What does the pawn shop symbol mean?

The Suffolk Jewelers & Pawnbrokers logo features the traditional symbol of the pawnbroker, which is three spheres suspended from a bar.

As legend has it, this symbol traces back to the Medici family – a prominent family in Florence, Italy in the 15th century that was known for loaning and banking. The Medici family crest features the symbol of the three balls, because a member of the Medici family was supposedly working for Emperor Charles the Great and killed a giant with three bags of rocks.

The Medicis were so well known as a finance family that other lenders and people in the finance business adopted similar coats of arms featuring the three golden balls. Gradually, the three balls came to signify the financial profession.

Another story goes this way – Saint Nicolas, the patron saint of pawnbrokers, gave three bags of coins to the three daughters of a poor man so that they could marry. The three balls in the symbol represent the three bags of coins.

Another lesser known possible origin is a coin dating to A.D. 68 during the Roman Empire. The coin, called the Silver Shekel or Shekel of Israel, was issued after a Jewish revolt against the Romans. The coin had an illustration of three pomegranates sharing one stalk.

Whatever the exact origin, the symbol has staying power. It is a trademark of the industry, featured in numerous logos, including the logo of the National Pawnbrokers Association–the industry’s premier trade association. Also, the symbol is featured in pawn shops all over the world.