When the bank is bare ...

Pawnbrokers are a useful fall-back for raising money in an emergency, if an overdraft is out of the question. By John Andrew

Raising money in an emergency can be difficult. Last week, we discussed the options available to Hazel, who was wondering how to proceed if she wanted to dispose of a family heirloom.

A few years ago, Hazel inherited a piece of jewellery from her aunt. Single and retired, she is reasonably comfortable financially, with a company pension to supplement her state pension. She also has "adequate" savings and investments that produce an income which she uses for holidays abroad.

There are three possibilities: to consign the piece to auction; to sell it direct to a dealer, or, if she were unsure whether she really wanted to sell the brooch, but still needed cash while she made up her mind, she could borrow against the piece from a pawnbroker.

We decided on TM Sufton's, opposite London's Victoria Station, which has been described as the Harrods of pawnbrokers. We were led through a back door to Jim Tannerhill's office.

"Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful," he remarked as he looked intensely at the piece. He knew it was by Faberge and appreciated the craftsmanship. "We normally see large chunks of jewels; nothing like this. How much do you want?" We suggested pounds 5,000 and received the response, "No problem, though I will have to go through the normal formalities such as identification, and a consumer credit agreement. If you wanted more, I would need a couple of days to get a professional valuation."

Then came the crunch question, "What is the interest rate?" Sufton's tariff is 5 per cent a month for pieces under pounds 500; 3.5 per cent for advances from pounds 500 to pounds 10,000 and 3 per cent for sums above pounds 10,000, with amounts over pounds 100,000 negotiable. When asked the APR for an advance of pounds 5,000 Jim responded immediately, "46.4 per cent". As Hazel was a good credit risk, borrowing from a bank would be two-thirds cheaper for her. However, as Jim pointed out, this is not an alternative for everyone who wants immediate cash for a short period.

Certainly when he showed us around the vaults, one was in no doubt that the asset-rich but cash-poor use pawnbrokers to help their monetary liquidity. A diamond tiara lay in the inner sanctum, while close by in a locked cupboard there were jewels on which sums of up to pounds 250,000 had been advanced - rare, coloured diamonds of several carats, and an emerald the shape of a small pear and as large as a man's thumb.

I was intrigued as to what happens to items that are not redeemed. This occurs to fewer than 10 per cent of the items pledged to Sufton's. While the company accommodates individuals who have funds "on the way", when it is apparent that customers are not going to honour their side of the pledge agreement, they are advised when their treasures will be consigned to auction, which in many cases will nudge them into redeeming the pieces they have pledged. The net proceeds, after Sufton's has taken the interest it is due, are forwarded to the client.

We decided that raising cash with a pledge at a pawnbrokers was not for Hazel. However, for an individual who is really hard pressed for cash, and where a bank overdraft is not a possibility, a pawnbroker's is a viable option. The National Pawnbrokers Association has 240 members, and Paul Finch, of the association, estimates that there are around 600 pawnbrokers in the UK.

When I remarked to him that I was taken aback by the APR on advances, he made the valid point that the APR for an overdraft includes interest only and not fees for unauthorised overdrafts, charges for letters on the state of the account and the fee made every time a cheque is bounced.

Hazel's heirloom was clearly a thing that would have had the experts on the Antiques Road Show drooling. However, if you want to sell any heirloom, it is essential to do your homework first. Had Hazel not appreciated the value of the piece and known nothing about it, she could have sold it for a song to a person who also did not appreciate its true worth. So just as you shop around when buying anything, do not rush when selling. Of course, do remember that not all antiques are worth a fortunen

The National Pawnbrokers Association publishes a list of its members and a booklet on pawnbroking. Any item of value is normally suitable for pawning (which is when the loan is below pounds 50) or pledging (when it is for pounds 50 or more). Call 0171-242 1114 for more details.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Voices
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
News
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
Extras
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

    Trust Accountant - Kent

    NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

    Graduate Recruitment Consultant - 2013/14 Grads - No Exp Needed

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £30000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

    Law Costs

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - Law Costs Draftsperson - NICHE...

    Day In a Page

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?