I’ve never made it a habit to frequent pawn shops, in part because I’ve always been suspicious many of the wares peddled in these stores might have been stolen. Two years ago, however, in advance of the NECC 2009 conference in Washington, D.C., I was in need of a DV-capable camcorder and guessed a local pawn shop might have just what I needed. Camcorder manufacturers had stopped making consumer models with a DV/firewire port, so new ones could NOT be purchased affordably. It turned out my hopes for Pawn Shop digital inventories were right. For just over $100 I picked up a used, Sony camcorder with a DV/firewire port I could attach to my MacBook laptop for webcasting. I reviewed the equipment I’d be taking to D.C. with my son in the June 24, 2009, post, “Ready to webcast and podcast NECC 2009 and discuss K12Online09 at EduBloggerCon.” My use of that equipment built on prior experiences with Ustream webcasting in 2008 in Washington D.C., detailed in the 12 March 2008 post, “Lessons Learned from two more Ustream.tv remote webcasts.”
Today I stopped by another Oklahoma City area pawn shop, but this time I was looking for a bicycle. My oldest daughter will be competing in her first junior triathlon in a few weeks in Texas, and she really needs a bigger bike. After taking a look at the available bikes on display outside the pawn shop front door, I couldn’t resist looking at some of the electronics they had to offer inside and the prices. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised by what I found, but I was… in fact, I was amazed. Here are some of the “digital gems” I found for sale.
Flip cameras starting at $50 each.
Classic iPods, including 80 GB versions, ranging in price from $75 to $100.
4th generation iPod Nanos, starting at $60.
2nd generation iPod Shuffles, starting at $20.
The best find, and the only thing I ended up buying today, was an Apple Airport Extreme Base Station listed for $60. I offered $40, and the manager accepted. That’s a really good deal, considering a new Airport Extreme retails for $179.
Not everything in the store was a bargain, as you might expect, but I was thrilled to find this “digital gem.” Since our family moved into Oklahoma City in March the cheap Netgear router we’ve used for our home wifi network hasn’t had a strong enough signal strength to reach upstairs. I was thinking I’d need a 2nd wireless access point to act as a bridge to “extend” our network range. After doing experiments with both the Apple Extreme Base Station (which works like new, btw) and the old Netgear, it turns out the signal strength on the Apple router is MUCH stronger and solves all our signal range issues. The router also functions in the 802.11n frequency range, as well as 802.11b/g, so (according to Apple) file transfers on the network could be up to five times faster. It DOES seem much snappier.
These are a few of the other items I saw at the pawn shop today.
A ton of digital cameras. Most didn’t seem to be priced very low, however.
A variety of digital camcorders, all priced around $100 each. It seems the asking price for this technology hasn’t changed much on the local pawn shop scene in two years.
Remember VHS-C camcorders? I had to laugh when I saw one today offered for $10.
They had a wide variety of iHome-style speaker devices for iOS devices, starting at around $30. Much cheaper than the Apple Store.
I was pretty amazed to see they even had an iMac for sale. I think it is a 21″ model, and they are asking $1100. Not sure which model it is and the specs.
They had a snowball microphone which caught my eye, but it seemed to be dented and damaged so I didn’t even ask the price. There were a variety of other microphones, however, and some of them looked better than the Shure PG-58 mic I purchased at Best Buy a few years ago for $50. Prices started around $30 each.
There were also a lot of different mobile game systems for sale.
Among the laptops for sale, one Macbook was on the shelf for $500. I didn’t check the model number and specs on it either. You can see the snowball mic in this photo on the top shelf.
The bottom line ‘takeaway’ I’d like to share with you is to consider visiting your local pawn shops if you’re interested in buying some new electronics for yourself or for your classroom. There is risk involved, of course, since most pawn shops (the one I visited today included) don’t offer any type of warranty or guarantee that the equipment you purchase will work as it should. I got lucky today, but that wasn’t a certainly. If you know what you’re looking for, however, and can test the device in the store (like test a Flip camera with new batteries) it’s certainly possible to get a good deal. I’ll consider shopping at the pawn shop again for family birthday time, especially if one of my kids is interested in an older iPod. When you purchase something from a pawn shop in Oklahoma, the cashier scans your driver’s license. I’m guessing that’s so you can be identified in case the item you purchased turns out to have been stolen. Hopefully the Airport Extreme I purchased today was honestly hocked by someone who had purchased it themselves originally.
Some day, perhaps, I’ll learn to play the guitar. If so, the local pawn shop would be a good place to shop with a guitar-savvy friend. The people in the best position to find a good deal and negotiate for an even better price in a pawn shop are those who have deep knowledge about the specific merchandise in question!
Have you ever had luck finding “digital gems” in a local pawn shop? What’s your story?!
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