Service meets tradition
A princely pawnbroker’s is opened
Much has changed in the industry since the Princely Pawnbroker’s (das Kurfürstliche Pfandhaus) opened in 1692. “All kinds of goods and wares” were accepted and sold there “in a business-like fashion”. As per German tradition, goods were deposited for a certain period so that the original owner could re-collect them. Goods not collected went “under the hammer”, and this was always made public knowledge. Servants, who according to their masters, had stolen and other thieves had a difficult time. Indeed, “Sir Director” accepted their goods, but did not pay out any advances until he had received sufficient information. Different today. All that is needed for a payout is something to deposit and an ID. Neither questions about income and assets have to be answered nor is a credit check necessary. More and more people appreciate fast credit.
Pawn shops, those institutions that are still required or even experiencing a comeback, where you can “pawn” something and in return quickly receive cash, have existed in Berlin for exactly 305 years. The “Regulation of His Serene Highness” Friedrich III was dated 16 April 1692, after which “the local Adress House was established” and Nicolas Gauguet, a Berliner Huguenot, was appointed its director. At the very start of the extensive regulation, it was determined that a “large plaque affixed with the arms Serene of His Sereneness”, affixed to the door of the house on the Friedrichstrasse, was to proclaim in both German and French that “all manner of goods and wares” were “accepted and sold in public auctions as well as in businessmen’s fashion”. Listed by name were not only jewels, gold and silver articles, fabrics, domestic devices and furniture, but also “horses, coaches and more of the like”. “Only such servers” were to be employed in the new establishment who, in addition to being experienced, possessed a sufficient reputation of loyalty and integrity.
The new Adress House quickly became a known address in Berlin. Friedrich Nicolai mentioned it in “Description of the Cities of Royal Residence, Berlin and Potsdam”, published in 1786, three times outright. Here, he wrote, money was “loaned in return for a sufficient deposit…
One receives through his deposit a certificate that is valid for one month, and then on top of that one year, that is thirteen months altogether.” The deposits that expired thereafter were “auctioned from time to time”, which was “always made public knowledge beforehand”. The interest, which in 1692 made up two percent, had risen to six percent. On top of that came a storage fee of 1.5% and subscription costs of six to twenty Pfennig. The Adress House in the Friedrichstraße was closed in 1830, as one can read in the “Latest Conversation Handbook for Berlin and Potsdam” written by the Baron of Zedlitz in 1834. “However, private pawn shops have opened in nearly every street”, the displeased baron wrote. To return the pawn business back to more reliable hands, the Royal Loans House was established as a department of the Prussian Maritime Trading Company in the Jägerstraße in 1834 under the Wetzel directorate of the Privy Council.
In the Berlin of today there are indeed no longer pawnbrokers in “nearly every street”, but in the Yellow Pages alone 17 shops advertise themselves in larger or smaller advertisements, amongst which the former Döring Loans House, which has existed for four generations and is now Pfandkredit Neukölln (Neukölln Pawn Credit).