Queen Isabella was known to have pawned her jewels so Christopher Columbus had the funds to go in search of the Americas.
With reference to England, it was in the mid-18th Century when bills were passed through Parliament regulating pawnbrokers (i.e. proposing licensing and a levy of 1/5th of all interest charged going to hospitals and workhouses). At about this time, three balls either golden or blue became the sign of the pawnbroker – Blue was in fact a more fitting color than gold, since the sign probably came from the coat of arms of the Medicis, from whose territory the Lombard Goldsmiths (the first registered money lenders) originally came.
Between the mid-18th and 19th Century, pawnbrokers had expanded all over the country and further acts were introduced to regulate this expansion. By 1851, there were about 4,500 pawn broking establishments mainly based in industrial working class areas. At the turn of the century, most pawnbrokers were open until midnight on Saturdays taking in all manner of pledges from linen to furniture, blankets, and clothes. These were generally put in store rooms above the premises where people slept to protect the goods.
During and in between the two World wars, it was not exceptional for industrial pawnbrokers (assorted general household goods, tools, and machinery) to take in 2,000 – 3,000 pledges per week, by the 1950’s the number of pledges dropped to about 300 a week – This was mainly due to the advent of social security.
Trade for the pawnbrokers in the 60’s and 70’s was very slow and to make matters worse, a series of complex legal regulations made pawn broking an unattractive form of money lending. The demise of the pawnbroker altogether was a real possibility; the government changed this via pressure from the National Pawnbrokers Association and in 1974 introduced the Credit Consumer Act which simplified pawn broking into a clear and concise form of money lending.