Mike Griffin, with help from his trusty side-kick, Patty, told us about his years in the pawnbroker business. He started by telling us about his background. Mike learned to make change helping at his grandpa’s liquor store. He earned a degree in social work and worked as a psych tech (for about a minute). He had an antiques business, opened a bar & restaurant, worked as a produce broker (where nobody wore a gun but they were tough) and got interested in the pawn broker business while working at a friend’s shop. In 1981, after another pawn shop was robbed, he approached the owner asking if he was interested in selling.His wife, who had been scared to death after the robbery, insisted that her husband sell Mike the business. So M.A. Griffin & Sons was born. Mike told us a few things about the pawn business: That pawn shops are full of stolen items is a myth. In California, one must show a valid California driver’s license before they can get money for their stuff.

  • The customer has 4 months to renew the loan or pay the principal and interest and get their item back.

  • Pawnbrokers make money on interest as well as buying and re-selling items.

    At one point, Mike loaned money on a diamond that was brought into his shop. It was a large stone with a blue tint but, to Mike, it did not look quite right. He paid the guy a couple of hundred dollars for the stone. When it went unclaimed, Mike took it to an auctioneer who thought the stone might be valuable. He sent it out to be evaluated and it was rated “fancy”. At auction, Harry Winston’s people purchased it for $46,000! It was at this point that Mike decided attending the Gemology Institute might be a good idea. He learned to judge stones on cut, clarity, color and carat weight.

    M.A. Griffin & Sons was not without drama. One day some armed guys came into the shop to rob it. Little did they know that most of the stuff that was in view was not the stuff that was worth a lot of money. But, with help (according to Mike, they were not the sharpest tools in the shed), they took off with a number of items. While this was going on, Patty and her employees were in another part of the building, totally unaware of the bad guys just on

    the other side of the door. Her hero, Mike, made sure the bad guys did not enter Patty’s office and led them to the door to the alley instead.

    Mike sold the business in 2007.
    Thanks Mike and Patty for a fun, interesting and scary presentation.