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Why doing pawn is still taboo in the City of London

Where do the City of London’s bankers go when they need a bit of wonga? Not when they need asset-backed loans or Lombard credit or whatever else makes your bank teller nod along in gentle, professional appreciation – when they need some dirty, less-questions-asked, cash in hand.

Well, they probably go to Prestige Pawnbrokers, and probably to the one on Gracechurch Street, within spitting distance of Deutsche Bank, Standard Chartered, and Lloyds.

They’ll buzz the intercom and be politely let in, before being invited downstairs by a huge, glowing, red “LOANS” sign. Or they’ll work up the courage by milling about upstairs for a while examining the merchandise already left with the brokers before the shop assistant invites them to explain what they’re looking for, and sending them downstairs when they admit they need some cash.

But what’s it like to visit Prestige Pawnbrokers, the City of London’s dirty little secret (Well, not including all the financing of slavery and climate destruction and whatnot)?

We went to take a look – and were pretty surprised.

Curiously, despite finance being a generally male occupation (on the higher-paid end, at least), most of the display products are for women – luxury bags (Louis Vuitton, etc.), jewelry (Rolex, etc.), that sort of thing. The shop attendant confirms that women are relatively equally represented among people that look for loans, which would actually mean they are an outsize proportion of the general finance population. What gives?

Lots of divorces, apparently. People going through a separation rarely want the memories associated with an engagement ring from a failed marriage, or the multitude of gifts a probably-high-earning spouse got for them. Divorces are also very, very expensive, of course.

The clients are also quite embarrassed to be there (understandably), which might have something to do with the divorces, but there’s definitely a stigma (perceived or real) that high-earning people don’t go to these sorts of places. Hilariously, Prestige Pawnbrokers is only open from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. Guess their clientele have to suck up their embarrassment.

Luxury bags and jewelry aren’t the only things that get pawned, however. The store also has several vintage mopeds in excellent condition, as well as a few cultural artefacts sprinkled around the place, such as states of the Buddha, of unclear providence, although probably part of a move from a big house to a small house.

Most curiously – and outside of the purview of most guests to the store – is the garage. The shopkeeper listed a number of vehicles that would make the Sultan of Brunei himself blush, including Ferraris, Land Rover Defenders, and the “new” Aston Martin, which is presumably the Vantage – prices range for a new model range between $147k and $301k. Not exactly chump change, even for an MD.

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AUTHORZeno Toulon

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