In just a few days I’m moving from New York City to the suburbs. While packing up my home, I realized I have a lot of stuff that I don’t need. It was easy to get rid of the clothing and kids’ toys by donating them to the Salvation Army. But I held onto other items, including some old family heirlooms, because I know they must have some value even though I can’t appreciate them. But now I’ve found a hassle-free way to unload them for cash.
Meet Pawngo, an online pawn shop that allows folks to trade their valuables for cash. Customers can either borrow money against an asset (think high-end watch or digital SLR camera) or sell an item outright.
Here’s how the site works: You send the company a picture and detailed description of the item you’d like to pawn and in return you’ll receive a preliminary offer letter for what the company thinks it’s worth. If you like what you read, you then mail your asset to the company (with free shipping and insurance). A certified evaluator then takes a look and makes you a formal offer. If you accept the terms, Pawngo wires cash into your bank account.
The company’s CEO, Todd Hills, told me that most of his customers pawn belongings to meet a short term cash need, such as a major car repair. Then, once that person can repay the loan (the principal plus fees), he gets his item back.
But as I mentioned earlier, I’m more interested in selling off things I’ve found around my home. Hills says his company can accommodate this too, provided the heirlooms, electronics and jewelry are items that ship easily.
One potential downside to selling valuables through Pawngo is that the market for luxury goods and collectibles isn’t very strong right now thanks to the weak economy. So you may not get as much for your Tag Heuer as you think it’s worth, especially after Pawngo takes its cut off the top. (The company says its margins are 20% to 30%.)
The one exception, of course, is anything with gold. As we all know, the price is through the roof right now and is hovering over $1,800 an ounce. This is good news for folks like me who have collected necklaces and earrings over the years and know we’ll never wear some of these pieces again.
Still, I probably won’t make as much off an old necklace I received for my Sweet 16 as I may have once imagined. That’s because most jewelry isn’t pure gold. Fourteen karat, for example, is less than 60% gold. And if an item has been cleaned a lot, its precious metal content may be even slightly lower.
Could you make more money selling your stuff elsewhere? Maybe. And if I was sitting on a very valuable coin or baseball card collection, I would probably get it independently appraised and shop it around. But for the types of trinkets I found around my house, I think Pawngo makes sense, especially since it sounds so easy. And once I unpack my boxes (and the kids go back to school), I think I’ll give it a try.
Would you sell off old family heirlooms for cash?
Stacey L. Bradford covers personal finance with a focus on issues that affect families. Her first book, The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents, hit shelves in June 2009. She was previously an associate editor at SmartMoney.com for more than 10 years.