While the pawn industry nationwide is thriving, Stephenville pawn shops are experiencing different conditions.

Stephenville pawn shops have had less sales than previous years “which is an indication of a tighter economy,” said South Loop Pawn and Hobby Shop owner James Smola. Business has slowed further for Smola this summer.

“The summer has been poor. Our sales have dropped by $5,000-$6,000 without many of the Tarleton students,” Smola said.

Though sales may be down, loans are on the rise. South Loop Pawn and Hobby Shop has seen about a 10 percent increase in loans as people are needing a little extra cash. The most common items that are pawned and loaned are guns, jewelry, tools and musical instruments, “most things people can survive without from paycheck to paycheck,” said Smola.

Even among the most common items that go up for loan, there has been a slight increase in jewelry as gold prices have risen. Smola added that their jewelry sales “have been much more active.”

The economy may be the reason to pawn or visit the shops for some, however, shops across the nation have received a little more notority. There has been more interest in both pawning items and buying from pawn shops after the debut of the hit TV show “Pawn Stars” in July of 2009.

Now in its third season, “Pawn Stars” follows the day-to-day business of Gold and Silver Pawn, a family-owned shop in Las Vegas. While the show receives about 5 million viewers each week, the show may not be depicting typical pawn shop operations. Gold and Silver Pawn shows the transactions of many novelty and antique items. Many pawn shop owners complain that it gives a false impression of the industry.

Although Smola has never seen “Pawn Stars,” he has heard many of his customers and friends about the show.

“It’s a little different from what you hear on TV. There is typically more buying from people than selling in the store” Smola said about the show. “It’s a little different in Stephenville than in Las Vegas. Their shop is a tourist attraction.”

Although pawn shops have become more attractive, some customers still hold reservations about them. Stolen items are often a concern for shop owners and customers alike, however, regulations are in place to prevent individuals from pawning stolen items. Local police departments receive a copy of every pawn transaction that occurs.

“It really cuts down on thieves coming to sell stolen items,” said Smola.

When law enforcement agencies receive reports of missing or stolen property, they work with pawn shops from in the county and across the state to attempt to recover these items.

“Theives don’t normally stay in the county so we sometimes deal with police departments from many of the surrounding counties,” Smola said.

South Loop Pawn and Hobby shop typically works with law enforcement on about six stolen items a year but talks to law enforcement four to five times per day about stolen items.

As an added measure on some common items, like guns, pawn shop owners are required to register the items in a national database including descriptions and serial numbers. This safeguard further protects individuals from pawning stolen items.

Pawn shops across the country have received much attention and foot traffic over the past year. South Loop Pawn and Hobby Shop and others in Erath County have provided individuals relief during struggling economic times with loans and pawning and also provide an inexpensive alternative to making purchases on everyday, and sometimes unusual, items.