Pawn Shop 101: A brief history lesson - Chesapeake Square Pawn
Pawn Shop 101: A brief history lesson

How long have pawn shops existed? Why the three gold balls?

Pawnbroking is not a new practice nor does it appeal to just one social class. As humankind’s oldest financial institution, pawn loans can be traced back at least 3,000 years to ancient China as well as early Greek and Roman civilizations. During the 14th Century, King Edward III of England is said to have frequented pawn stores in Europe. Queen Isabella is reported to have pawned her royal jewels to finance Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the New World.


Traditionally, the pawnbroker’s symbol is three gold spheres hanging from a bar. There are two prominent stories on how this became to be the symbol.

  • The first one stems from St. Nicholas, often referred to as the patron saint of pawnbroking. He is reported to have left three bags of gold so the daughters of a poor man could afford to marry, thus saving them from a life of slavery or prostitution. Later the tradition transformed the bags into three gold balls, which became the symbol of pawnbrokers.
  • The second story is that the “three balls” were originally part of the coat of arms of the Medici family, who established the Medici trading and banking empire in Florence, Italy. Legend has it that one of the Medicis (in the employ of Emperor Charles the Great) fought a giant and slew him with three sacks of rocks. The three balls or globes later became part of their family crest, and ultimately, the sign of pawnbroking.


Chesapeake Square Pawn is a proud member of the National Pawnbrokers Association. The National Pawnbrokers Association (NPA) works to provide independent pawnbrokers nationwide with resources and tools to strengthen the pawn industry.

Chesapeake Square Pawn is committed to operating its business in such a manner as to enhance and promote the positive and professional image of all pawnbrokers. We believe in establishing positive and long-lasting relationships with our customers, as well as the local, state and federal government officials.

Come on in and see Maurice and Mary-Kathryn for a good deal.