Boston Pawn Shop Memories: Top 10 Hits from 1985

In 1985, Empire Loan opened their first Boston pawn shop on Washington St. in the South End. In those days the Orange Line rumbled by overhead and the neighborhood looked very different than it does now. When Michael Goldstein opened his doors he wanted to create a different kind of pawn shop, one with polite and professional people who would explain things to customers in an honest and open way. Now 30 years later, Empire Loan has 8 locations, including 2 pawn shops in Providence, and has helped countless customers make ends meet with fast cash loans.

Back then, the music you listened to on the ride over included this Top Ten:

Boston Pawn Shop Memories

  • Careless Whisper by Wham
  • Like a Virgin/Madonna
  • Wake Me Up Before you Go-Go/Wham
  • I Want to know What Love is/Foreigner
  • I Feel For You/Chaka Khan
  • Out Of Touch/Hall & Oates
  • Everybody Wants to Rule The World/Tears for Fears
  • Money for Nothing/Dire Straits
  • Crazy for You/Madonna
  • Take On Me/a-ha

Some things have changed but the one constant is that the staff at Empire Loan will treat you honestly and fairly, lending you more money and selling to you for less. Stop in today and see how much things have changed at our Boston pawn shop.

The Start of New England’s Leading Pawn Shop In Boston

Pawn shop in Boston, Empires first location

In 1985, Michael Goldstein, a 3rd generation pawnbroker from the New York area and recent graduate of Emerson College, decided it was time to go into the family business and open up a pawn shop in Boston. After 30 years, Empire Loan is now the leading pawn shop in New England with 8 locations in Boston, Providence, New Bedford, Worcester, Stoughton, Lowell and Lynn.

How did it get there? “After college I worked at some of the pawn shops that had been around Boston and it was very similar to my father and grandfather’s pawn shops in NY. They weren’t very nice and didn’t treat customer particularly well either. They didn’t cheat anybody but it just was not a pleasant experience for anybody” Michael said. “I decided I wanted to open a pawn shop that was different: treat customers honestly, fairly and with respect, try to have nice looking, comfortable, safe and well lit stores, everything these other pawn shops were not”.

With help and support of his family, Michael opened the first Empire Loan on Washington St. in Boston’s South End. As word spread about this “different” kind of pawn shop, Empire Loan grew, ultimately expanding to Providence in 1989, New Bedford in 1994 and Worcester in 2000. As each store opened, word spread that there was a pawn shop that was nice and looking to help people. That positive image helped as Empire opened their second location in Providence before adding stores in Stoughton, Lowell and Lynn.

Empire Loan is more than just pawn shop in Boston that is growing and trying to change the image of pawn shops. Empire Loan has always strived to support the communities where they operate, providing donations to organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, Girls Inc., Health Centers, Arts & Entertainment organizations, even the Zoo. In 2011, Goldstein created the Empire Loan Charitable Foundation which supports a wide range of programs in the communities where Empire Loan operates.

“As Empire Loan moves forward, our goal is to treat our customers with dignity and respect” Goldstein says. “Our staff tries to educate and inform customers about all of their options when they come into our stores to do business. We hope to continue that tradition and look to keep growing as a company and as part of the community”

5 Quick Tips When Getting Cash For Gold in Boston

Cash for Gold MAThe gold buying/selling rush continues! The price of gold may have come down over the past few years, but selling your unwanted gold jewelry is still a great way to get fast cash. Here at Empire Loan we specialize in Cash for Gold transactions in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

How can you make sure you get the most for your gold? Here are a five quick tips:

  • Who to sell to: Not long ago people were mailing their gold across the country to strangers or being invited to gold buying parties where Aunt Harriet’s neighbor’s son was buying gold. Kiosks popped up in malls and jewelry stores that used to sell jewelry were starting to buy it from customers. Even the gas station on the corner hung up a sign that said “We Buy Gold”. It was tough to know who to trust or if you were getting a fair price. Now that the “craze” is over, look around for a reputable, local buyer who has good standing with the Better Business Bureau and review sites like Yelp. Visit the store and talk to the proprietor. Do you feel comfortable? Do they explain the process to you? Are they transparent with you about how they appraise the jewelry or do they weigh it in their hands and throw out an offer to see what you say. In other words; Shop around for the best offer.
  • Value: The value of gold is based primarily on two factors; the karat and the weight. Gold is a soft metal so they mix it with other metals to make most jewelry. The karat is the percentage of actual pure gold in an item; 10K gold is 41.7% gold, 14K is 58.3% gold and 18K is 75% gold. Some countries have 22K and even 24K gold jewelry, but since gold is a soft metal, it is unusual. The precious metals market price of gold that financial experts talk about is actually based on pure 24K gold and fluctuates by the minute when the market is open. This means the amount you may be offered can change by the minute as well. Gold buyers use an equation where they determine what they pay based on the amount of pure gold in an item adjusted for the current market price of gold. After that it is simply how much you have and what it weighs. Most gold buyers use grams or pennyweights as a unit of measure to determine how much they will pay for an item. A reputable buyer should be willing to explain all of this to you so that you are comfortable doing business with them. If you are not comfortable with what they say, find another buyer.
  • Appraisals: A reputable gold buyer will test your jewelry with a scratch/acid test or an electronic tester. This is the only way to accurately assess what the karat of your gold is. A reputable buyer will sort your gold accordingly and base their offer on the karat of the gold. It is possible that a buyer can tell just from looking what karat it is but that is not 100%. When they examine your gold, do they make one big pile and make an offer or do they sort through it to account for the different karat. Do they actually weigh it on a certified scale or do they hold it in their hand and guess on the weight. At Empire Loan’s 8 locations, the scales are checked and certified by the state’s Department of Weights and Measures meaning it reads accurately. A reputable dealer should not be put off by you asking questions about these things, but rather answer you with confidence that they do things right.
  • Precious Stones: Gold jewelry often has precious gemstones that can factor into gold buying/selling. Colored stones often do not add value to a gold buyer because there is a limited market for the resale of colored stones. Part of this is the result of the added work that goes into determining if the colored stones are genuine. Diamonds on the other hand almost always have a cash value. While smaller and lower quality diamonds may not have much resale value, diamonds that are 1/4ct (.25pts) and higher can add value to your jewelry and ultimately to the amount a reputable dealer will pay you for your gold. A trusted buyer will try to gauge the size and quality of the diamonds in your jewelry and factor that into their offer. If a diamond is determined to be exceptional, it may prove to be worth more that the gold itself. If you have paperwork for the diamond, especially a GIA (Gemological Institute of America) report to go with it, be sure to bring that with you. A reputable buyer will use all of this to make you a fair offer.
  • The Process: Gold buyers are required by law to ask sellers for government-issued identification. This requirement helps police investigate the sale of stolen property and prevent money laundering. All reputable gold buyers comply with these rules, so if you don’t get asked to show your I.D., be warned. You should also ask how you will be paid. If you are not being paid in cash, how are you being paid.

When getting cash for gold in Boston, instead of buyer beware, it should be Seller beware.

Want Cash For Gold? Here’s How!

cash for gold


The price of gold has come down from the historic highs of the past few years but there are still a number of ways to convert your old gold into cold hard cash. Cash for gold is a great way to get rid of unwanted goods and increase the money in your pocket.

For 30 years, Empire Loan in Massachusetts and Rhode Island has been showing customers how to get fast cash for their gold. Empire has made it easy. Simply stop into any of Empire’s eight locations with any kind of gold you have and in a matter of minutes, walk out with cash. Here are two fast and easy options:

Sell it: If you have old broken jewelry, loose earrings or jewelry from an Ex-boyfriend you’d rather forget, Empire Loan will pay you cash to take it off your hands. It doesn’t matter if it’s crushed or broken beyond all recognition. The staff at every location is trained to test and weigh it to determine how much they can pay you based on the current market price of gold. “We had one woman come in and sell a ziplock bag filled with jewelry from an old boyfriend. In a matter of minutes she walked out with over $1,000.00 in cash” said Michael Goldstein, Founder and President of Empire Loan. “It doesn’t matter what condition it’s in. Gold is gold and Empire will convert it into cash.”

Loan it: Since Empire Loan opened in 1985, their primary business has been lending people cash based on the value of their gold. A simple wedding band can be turned into a $75.00 loan based on the karat and weight of the gold. “The best part of that” says Goldstein “is that 90% of our pawn loan customers get their merchandise back”. It works the same as selling your gold except you get a little less money, but more importantly, you get to take it back when you pay the loan back. Pawn loans have been around for centuries and are a great way to turn your gold into cash without having to sell it.

You can still get cash for your gold: 10K, 14K, 18K or even 24K. Broken, damaged, loose earrings, out of style jewelry can all mean cash in your pocket.

Four Ways a Pawn Shop can help with Back to School

back to school

Back to school time in New England is celebrated and feared by millions of people. Kids are excited for a new start and the next adventure, while parents are thrilled to get the kids out of the house. Some kids are afraid of what is coming up, while parents can be terrified of the cost associated with the season. Here are four ways a pawn shop can help:

School Supplies

Kindergarten and grade school now comes with a shopping list that goes beyond just new sneakers. In Massachusetts and Rhode Island, school systems are asking students to bring in their own crayons, glue sticks, notebooks and even paper towels and boxes of tissues to start the year. All of this comes on top of the new back to school clothes, backpacks and winter clothing that the new school year requires. At any of Empire Loans 8 New England locations, a pawn loan for a gold chain, laptop computer or flat screen TV can help get parents the cash they need to handle these expected, but necessary expenses.

Activity Fees

As kids grow through high school, these expenses don’t go away, they just keep rising. Teens still need new clothes and school supplies but communities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island now ask that students pay “Activity Fees” for clubs, sports and other extracurricular activities. In many cities and towns like Lynn, New Bedford, Stoughton and other areas these fees have grown from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. Parents can now find the money they need with a pawn loan from their local pawn shop to help cover the expense.

College Textbooks

College tuition is on the rise and the cost of textbooks can be hundreds of dollars each, making it almost impossible to make ends meet. Colleges in Lowell, Worcester and Boston have seen their students heading out for a pawn loan to get everything a student needs to make college achievable. A pawn loan for some of these necessities of college life can be the difference between a college degree and just dreaming of one.

Bargain Hunting

While you’re getting your loan at Empire Loan in Providence or New Bedford to pay for all of these back to school expenses, take a minute to shop for items the kids may need. Laptops and tablets can be real bargains and help with homework and assignments and where better to find deals on musical instruments like trumpets, saxophones and clarinets for budding musicians in the school band. Empire Loans pawn shops are a great place to get real bargains, helping cut the cost of back to school season.

You get an A+ for choosing a pawn shop to help with back to school!

Empire Loan and the World Wide Web

This August marks the 25th anniversary of the worldwide web as we know it. Online shopping, college classes and degrees, recipes, email, movies & music, just about anything you can imagine can be found on the web. Cars are wifi hotspots, medical records are accessible, and how-to videos have changed the world as we know it. In the pawn industry, there have been technological advances that have helped customers and pawnbrokers alike. Empire Loan, a chain of pawn shops in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, has been leading the way.

Empire Loan has created an app called Cash Cam, that allows consumers to take a photo of an item and submit it to Empire Loan to find out what it might be worth.  “In the almost 2 years since we launched Cash Cam we have received hundreds of submissions from people all over the country, although it’s mostly designed for customers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island” Said Michael Goldstein, President of Empire Loan. “The concept was that people who are cleaning out their attic or find something at a yard sale can snap a picture and send it in to see how much they might be able to get for it. People have submitted artwork, antiques, instruments, electronics, just about anything you can think of.  It’s been a big success”

Another technological benefit Empire Loan offers their customer is an online loan center that allows customers to pay their loans from anywhere by logging onto “The Loan Center was created to allow customers to renew their loans or even redeem them without having to come into the store” says Goldstein. “Our customers can’t always get in to the store to pay on their loans because of work, travel or just not having the time. The best feeling is when they call in a panic about not being able to get into the store. We tell them to just log onto the website and they can pay through the web. You can almost hear the relief in their voice. People have paid while they were on vacation, at work, anywhere they happen to be really”.

Pawnbroking may be a centuries old industry, but pawnbrokers like Empire Loan have taken it beyond just New England, and into Cyberspace!


How to Get a Low Cost Pawn Loan

For 30 years, Empire Loan has been offering pawn loans for a fraction of what many of our competitors charge. Even though Massachusetts and Rhode Island pawn loans are regulated, there is a difference. Most importantly, that difference can save you money. Here’s how:

  • Interest Rate: Empire Loan charges the lowest interest allowed by MA or RI law in every city we operate in. Maximum rates are set by the state and local municipalities, and Empire Loan adheres to that in every store we operate in. How do we know we’re the lowest? We have visited our competitors and found some charging as much as 7% per month. That’s almost double what any Empire Loan location charges.
  • Fees: The law allows pawn shops to charge a variety of fees, and many of our competitors charge as much as they can. At Empire Loans 8 locations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island we charge an appraisal fee. We have seen competitors charge origination and closing fees, photo fees ticket processing fees. This can sometimes total more than the loan itself. The worst of these are the late fees. One Empire Loan competitors is charging $35 for a late fee. That’s 5X what Empire Loan charges!
  • Educated Customers: Empire Loan believes every customer should understand every part of the transaction: how the process works, how we evaluate your merchandise and valuables, what fees and interest charges are, and what it takes to pay off your loan and get your items back. Empire Loan pawnbrokers review the loan ticket with all new customers and makes s ure to explain everything they need to know. That’s why close to 90% of customers who pawn with Empire Loan get their merchandise back.

If you have ever thought about getting a pawn loan, there is a difference. Feel free to shop around and experience the Empire Loan difference. There is Empire Loan and then there is everybody else.empireloan_617_22_1

Empire Loan Supports the New Bedford MA ‘Day of Portugal’ Festival

empire 2

Massachusetts and Rhode Island are home to the largest concentration of Portuguese people in America. It may be the common history of fishing and whaling that created this phenomena but one thing is for sure, the South Coast area of Massachusetts and Providence Rhode Island is also home to one of the greatest Portuguese festivals in America, the Day of Portugal. Empire Loan’s New Bedford Pawn Shop location is fortunate to be located in the middle of this tremendous festival that attracts as many as 100,000 people every year!

In 2015, Empire Loan worked with the Day of Portugal Festival committee to create a new centerpiece that provided something for the whole family and the community to enjoy. Utilizing the space in front of and surrounding the store, Empire Loan created a family friendly picnic area, free  Portuguese themed face painting for the kids, an artisan and travel and tourism area that promoted Portuguese culture and vacations.

empire 1 Empire Loan provided 15 picnic tables in a partly tented area that allowed attendees to take a seat with  food from some of the many vendors allowing them to just sit, relax and enjoy the festivities. Whether  it was Portuguese specialties or fun festival foods, the well-lit area was a welcome break from the  crowds. In the same area, Empire Loan brought in face painters who created a menu of Portuguese themed artwork that included the Portuguese flag, soccer balls, Princess crowns and other pieces that  were done free of charge for all the kids in attendance. This entirely free, family friendly offering was  very well received and appreciated.

Empire Loan also provided a huge exhibit space to a group of Portuguese artisans that allowed them to  display Portuguese arts and crafts as well as information on travel and commerce in Portugal. Attendees  were able to meet the artisans and representatives who were on hand to promote Portuguese culture  and talk about all aspects of life in the Azores.

To top it all off WJFD 97.3FM was broadcasting live from the Empire Loan store and keeping the crowds happy and entertained throughout the weekend. WJFD has been New England’s 50,000 watt voice of the Portuguese community for over 60 years and has been the centerpiece of the Day of Portugal Festival since its inception.

The Day of Portugal Festival 2015 was spectacular and Empire Loan looks to make 2016 even better!

Guitar Legends

There are guitars and then there are GUITARS! New England Pawn shops like Empire Loan are known for being a great place to pick up anything from an entry level student model guitar to a high end classic guitar with incredible collector value. You never know what may turn up at a Massachusetts or Rhode Island pawn shop.

1. World’s most expensive guitar: Fender created a one of a kind, diamond encrusted guitar worth over a million dollars. This custom made guitar is so special, if you get to hold it, they don’t want you to play it. Then again, if you can afford to own something like this, you can probably afford to have someone play it for you.guitar 12. In 1996, Eric Clapton ordered a gold plated guitar that was valued at nearly a half million dollars. One can only imagine what it would cost or weigh if it was solid gold!


3. The late Bob Marley had a custom made Washburn 22 series Hawk that had an estimated value of $1 to $2 million dollars and is classified as a national asset by the Jamaican government and was one of only seven guitars owned by the legend himself.

GUITAR 34. The 1968 Fender Stratocaster allegedly played by Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock was bought by Microsoft’s Paul Allen for $2 million dollars in 1998. This is not one he is likely to set on fire.

Photo by K. Alize Tran -

Photo by K. Alize Tran –

5, In 2005, a special autographed guitar was created by Fender to help raise money to support the victims of the tsunami. It was autographed by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Pete Townsend, Mark Knopfler and many others. The guitar sold at an auction in Qatar for $2.7 million dollars!



While you may not find some of the world’s most expensive guitars at Empire Loan’s 8 locations, you can also try Empire Guitars, their exclusive guitar shop for everybody from the Novice to the legends.



photo credit: Gary Clark Jr via photopin (license)

Three Great Father’s Day Gifts from MA & RI Pawn Shops

This weekend is Father’s day and you’re running out of time, and you don’t want to spend a ton of money to get dad a gift. What should you do? Stop into MA & RI Pawn Shops like Empire Loan and get him something he will enjoy.

Here are 3 things gift ideas for dad that you may find:

  • Dad always wanted to be a rock star and what better way to get him started than to check out the great selection of guitars they have out for sale. Acoustic guitars are the classic go-to guitar that anybody will enjoy playing on. No amps or electricity are necessary (though there is such a thing as an “Acoustic Electric”) to sit around the house and play with, take it on the road, or even just to the back deck to serenade the neighbors. If dad is a real Rock God, get him a funky electric so he can display his Jimi Hendrix like talent. Either way, stores like Empire Loan have a huge selection of guitars starting at under $50!
  • Tools! Tools! Tools! Dad’s just love getting tools. These are toys for grownups, and you won’t find a better price than at a pawn shop. Circular saws, drills, wrench sets, pneumatic nail guns, just about any too you can imagine could await you inside a pawn shop. Recently Empire Loan had Satellite locators for dad to install his own satellite TV. Whatever tool you’re looking for, you can find it at a pawn shop!
  • Gold Jewelry: When you gave dad the macaroni necklace to wear to work when you were a kid, he wore it with pride. Now that you’re older, it’s time to pay dad back with a gold chain or ring. A chain with a pendant chosen by you is something he will treasure forever. The prices for gold & diamond jewelry at Pawn Shops like Empire Loan are a fraction of what you’d pay at a jewelry store for the same quality, and the items themselves are truly unique.

Father’s day is this Sunday! Take a quick trip to one of Empire Loan’s 8 locations in Boston, Providence, New Bedford, Worcester, Stoughton, Lowell and Lynn will save the day. Do it for dad!

empire guitars electric