After losing her job, Angela Rivers needed the money quickly. Instead of heading to her bank, she rummaged through her Brooklyn closet. An avid shoe and handbag collector, she pulled out her beloved chocolate brown Birkin and crossed the river to Manhattan, where she met in the chaotic diamond district at a pawnshop called the New York Loan Company. .
On West 47th Street, visitors to the New York Loan Company walk past gold hawkers, jewelry scammers, Yiddish slang whispers and the ubiquitous police to enter the gleaming 35-story International Gem Tower, where the pawnshop is on the third floor. There Ms Rivers planned to use her purse for a loan.
“As soon as I entered the magnificent building, I knew there would be no hanky-panky,” said Ms Rivers, who was initially skeptical of her visit.
In the marble lobby, visitors take their fingerprints and pass through an x-ray scanner before boarding a highly secure elevator. “I walked into this office and thought it was the real deal,” Ms. Rivers said. “The level of sophistication was totally different from what I expected.”
Inside the pawnshop, old and new glittering diamonds and other trinkets like Harry Winston, Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier are tastefully packaged in glass. Andy Warhol’s drawings sit alongside conceptual works by Gabriele de Santis and a series of photographs by John Baldessari.
Jordan Tabach-Bank, managing director of the New York Loan Company, chose the location because of its grand setting and high level of security. A few floors from its pawnshop is the Gemological Institute of America, where gems are appraised and future gemologists learn the trade, which explains Fort Knox’s level of security.
Pawn shops, of course, aren’t just meant to sell goods for quick cash. They also allow customers to use their valuables, including something like Ms. Rivers’ Birkin, which is valued at several thousand dollars, as collateral in exchange for a loan on the spot. When a customer repays the loan, with interest, the valuables are returned. If the loan is not repaid, the pawnshop owns the property and can sell it.
Mr. Tabach-Bank is a third generation pawnshop. He modeled his New York outpost after his Beverly Loan Company in Beverly Hills, Calif., Which is family owned and operated since 1938. His grandfather was primarily in jewelry, his mother was computerized the business and it has an entrepreneurial streak.
“I’ve expanded the business to two locations, and we’re also doing a ton of art now, and we make cutlery, we make wine – and handbags,” Mr. Tabach-Bank said in his Californian boutique, a few blocks from Rodeo Drive. He is finalizing plans for a third location in Chicago.
Mr. Tabach-Bank finds that his New York customers are more likely to be business people than those in Beverly Hills. “We get a lot of women in the financial community as well as men who bring their wives ‘or loved ones’ handbags,” he said. In California, the pawnshop attracts actors, producers and writers looking for quick cash to the Hollywood scene.
“We have socialites and a lot more divorcees in Beverly Hills than in New York for some reason,” he said.
Mr Tabach-Bank said it is not uncommon for people to walk in and out of their Birkins or other pawnshop valuables, using them as a credit card, whether for an opportunity. investment, to pay trading costs or simply because they are short of money. “We are proud to act quickly,” he said.
“People often call and ask, ‘What percentage can you pay on the retail sale of a Hermès handbag? “”
Condition is everything, he said. Does it come with a box? Does he have the dust bag? Does he have the bell and the key?
“It’s very important,” he said. “And what color is it?” Some people like the basics – beiges, browns, blacks. And then here in Beverly Hills yellow, chartreuse, purple – they’re doing just fine. “
Mr. Tabach-Bank, whose sister Lauren works for T: The New York Times Style Magazine, will also lend against Immaculate Chanels, but prefers Birkins and Kellys (Birkin’s little sister named after Grace Kelly). They are worth around $ 4,000 to as much as six digits for models that are hard to find and have a high resale value. (According to a 2016 study conducted by baghunter.com, an online marketplace for premium handbags, Birkins has grown 500% in value over the past 35 years, a figure that exceeded the price of gold.)
Given their coveted and rare status, it’s no surprise that there has been a spike in high-quality counterfeit bags. “I bought a fake, and if you didn’t buy a fake, you didn’t sell enough bags as far as I’m concerned,” Mr. Tabach-Bank said. Now he is very careful. He examines the seams and identifies specific stamps and can often tell a real from a fake simply by the weight of the bag, which, he pointed out, is heavier than it looks.
Ms. Rivers did not risk buying a fake. She picked up her Birkin from a Hermès boutique in Paris as a gift for herself on her 50th birthday. And it is a gift that she does not let go.
“This bag was my pride and my joy,” she said. “In the next few weeks, I absolutely plan to get it back. “