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Meet the man making pawn up-market in Richmond and Weybridge
8:00am Wednesday 18th September 2013 in News
A world famous rock band, businessmen looking for a short term loan, divorcees trying to fund their legalities and hoaxers claiming the have a collection of Nigerian fighter jets...
These are the types of people who contact James Constantinou – owner of Prestige Pawn, which has high end pawn broking shops in Richmond and Weybridge.
The former property developer, who hands out quick loans in exchange for top-end items such as helicopters, yachts and expensive cars, has been followed around by TV cameras for Channel 4 documentary Posh Pawn, which aired on Tuesday.
Supercar lover Mr Constantinou said: “We’ve had a Ferrari Daytona worth £250,000, an art collection worth £1m and very rare objects like we had rare literature with the only other copy was in the Queen’s library in Windsor.”
The 46-year old, who opened his shop in Weybridge in 2009, took advantage of the pawn industry when the property market crashed.
The father-of-two said: “I was finding a lot of my friends in the property game had a lot of assets they had built up, so I thought I would go into the niche market of high-end pawn broking.”
Easier and faster than a bank loan, and fairly inexpensive for the short term, James began reaping the rewards of working with unique items with top price tags.
The most expensive item? A helicopter worth £1.5m, stored in a special warehouse, in exchange of a £500,000 loan.
It is not only the expensive jewellery pieces, rare art collections and designer handbags that bring excitement to the business, but the clients the stores find walk through their doors on a daily basis.
Mr Constantinou said: “We’ve had quite a few famous people over the years, but I can’t tell you who. We’ve had actors and actresses and people that have been in a very big rock band – like the biggest in the world, ex-members who left their guitars.”
On the other side are the chancers who will try anything to get a quick buck.
Mr Constantinou said: “We get a lot of hoax calls. You’ve got to really check everything out.”
One brazen individual called claiming to have a collection of 10 fighter jets from the Nigerian Air Force.
“He even had all the manuals and the flight times,” said Mr Constantinou, as he pulled out a wad of photographs, documents and certificates. “You have to be really careful.”
“If they had been legitimate we would have loved to do a loan,” said Mr Constantinou, who gets hoax calls every day.
“With that one we got on the phone to the Nigerian Embassy and they had never heard of him.”
During the weeks of filming for the show, Channel 4 explored the back stories of three clients who came into the store.
With papers for a £100,000 wine collection he has just used as collateral for a loan on his desk, Mr Constantinou said: “Every day is different, you just don’t know what is going to come in next.
“We are not always busy, but when they come in with something high end it is really quite nice.”
The world of high-end pawn not only offers the chance to learn about valuable and rare items, but meet some of the people behind such unusual finds and discover what has driven them to walk through the Prestige door.
You can catch Posh Pawn on 4oD.
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