Once the History Channel’s Pawn Stars hit the scene, the business of pawning exploded into the minds and imaginations of many Americans. It almost seems like the business didn’t even exist until that show aired. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
The practice of pawning items to brokers has existed for thousands of years. The very term “pawn” comes from the Latin word “pannum,” which means “cloth” as in “a piece of clothing.” Because medieval peasants often pawned their clothing-the most valuable thing they had-when times were tight, that word for clothing came to have the meaning it has today.
The fact that the word itself probably came from a dead, ancient language goes to show that the practice came from long ago too.
Throughout thousands of years, pawning a possession has enabled many people to accomplish their goals. Many of these moments in history show that people can overcome great need through pawning.
To learn about some of these historical examples, read the stories below.
The Forming of the Band of Brothers
You may have heard of the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers.” You may even know that the title phrase comes from Shakespeare’s Henry V, where King Henry famously rouses his troops to fight against five to one odds and defeat the French at Agincourt, which they do.
You may not know that King Henry V, who fought in a number of wars, pawned his crown to help fund them.
For 100,000 marks, King Henry pawned the crown of England to the Bishop of Winchester. Obviously, the crown didn’t include the kingdom, but it still seems rather shocking that the king would pawn the greatest symbol of his kingship.
Fortunately for King Henry, things worked out. He won some wars, won glory “from this day to the ending of the world,” and won his crown back in the end.
Inspiring a More Modern Band of Brothers
Interestingly enough, the “Band of Brothers” HBO miniseries mentioned before might owe additional inspiration to the practice of pawning. The heroes of the show, an American division in WWII (the 101st Airborne), likely listened to the Glenn Miller Orchestra, possibly the most popular band of the era.
As The Glenn Miller Story (1954) shows, Glenn Miller experienced such financial hardship that more than once he had to pawn his very trombone. From that level, he rose to the very top. As someone famously said, “Next to a letter from home,the Glenn Miller Orchestra was the greatest morale booster in the European theater of operations.”
Tragically, on his way to play for American troops in Paris, the plane carrying Glenn Miller and his 50 piece band ran into a storm above the English Channel. The plane never made it to land, but his legacy lives on.
Saving an American Icon
Speaking of American icons, Ford once pawned the original, famous Blue Oval itself–a symbol of assembly lines, innovation, and American industrial might. Yes, even the colossal Ford company became so low on funds that it had to pawn some of its most precious possessions in order to stay afloat.
In 2006, desperately in debt and hounded by creditors, Ford secured a loan worth $23.4 billion. The company had to pawn many symbols of its identity to do so, including (in addition to the Blue Oval itself) its headquarters, some factories, and even the rights to its iconic Mustang and F-150.
Yet this loan kept Ford afloat when other major car corporations needed federal bailouts a few years later. And, as you know, Ford earned back its symbol in the end anyway. The company showed character and brilliance by making such a comeback.
Don’t Give Up in Hard Times
If you need to pawn items to save your finances, feel confident when you do so. Prominent people and companies have needed help from pawnbrokers before. If you need some extra money, pawn some of your belongings. You’ll build yourself back up to financial wellbeing before you know it.