Question: What exactly does "old Pawn" mean?

I would have assumed it comes with a pawn history but see it used for just about everything first nations made, old, new or in-between.

Jason would be a great person to answer this, as he runs one of the largest most reputable trading posts in Gallup New Mexico. Native Americans use trading posts much like anglo’s use banks. They “Pawn” their goods for cash to be reclaimed later. Some of these items don’t get bought back out of pawn and they are sold against the balance of the loan.
Today the meaning has morphed into many meanings and is used very loosely. Alot the reason for this has to do with The Indian Arts and Crafts Act (Act) of 1990 (P.L. 101-644), which prohibits selling arts and crafts as Indian or Native American falsley. In my online shop I use Old Pawn when I am unable to idetify the artist and tribe, but I am sure it is attributable to Native Ameircans.

I am sure others will give their opinion on this, but I rekon Jason would be the authority.


Some collectors are very strict about the usage of the word “pawn” - as in, if there’s no actual original pawn ticket attached to it, it shouldn’t be listed as pawn. It has come to be used as a catch-all term for “old.”


Yes, I think it’s not exactly helpful to buyers, especially those still in the learning curve, when terms lose their meaning–on purpose. Old pawn is now used for vintage material of whatever quality and sourcing, but prior to that it was a synonym for dead pawn, a phrase that stood for an actual commercial situation. An item was pawned, and if not redeemed went “dead” and therefore possible to be resold.

Not necessarily the pawn ticket, but I would expect an honest seller to have the ability to back up the claim and put it in writing if selling something as “old pawn.”


Particularly awful is when sellers describe Fred Harvey jewelry this way…uh, no.

1 Like

Good article covering the origins of pawn. More of a safe deposit box for the Navajo than anything.

@JW Harvey isn’t exactly off limits for this desigation according to this history, but I agree that since it wasn’t real Native American jewelry that it shouldn’t be considered old pawn.

Thank you for showing me this excellent site which covers the question of old pawn as well as having other resources.


Off subject here, but I just have to tell you that here on the east coast it’s not too often I hear or see someone using the word “reckon” but your use of it just warmed my heart! That is a word that was often used by my Grandma and my Dad and on the rare occasion I hear or see it, it immediately makes me think of them! Thank you for that lovely reminder tonight. :smile: