The pawnbroker symbol, the three golden balls, has been in use since the medieval times and it is still being used by pawnshop all over the world. A rather strange symbol to be honest and, even though it’s clear that it resembles wealth, have you ever wondered about its true origins?
Well, that’s why we are here and, even though no one knows the exact origin, there are three dominant theories.
Let’s check them out. (the article continues after the ad)
The Medici family crest
The Medici family were bankers that were widely known not only in their hometown of Florence, but throughout Europe. They were a powerful family who held sway not only with politicians, but with church leaders and lawmakers. What’s really important, is that their coat of arms included six balls (five red and one blue):
As their power in finance and money-lending was increased, more and more families that were involved in pawnbroking embedded spheres into their crests. Soon enough, spheres became synonymous with pawnbroking and that’s why we know have the three golden spheres. This is actually the most popular theory but let’s check the other ones.
The House of Lombard
Pawnbroking was incredibly popular in the Italian province of Lombardy. In fact, the bankers that were located in this region were so successful, that pawnbroking model was later named Lombard banking. Legend has it that because Lombard merchants were hanging golden spheres (representing golden coins) outside their homes to attract attention, pawnbroking ended up using the three golden spheres as its symbol.
Nicholas of Myra
St. Nicholas of Myra was a 4th century Greek Bishop and the patron saint of pawnbroking. According to this theory, a poor man in his hometown had 3 daughters but since it had nothing to offer as a dowry, he couldn’t have them married. St. Nicholas, dropped three sacks of golden coins into his doorstep. one for each daughter.That’s why, early pawnbrokers used this as a reference to create the symbol as each sphere represented one bag of gold.
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Main Article Photo: Thomas Nugent / geograph.org.uk
Photoshop: I’m A Useless Info Junkie
Sources: What Does The Pawnbroker Symbol Mean? | The Medici balls | The First Pawn Stars: The Medici Family and Their Secret Sign