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August 22, 2014

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Q+A: ‘Hardcore Pawn’ star Seth Gold takes inventory at 2014 CES

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Seth Gold of TruTV’s “Hardcore Pawn.”

2014 CES: Gadgets

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CES is for more than tech execs and gadget geeks — for Seth Gold, star of TruTV’s “Hardcore Pawn,” the trade show means an important opportunity to network and keep up with the fast-paced tech world that helps drive business at his family’s pawnshop, American Jewelry and Loan, in Detroit.

I spoke with Gold, who was recently named the 2013 National Pawnbrokers Association Pawnbroker of the Year, about the role of technology in the pawn world, his tech trend predictions and his favorite finds at this year’s CES.

So what is a pawnbroker doing at CES? How does your industry fit into a trade show like this?

We deal with a lot of merchandise. We see a thousand customers come through the store every day, and there’s leading technology that comes through the door soon after it’s released. So there’s always the early adopters who take a new technology, maybe overpay, maybe need some money to borrow against, so I just like seeing what’s coming down the pipeline.

Costs fluctuate all the time in this market. You have to do a whole lot of research being a pawnbroker, you have to understand what the products are that are being brought in. So there’s no better chance to do that than seeing what’s on the floor at a trade show like this. And I’m a tech and gadget guy, so I wanted to see what was up-and-coming for myself.

Is it common for pawnbrokers to attend trade shows, or is it more of a personal strategy?

Yeah, there are electronic shows and jewelry shows, and I think that’s in line with all pawnbroking business. You see them attend the JCK Show here in Las Vegas and individual shows around the country. We have to be knowledgeable in a lot of different areas as a pawnbroker because we don’t know what could be coming through the door, so it’s basically an educational class, as well.

What kind of networking do you do at CES?

Our pawnshop deals in used and new merchandise, so there are vendors out here who would fit my client base. Headphones are trending in popularity right now, so I met with a couple companies like Monster and Skullcandy and saw what they have coming down the pipeline. To be a successful pawnshop, you need to be innovative.

Just having used stock doesn’t always fit the bill. New people are coming to the pawnshop who have never experienced a pawnshop, and you can always get a good deal at a pawnshop. So if you have an inside track with vendors, and they like what you do, you can get their merchandise and sell it to your own clients.

What are some of the gadgets that caught your eye and that you predict customers might bring into the shop in the year ahead?

The crazy TV that was 105 inches definitely caught my eye and would probably look good on a wall someplace. But at a hefty price tag of $150,000, I’m not gonna fork that over quite yet. But I really like looking at home automation and wearable technology, like the whole watch and phone integration. Those are the things I kind of gravitate toward.

In the shop, I expect to see any type of music device, whether it be an iPod, iPad, the Samsung Galaxy. And video-game systems, I can’t leave that out. The new systems like Xbox One and PS4s. It’s amazing to look at how technology has changed.

Given the fast turnover with technology and new versions always coming out, what is the process of valuing lightly-used electronics in a shop like yours?

It’s tough. When customers come in, they might bring in the latest and greatest television. If that customer doesn’t come back to pick up their merchandise, it’s 3 months older. Unfortunately, 3 months in the tech age is a long time, and there’s probably something else coming out. So we need to be really careful on how we price things.

As a company, we decided we’re not going to take TVs older than 5 years old. When technology is getting smaller and thinner and that’s what everybody wants, you have to be cutting edge and provide the services and stuff the customer wants.

Follow Andrea Domanick on Twitter at @AndreaDomanick and fan her on Facebook at Facebook.com/AndreaDomanick.

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