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Shops Are Spots for Bargain Hunters

February 20, 1992|BRIAN ALEXANDER

Pawnshops don't just loan money and buy goods, they also sell merchandise. Depending on what you are looking for, it may be possible to turn one person's misery into your gain.

Jewelry is a good example. While the thought of buying a "used" stone may not be quite as romantic as buying a "new" gem, it can be much less expensive.

First, jewelry is not something that breaks down. Gem stones are often recycled, so "new" in this case is a relative term. Many pawnshops pop the gems out of rings, sell the gold for scrap and remount the gems.

Unless a gem is chipped or otherwise damaged, it is literally "as good as new." The price you pay at a pawnshop will probably be much lower than in a typical jewelry store.

Remember that if the shop took the ring in on a loan, they may have paid only 10% of the ring's resale value for it. A 100% markup means they could sell it for 20% of its value. Most shops mark up jewelry much more, but even so, their prices are often half of prices found at fine jewelry stores.

What you don't get at the pawnshop is the quality control and expertise a jewelry store can offer. Pawnshops may or may not warranty gems to be of a particular quality, and there is usually a no-return policy. If you don't know what you're doing, you may end up getting something of less value than you think.

Some shops find themselves trying to sell nearly new stereo and television gear purchased by those whose eyes were bigger than their wallets. Pawnshop electronics can be a bargain, but again, the buyer needs to be cautious. Increasingly, pawn shops are willing to warranty some of this gear, usually for 30 days. Ask before you buy, and be sure to get the details in writing.

And remember: If it is a guitar you are looking for, pawnshops are where old guitars go to die.

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