parents’ broken marriage.

I lassoed that rare and fleeting moment of rational thinking, and headed to the pawn shop.

I also went because of you. I cannot in good conscience recommend you do anything I haven’t tried myself. I ventured innocently in, a canary into the mine. A buzzer admitted me. A disembodied voice asked me to remove my sunglasses. A sign reminded me to smile for the cameras.

The pawn shop dealer offered $180 for both pairs of earrings. Done. Before forking over the cash, he took my driver’s license and fingerprints. Because I didn’t like what he offered for the ring, I took it to a jeweler Gerardi also recommended, who offered $100 more than the pawn broker, or about one-fourth of what the ring cost new 30 years ago. That’s typical, Gerardi assured me.

When the jeweler told me he had a diamond that matched the ring’s center stone, and planned to make a pair of earrings, I felt better knowing it would not become someone else’s engagement ring. I was also glad to see the jewelry out of my drawer and back in the world with a new purpose thanks to a bit of courage and enlightenment.

I put the money from both transactions into an account I have created for my daughters to divide one day, exactly how these assets should convey. I also know that, like most kids, they would rather have the cash than the stuff.

Was this a hassle? Yes. Would it have been easier to keep the earrings and ring in my drawer? Yes. But then my kids would have been stuck dealing with these pieces of the past, and why have that cloud on the horizon? I saved them the trouble and that alone was worth, if not the money, certainly the effort.

Meanwhile, here’s what I learned on my way to the pawn shop:

• Don’t overlook pawn shops. When cleaning out your home, or downsizing, consider adding a reputable pawn shop to your list of liquidation vehicles along with Craigslist, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, the consignment store, yard sales, and the auction house. They have their place, and can help you convert clutter to cash fast.

• Selling as is can beat melt value. Most gold buyers want your fine jewelry for its melt value. Pawn shops may buy for melt, but, if they plan to buy a piece of jewelry to resell as is, they may pay more than another gold buyer.

• What to sell. Besides fine jewelry, other items pawn shops will buy include old coins, collectibles, guns, musical instruments, electronics and antiques.

• Don’t kid yourself. Assuming your kids want something that they say they don’t is just your way to justify doing nothing. Your old jewelry is not an heirloom; it’s a headache.

Get multiple offers. When selling a pricey piece of jewelry, go to a jeweler, a gold buyer and a pawn shop to compare offers. Don’t be afraid to bargain.

• Play it safe. If you feel uncomfortable going to a pawn shop or leaving one with a wad of cash, go during daylight hours and bring a friend.

Syndicated columnist Marni Jameson is the author of five home and lifestyle books, including Downsizing the Family Home — What to Save, What to Let Go and Downsizing the Blended Home — When Two Households Become One. You may reach her at www.marnijameson.com.

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