Stigma lingers for valuable service

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The Independent Online
Pawnbroking may have sharpened up its image but the stigma lingers. Ian King (not his real name) is a renowned freelance photographer who has had to hock his camera to make ends meet on more than one occasion.

He believes the service is valuable but feels revealing his identity would damage his reputation as a portrait and still life photographer. "It's an easy way of raising money if you need a couple of hundred pounds and you need it now. You avoid the meeting with the bank manger, cashflow statistics, arrangement fees and the like," he says.

Mr King earns a decent living but suffers from the perennial problem of freelance work - late payment. He sells his invoices to a factor who gives him instant money in return for a 9 per cent discount on the face value. When no cash is available from the factor he goes to GW and AE Thomson, a pawnbroker in north London. Thomson has advanced him pounds 250 for his Hasselblad, a large format studio camera. Its normal second-hand value is between pounds 600 and pounds 800. Mr King redeemed his possession after about a month. He paid a pounds 12.50 document fee - this buys the proof of the transaction that one eventually reclaims against - as well as 2 to 3 per cent interest on the advance.

"I wouldn't do this if I was very hardpressed, and the danger of not being able to retrieve the camera was too great. You're better off selling something. In fact I have sold off odd lenses in the past, when I've needed to,'' said Mr King.

"I'm not on my uppers now. But there are still times, like when I have layed out hundreds of pounds of capital on a job, when I need money to tide me over without a fuss or too many questions asked.''

Nigel Thomson, manager of the shop, said Mr King is typical of his self- employed customers who use pawning to boost their cashflow and to finance work in progress. Plumbers and used car salesmen also come to him with similar needs. ''The largest group, though, are salaried employees who need extra cash to tide them over until pay day,'' he says.

Dido Sandler

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