I’m a huge fan of shows like Pawn Stars and Storage Wars. I love watching the reactions of people being told their old junk is actually worth a fortune or, the flipside, that their family treasures are actually worthless. Which is why I jumped at the chance to meet with the stars of Canada’s own pawn-focused show, Pawnathon Canada. The series focuses on a team of pawnbrokers and antique dealers as they work to put prices on items toted in by legions of hopeful sellers.
Sitting down with these pawn veterans taught me a lot about how to navigate the pawnshop and antique dealer scene. Here are the top five things they taught me:
1. You can haggle anywhere — even at retail stores
You don’t have to save your haggling for flea markets or garage sales — you can negotiate the price of anything. “In Canada we don’t believe we can walk into a major department store or jewellery shop and haggle,” says Howard Green who owns Toronto pawnshop H. Williams. Remember that the primary goal of the seller is to make a sale. So whether it’s a rug, a jacket or a car you should always ask for a better price. “Go back and forth and be reasonable — the worst thing that can happen is that they don’t budge on the price,” he says.
2. Be polite
The best hagglers are polite and non-confrontational says John Kantymir who owns Niagara Coins and Collectibles in Niagara Falls, Ontario. A good way to get the negotiations started is to compliment the piece you’re interested in and tell them you think it’s a nice piece. “Follow that with something like “It’s a little bit more than I want to spend. Can you do any better for me?” he said.
3. Educate yourself
Think you might have come across a valuable antique or collectible? Start by doing your research — books and the Internet are a good way to start. Check the value of any item you’re thinking of selling says Douglas Stocks who owns Maus Park Antiques in Paris, Ontario. And if you don’t like the price you’re being offered by a dealer, then go elsewhere and get another opinion.
4. Know the tricks of the trade
Pawnshops are great places to look for high-end jewellery and antiques. But beware of the tricks some pawnbrokers play. Says Kantymir, “Watch out for the guy who seems overly disinterested — the one who says, ‘It’s not worth anything….but I’ll make you an offer.’ It’s a clear sign he or she wants your item but is going to try hard to give you much less than it’s worth.”
5. Take the right tools with you
A magnet and a magnifying glass are your best friends in the pawnshop world. The magnet will tell you whether a coin or jewelry is a fake or the real deal (if the metal sticks, it’s not a precious metal) and a magnifying glass will help you identify hallmarks and other signs the item is authentic.