The history of pawnbroking began in the earliest ages of the world. Lending money on portable security is one of the oldest professions.
The pawnbroker in the United States is, generally speaking, subject to considerable legal restriction. Each state has its own regulations, but those of New York and Massachusetts may be taken as fairly representative.
Brokers of pawn are usually licensed by the mayors, or by the mayors and aldermen, but in Boston the police commissioners are the licensing authority. In the state of New York permits are renewable annually on payment of $500, and the pawnbroker must file a surety bond with the Department of Consumer Affairs, in the sum of $10,000. The business is conducted on much the same lines as in England. The rate of interest is 4% per month and the loan is written for a period of 4 months, with an additional 30-day grace period. To enact higher rates is a misdemeanor. Unredeemed pledges may be sold at anytime after the legal time for the loan. New York contains one pawnshop to every 12,000 inhabitants. In the state of Massachusetts unredeemed pledges may be sold four months after the date of deposit. The licensing authority may fix the rate of interest, which may vary for different amounts, and in Boston every pawnbroker is bound to furnish to the police daily a list of the pledges taken in during the preceding twenty-four hours, specifying the hour of each transaction and the amount lent.