David Sonnenthal owns New Bond Street Pawnbrokers, London’s first luxury pawnbroker.
He started the unusual Mayfair business in his early 20s with his father, and now, 15 years later, it’s lent out a total of £50m.
LondonlovesBusiness.com caught up with Sonnenthal and found out what have been the most interesting items to pass through the doors.
Sonnenthal, who appears as a dealer on the Channel 4 programme Four Rooms, won’t reveal who his customers are, but he said they’re usually raising finance for business reasons.
“They might be starting up businesses and be a bit short, or have their money tied up in property,” he says.
Unlike the last-resort stereotype of pawnbroking, Sonnenthal’s customers are quite often wealthy people who want to borrow in a smart way.
“There’s such a bad stigma of pawnbroking but our customers are clever enough and their egos don’t get in the way, that’s why they’re successful.
“It’s a lot to do with customer service, and the premises is more like a gallery than a pawnbroker,” he adds.
So what are some of the items he’s had at New Bond Street Pawnbrokers, and how much could you borrow?
Rare blue diamond
“That was our favourite because it was so rare,” says Sonnenthal. “I think that was the most we’ve ever lent on one item.”
Patek Philippe Chrono Nautilus watch
17th-Century hand-written biology book
“We had a wonderful 17th-Century biology book that was hand-written,” he says. “It was enormous, about five foot tall and was handwritten. That was fabulous. The owner was a professor and was funding his book writing.”
Up to £150,000
£8,000 (raised at auction)
Oscar Wilde books signed by the author
In about 20% of cases, the owner doesn’t come back for the item, allowing Sonnenthal and the team to put it into auction at one of London’s top auction houses, such as Sotheby’s, Bonhams and Christie’s.
Rare signed Oscar Wilde books made £8,000 at auction recently, but the company doesn’t keep the money.
“By law, you give the owner the difference if there is any, so it works out for everybody. We don’t want to keep anything – we want to offer a service and for people to come back,” says Sonnenthal.
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