By Jackie Kallen
If you watch “Hardcore Pawn” on TruTV, you are familiar with Les Gold, the owner and patriarch of the American Jewelry and Loan dynasty. I have known Les for years and it is fun to watch him, his wife Lili, and their two kids buying, selling, and pawning every kind of item imaginable.
Back in the eighties and nineties, many of the boxers I worked with were regular customers. One of Thomas Hearns’s best friends even worked there for awhile. We were in and out of the store all the time. The stigma of pawn shops was fading and it became a hip place to shop.
I caught up with Les today, reminisced about old times, and talked about his booming business today. The cameras were about to shoot an episode for Season Five, and Les was his usual vibrant self.
“Business is great! We have millions of viewers and the store has become a tourist attraction here in the Detroit area. We get people in here from all over the world.”
Part of the Les Gold mystique is the way he treats his customers. He respects their privacy as well as their dignity, which is why he fiercely guards their identities. He has pawned a lot of boxing memorabilia, but never reveals the names of his client list.
Over the years, Les has bought and sold championship belts, boxing robes, gloves, trunks and even mouthpieces. A signed mouthpiece can sell for $500, while a pair of used gloves can bring in several thousand dollars.
When it comes to autographed gloves, Les says the most valuable ones are those that were actually worn. A pair of signed, unworn gloves are much more common and worth much less. Especially if the boxer is still alive. The older the gloves, the higher the value.
Championship rings are the most valuable, due to the gold content and the quality of the stones. Depending on the status of the fighter, a ring can sell for up to $25,000. Some go for as little as $3,000.
Some boxers, needing a quick infusion of cash, will pawn an item–only to reclaim it when they can.
“I have had some amazing items in here. I have one customer who regularly brings in her 10-carat diamond ring. I give her $45,000 cash, charge her 3% a month interest, and she always comes and gets it back. Easier than going to a bank and she knows it’s safe here with me.
“Another client is a big gambler who occasionally pawns his $100,000 diamond bracelet. You’d be surprised at some of the people who we deal with. It’s no longer who you’d expect to see in a pawn shop.”
A boxing fan himself, Les keeps the most prestigious items in his private collection. The only thing missing, he says, is a signed Muhammad Ali boxing robe.
“I would really love to own one of those. I always look out for one, but no one has ever brought one in.
“However, I just got one of Iacoca’s 2009 Mustangs.
There were only 45 produced. Lee has #1 and I have #11. I got it for $66,000 and it will probably sell for about $100,000.”
True boxing fans may feel a small degree of satisfaction to learn that MMA items have little or no value yet.
“I have never sold or pawned any item connected with MMA. There is no market for it. The gloves are basically like driving gloves and no one has ever brought in (or asked for) an MMA belt or ring.”
Jackie Kallen is a boxing manager who has been in the business for over three decades. Her life inspired the Meg Ryan film “Against the Ropes” and she was a part of the NBC series “The Contender.” www.JackieKallen.com, www.facebook.com/JackieKallen