We are asked quite often “What do the three gold balls represent on our logo?”. This is the international pawn store symbol. There are legends, rumors, and all sorts of stories of where this symbol oriented from. The first theory below is the most likely, yet the second is our favorite.
The pawn shop banking originated under the name of Lombard banking. The three sphere symbol is attributed to the Medici family of Florence, Italy, this is where the name Lombard came from, it refers to the Italian province of Lombardy. The three golden spheres were originally the symbol which medieval Lombard merchants hung in front of their houses. It has been thought that the golden spheres were originally three flat yellow effigies of gold coins, but that they were converted into spheres to better attract attention. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Lombards used the three balls, orbs, plates, discs, coins and more as symbols of monetary success. Pawnbrokers joke that the three balls mean “Two to one, you won’t get your stuff back”.
Another theory and for this time of year a perfect story, is about the Bishop of Myra. The Bishop was a wealthy man who came to the aid of a penniless father of three daughters. Under customs of the times, the daughters could not wed unless a dowry could be presented; if there was no dowry, they would assume a life of slavery or prostitution. The Bishop secretly visited the house of the man and his daughters at midnight and left three bags of gold for the eldest daughter’s dowry. This practice would continue until all three children were married. The Bishop became known as the Patron Saint of Children, and each year children awaited his arrival at the stroke of midnight to bring gifts of gold. Sound familiar? He is now known as Saint Nicholas. Spreading generosity and good, Saint Nicholas is also the Patron Saint of Pawnbrokers. Through the years, some pawnbrokers have hung three gold balls above their doors to welcome the spirit of Saint Nicholas and wish good luck to all of their customers.
There you have it, although you may find more explanations, this last theory seems to give our general feel about the symbol. That is, we wish good luck to all of our customers! 🙂