More women pawn their jewels in tarnished economy

Fri Feb 20, 2009 5:37pm EST
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Pawnbrokers are seeing many more new customers as Americans, mostly women, hock their gold jewelry to make ends meet.

"There's definitely been a great many more first timers coming in," Joseph Grunberg of Lombard Mutual Pawnbrokers & Jewelers said. "There are a lot more women then men, but that's because more women have more jewelry."

On Friday, when gold rose above $1,000 an ounce in New York trade, Grunberg said, "It's been going on for a long time now. There is a correlation between the markets and our customers. And we view this as only the beginning."

At the Provident Loan Society of New York, a not-for-profit pawnbroker with five branches in various New York neighborhoods, John Higney said his company has long seen a mixture of clientele.

From the branch on the posh Upper East Side, home to investment bankers, to The Bronx, home to working class families, what Higney has noticed is an increase in volume.

"We have some people coming in saying they worked on Wall Street and lost their job," he said. "But we've had one person on line come in with a $40,000 item and the person right behind them come in with a $100 item."

He said he had seen more business since gold has been hovering around $900 an ounce and expects to see more customers "a little later in the year as more people lose their jobs."

Lombard Mutual's Grunberg is also anticipating an increase in his business. "We only view this as early on. There's going to be a lot more of this."

(Reporting by Leslie Gevirtz, editing by Jennifer Ablan)

<p>A pawn shop worker sorts through gold jewellery at the Super Efectivo pawn shop in downtown Madrid October 8, 2008. REUTERS/Susana Vera</p>