3006 High Point Road.; 336.299.3659
To properly gauge the pawn shops in town, I used a control — a Mamiya C22 Professional camera, medium format and with twin lens reflex. It's really old-fashioned looking and, according to B&H Camera (bhphotovideo.com) retails for about $400. My first stop, USA Pawn, turns me away after a single glance at the machine. I'm told they only sell beginners' cameras and to take mine to a camera shop. Their wares lean heavily towards ATVs, wheelchairs, lawn tools and musical equipment like electric guitars, amps and drum kits.
Cash America Pawn
2705 High Point Road; 336.297.0430
On display in the front room at Cash America are lots of computer and stereo equipment as well as shelves devoted to power tools, with emphasis on power saws and chainsaws. A glance to the back room reveals hundreds of television sets. But they, too, are unmoved by my camera (which, in actuality, belongs to my wife and looks very cool in my office). They suggest I try eBay.
140 W. Meadowview Road; 336.379.7296
“I'm sorry baby, we don't do anything like that,” says the kind woman behind the counter at Bob's. “We don't do antiques.” In this sturdy, brick building near the southern edge of town they deal mostly in bass boat motors and the detritus of failed bands. They also have an interesting display of egg cartons filled with golf balls.
Music Barn Loan & Jewelry
920 S. Chapman St.; 336.275.9092
Speaking of foreshortened musical careers, the spread at the Music Barn is a veritable cornucopia of dreams deferred, with enough secondhand guitars, effects pedals, drums, ampage and percussion to recreate the Rockestra, which is probably an obscure reference that is entirely lost on younger readers. I quickly surmise that my camera is not their kind of merchandise.
First National Pawn
423 W. Meadowview Road; 336.271.2881
The young lady at First National gasps and her hand goes to her chest when she lays eyes on the Mamiya. “This is so cool,” she says. “We don't usually take stuff like this, but….” In a frenzy she and the manager get the supervisor on the phone, but the unseen decision-maker is not interested. “You shouldn't be in a pawn shop with this,” says the young lady, who wears a nametag that says 'Daryal.' “You should bring this to someone who knows what you've got.”
Money Unlimited Pawn & Sales
2607 S. Elm-Eugene St.; 336.273.7119
They turn me down rather unceremoniously at Money Unlimited, where they have an ample supply of video game systems and televisions (there must be close to a million used television sets for sale in Greensboro, by the way). Plenty of forgotten guitars lean against one wall, and they also have a decent selection of horns, including a valve trombone, for which I almost offered my wife's camera in an equal trade.
B&W Pawn Shop
1712 E. Bessemer Ave.; 336-274-6910
The pawnbroker's business exists in the hull of an old bank, replete with a drive-up window which I initially thought to be inactive but now I'm not so sure. The guy who looked to be in charge told me why he wouldn't accept my camera for brokerage: “People don't buy 'em anymore… everybody wants digital. When I first got into this business I could get two-hundred and fifty for those easy.”
340 Tate St.; 336.272.6222
The new pawn shop on Tate Street displays merchandise congruent to its college neighborhood: video tapes and DVDs, jewelry that's funky and cool, collectible coins and bills and the like. No camera equipment. “We're more about buying new things, says the woman behind the counter.
1820 Spring Garden St.; 336.230.1514
There's not much new here at this pawnbroker on Spring Garden — lots of collegiate castoffs, but also a stocked gun rack along one wall holding everything you'd need to stage an assault on a moderately armed fortress, or at least kill every squirrel in your entire neighborhood. They send me to eBay.
1024 W. Lee St.; 336.230.1024
I notice a small display case of camera gear by the front door at Panda Pawn, including not only modern digital models but also old Polaroids, Kodak Brownie kits and those old, slim pocket cameras that used the flip flash. I figure I may be in luck, and I'm right. Turns out the owner is a camera buff. He takes the Mamiya apart, polishes the lenses and mirror with alcohol, checks for breaks and dings and does some internet research, all of which takes more than an hour. He cautiously offers $50, saying, “If you want to sell it, I'd like to have it.” Panda Pawn also has a music room in the back, which is a must if you're trying to get the band back together.