Pawnshops Are Considered "Essential" — Depending on Who You Ask

Are pawnshops really an essential business? Here is why pawn shops are allowed to remain open during the 2020 pandemic.

Reese Watson - Author

Jul. 24 2020, Updated 5:14 p.m. ET

are pawnshops essential
Source: Paramount Pictures

Who doesn’t love a pawnshop? Aisles of random junk, vintage technology, musical instruments, lawn equipment — you name it and you can find it in a pawnshop. A pawnshop is like the Wal-Mart of a post-apocalyptic society. 

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If it exists, chances are you can find it in a pawnshop somewhere, and let’s not forget the added bonus that you can sell and trade your own unwanted stuff for the treasures you dig out of the depths of the store.

Even with all the awesomeness that is the pawn-shopping experience, does such a store still have a place in today’s society? With businesses closing and safer-at-home orders being implemented across the country, should pawnshops be allowed to remain open?

pawnstars essential
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The major delineation that states are making revolves around "essential” and “non-essential” businesses. The most locked-down states are simply saying that only essential businesses should remain open, but what exactly is an essential business?

What does "essential" even mean?

An essential business has, so far, been defined as a business that provides services that the public needs. This is an easy case to make for grocery stores or pharmacies, but it gets a little more exciting when we start to think beyond that. Obviously, movie theaters fall under non-essential, but what about hair salons? You need to have your haircut, right?

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essential pawn shops
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Some jurisdictions have tried to head off this problem by listing essential businesses, but that effort seems almost useless when the lists span pages worth of entries. Even then, who is it that makes the call over which businesses are essential and which aren’t?

Rather than try to answer this nation-wide conundrum in one article, let’s just address our most beloved house of trinkets and oddities: the pawnshop.

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Are all pawn shops really essential?

Unfortunately, even this question lacks a clear answer. Let’s consider the pro-essential business perspective first.

pawnshop onward
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Things You Need:

A pawnshop could definitely be considered an essential business due to the simple need for the products it sells. Many of the items in a pawnshop are basic amenities. For example, a lawnmower is something you could find in a pawnshop, and it is an essential tool.

Kitchen equipment, silverware, cups, and plates could be found in a pawnshop, and how is a person to eat without the means to cook his or her food? Obviously, a pawnshop has essential goods, so the shop should be considered essential as a whole.

The Flip Side:

On the other hand, a pawnshop also carries a lot of non-essential products. It could even be possible that a particular pawnshop has nothing essential in its inventory, so should we create a pawnshop inspection committee to determine which pawnshops should be open, or do we just close them all?

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More importantly, a pawnshop sells second-hand goods. Why should a store that sells things that have been previously owned be considered essential when the store that sells the new items is still open?

By this argument, no pawnshops are essential because none of them possess unique essential items that can’t be found around the corner at a store that is inarguably essential.

Pawnshops are essential, depending who you ask.

In the end, a pawnshop — just like many other businesses — could be considered either essential or non-essential, but a lot of the final decision should ultimately be determined by the people. Leave the pawnshop open, and practice discretion.

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Is there a pawn shop around the corner where you could get your essentials without having to drive across town? In that case, a pawnshop is absolutely essential.

But on the other hand, taking a trip to the neighborhood pawn shop just to look around and see if there are any good deals is not a need. Ultimately, the responsibility lies with you to practice good judgment and consideration for your fellow man. Bet you weren't expecting that. 

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