You might be surprised to know that the pawning business is one steeped in ancient history that spans thousands of years old. Many countries all across the world implemented different pawning practices that would serve as the foundation for current pawning businesses.
But just where is the world’s oldest pawn shop located?
History of Pawning
Pawning is a business practice that has existed since ancient times. The first pawn shops emerged in ancient China around the 5th century, and were typically run by Buddhist monasteries. This practice later became widespread throughout the country with the help of wealthy lay people partnering up with Buddhist monks.
Pawning was also popular in ancient Greece and Rome, though there were certain restrictions as to what the Romans could pawn or sell to these shops. At the time, pawn shops were mainly used as a means to help smaller business owners start off with good capital.
Pawning has quite the complicated history in Europe, with some countries embracing the practice and others shunning it for various reasons. Throughout much of its history in ancient Europe, pawning rules and regulations vastly differed from country to country—and even shop to shop.
It was not until The Pawnbrokers Act of 1872 where pawning regulations and broker protections became centralized and enforced. Pawning would not be where it is at today without such an important act.
Where is the World’s Oldest Pawn Shop?
When nearly every pawn shop that boasts 80 or more years in business tries to claim this title, it is a bit difficult to know exactly which of these pawn shops is truly the oldest pawn shop in the world. Not to mention the fact that there are countless pawn shops owned by elderly pawn brokers that simply do not have the tools to advertise themselves digitally.
Due to pawn shops’ extensive history, this is a tricky question to answer. Some claim that the oldest pawn shop is the il Banco Rosso (or “the red bank”) in Italy, which is at least over 200 years old. The Banco Rosso has been restored by the city, so you can still visit it today!
However, since it is no longer a running pawn shop, but rather a historic tourist destination, people might not credit the shop as the oldest pawn shop to exist, especially since the first pawn shops did not even originate in the country.
Instead, it might be best to try and find the oldest pawn shop in your country that is currently still in business. The oldest pawn shops around the world typically date back to the late 1800s, with America, Great Britain, and Hong Kong boasting many of them.
Of these, the oldest pawn shop that is still currently in business is T.N. Donnelly & Company in Chicago, recently rebranded as the Chicago Loan Company after being bought by The Loan Companies. The pawn shop first opened in 1881 and still continues to operate to this day.