How Do Pawnbrokers Determine Value on Items

Posted by admin on June 22, 2020

Pawning items can be a quick way to secure hard cash, in person, but how items are valued can be a little confusing, so in this article we cover some of the most commonly pawned items. 


A Little Bit of History

Pawnbrokers emerged over three thousand years ago in China, as a way of offering short-term credit. This form of credit was here to stay and is responsible for several historical moments. For example, in 1492, Queen Isabella of Castile sold her favourite jewellery to finance Christopher Columbus’ expeditions around the world. 

This simple transaction has lasted all the way to the modern age, though for a few pawnbrokers the sense of history still remains; Cuttings was established over 50 years ago and has remained a family business ever since. 

Pawning items can be a quick way to secure hard cash, in person, but how items are valued can be a little confusing, so in this blog we cover some of the most commonly pawned items. 



When valuing electronics, pawnbrokers will first check its resale value. To be clear - this doesn’t mean that they are going to sell the item on, but it does give a good indication of an item’s true value. After all, it's not going to have the same worth as a brand new version of the same product.

The age of an electronic item is a big factor, as items older than 2 or 3 years are more likely to break. They’ll also lose value faster as newer products arrive on the market.

Commonly, a pawnbroker will check popular online marketplaces, such as eBay, for the product. They will also try and find an identical item with similar wear and tear, or with similar accessories, to find an item's true value. 



Watches are a commonly pawned item, and require the expertise of a specialist pawnbroker to determine the value for you. The main factors which an experienced pawnbroker will consider when valuing a watch include:

  • The watch brand
    An experienced pawnbroker may be able to determine the approximate value of certain instantly recognisable watch brands at a glance, such as Rolex, Omega, Tag Heuer, Cartier and Breitling
    The watch shown here is a vintage Gent's Omega Seamaster Chronostop, identified and valued by our in-house experts

  • The age of the watch
    The value of some watches increases with age, and some decrease

  • The condition of the watch
    The condition of the watch will affect its value

  • Packaging & Accessories
    If a watch is brought to a pawnbroker with its original packaging and accessories, then this will increase the value of the watch.

Here at Cuttings, we specialise in the valuation of watches, so feel free to get in touch for an honest quote for your watch.



Instruments are commonly pawned and the approach taken when valuing an item is broadly similar to electronics. The main difference is how age is factored in.

As with watches, certain instruments actually increase in value with age, as the ageing process improves the sound of the instrument. For example, violins can sound more mellow as they age which makes them more desirable, though dearer violins will already be made from well-seasoned wood, which makes the valuation process complicated. 


The reverse is true for pianos, as changes in the structure of the piano due to wood shrinkage and shifting parts negatively affect its sound. With proper maintenance over time, the rate of depreciation can be slowed, but the ultimate valuation will depend on the make of piano and the pawnbroker’s experience with that type of musical instrument.


To check whether an instrument is an antique, pawnbrokers will check for a manufacturer’s mark or serial number on the instrument. This will serve as a reference point for checking what the item is selling for on commonly used online marketplaces. And if an item is particularly rare a pawnbroker may check directly with the manufacturer. 

Gold, silver and platinum jewellery 

Gold jewellery is valued based on three main factors: 109689-1-A_2.jpg

  • Purity (i.e. karats, 24 karat being pure gold)

  • Weight (normally gold is weighed by the ounce)

  • The current market value of the metal, such as gold

The bracelet shown has been identified by our in-house experts as being a diamond and ruby bracelet, and can be purchased here.

You can tell what karat your jewellery is by checking for hallmarks. These are effectively purity notes and will be a number followed by a K (indicating its karat) or a three-digit number (the European decimal hallmark). Both indicate its purity. 


Karat is only used for gold. The value of silver and platinum is determined in the same three ways as gold, but purity is only measured using the European decimal hallmark system mentioned above. 


As with musical instruments, a pawnbroker who specialises in jewellery such as Cuttings, will likely have staff with specific specialist knowledge. They will likely be aware of the “melt price” of the metal, and also keep up to date with the fluctuating value of different metals. It is for this reason that we would always advise that, if you are considering pawning valuable jewellery that you do thorough research beforehand. 


Other factors

With any item, of course the overall condition of an item is an important factor for a pawnbroker to consider; at the end of the day, the product can be new and a well-known brand, but if it’s damaged or unusable then this will, of course, affect the value considerably. 

Before you take an item to a pawnbroker, it is important to research and choose wisely. An experienced, reputable pawnbroker will be able to make an honest, educated valuation and will treat your item with care. Similarly, if the item that you wish to pawn doesn’t fall within their area of expertise then at least you know they can be trusted to recommend another pawnbroker, or to call on an external individual with the knowledge required.

Cuttings is an independent family-run pawnbrokers which has been owned by the current Kirkland family for over half a century. Our clients travel from far-afield for the knowledge and experience offered by our team when it comes to valuing items. 

If you have an item you wish to pawn, then look no further. Get in touch with our team by calling 01843 223808, or by completing the form on our Contact page. We will look forward to assisting you soon.


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