Several theories on how pawnbroker symbol came to be

Published 2:59 pm Sunday, November 20, 2022

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The use of symbols for traditional shops dates back to a time in Europe when most people were unable to read or write. Instead, symbols were used to identify shops.

Over time, the use of these symbols carried over and many are still in use today, according to Hat City Pawn.

The traditional symbol for pawn shops is three gold balls suspended from a bar. There is a variety of lore associated with the origins and meaning of the symbol.

One of the most common stories about the origins of the symbol traces back to the Medici family of Florence, Italy, who were bankers.

“According to legend, a Medici employed by Charlemagne slew a giant using three bags of rocks. The three-ball symbol became the family crest,” the Hat City Pawn article continues. “Since the Medicis were so successful in banking, other families also adopted the symbol. Throughout the Middle Ages, coats of arms bore three balls, orbs, plates, discs, coins and more as symbols of monetary success.”

According to legend, a poor man in his town had three daughters but was not able to afford an adequate dowry for them to be married. It is said St. Nicholas dropped a sack filled with gold coins into each daughter’s window.

The three bags of gold came to represent the three gold spheres used by pawnbrokers on their store fronts.

Saint Nicholas day is Dec. 6, which is also National Pawnbrokers Day.

Informer is written by Crystal   StevensonAmerican Press executive editor. To ask a question, email