Pawnbroker’s Sign

Pawnbroker’s Sign

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
Downloads
Description
This is a copper pawnbroker’s sign, most likely hung outside a pawnshop in upstate New York during the Depression Era. Pawning, or putting an item up as collateral for a short period of time, has been in practice since at least the 5th century in China, and gained popularity in Europe during the Middle Ages. Pawnshop owners during the Middle Ages began using this symbol, the three spheres, to designate the type of service they offered since around this same time. The three spheres most likely represent three (gold) coins, but spheres are more recognizable than flat objects when using them for signage. Immigrants arriving to the United States during the early years most likely brought and continued this tradition from Europe.
Object Name
sign
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
copper (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 24 in x 23 1/2 in x 8 3/4 in; 60.96 cm x 59.69 cm x 22.225 cm
ID Number
2012.0156.01
accession number
2012.0156
catalog number
2012.0156.01
Credit Line
Gift of Wendy A. Woloson
subject
Business
See more items in
Work and Industry: Retail and Marketing
Advertising
American Enterprise
Exhibition
American Enterprise
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.

Comments

Add a comment about this object