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Pawn Stars: Celebs that Pawned Their Belongings

Many people have suffered hard times when extra money is needed in order to survive. Whether it’s redundancy, a failed business venture, or the sky-high cost of living, everyone needs a helping hand sometimes.

It’s tough for anyone struggling for money, but celebrities who’ve had to pawn their own possessions have made the headlines at the same time.

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While the average person can discreetly borrow money, safe in the knowledge it’s a confidential agreement, a celebrity who has pawned their prized possessions often appears in the press after the news is leaked out. For many people, it is the best solution to ensure they can make ends meet.

 Read on to find out more about the celebrities that went broke and how they resolved their problems…

1. Annie Leibovitz

Famous celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz, 74, has taken photos of everyone from rock legends the Rolling Stones and John Lennon to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She has been in the industry for more than 50 years and is arguably the most renowned portrait photographer in the world.

 However, in 2009, it was widely reported that the American was having to pawn the copyright to every photograph she had ever taken. A report in The Guardian newspaper claimed she had taken the “exceptional” step because she had been tied up in expensive litigation centred on some of her properties.

She reportedly received a loan of around £10 million from a high-end specialist pawnbroker. It was also claimed she had secured finance against her properties.

At the time, the percentage of people turning to Art Capital for a loan had risen from 10% to 40% due to the economic downturn of 2008, the Great Recession.

2. Billy Sims

Legendary American footballer Billy Sims, now 68, played in the US National Football League between 1980 and 1984. The St Louis-born athlete was the first overall pick of the NFL Draft in 1980, when the Detroit Lions selected him. During his playing career, when he wore the number 20 shirt, he was beloved by the American public.

Sadly, in 1984, a catastrophic knee injury forced his retirement and his attempt at a comeback in 1988 was unsuccessful. Sims received an insurance payout of £1.49 million from Lloyd’s of London.

Combined with the millions of dollars he had earned while playing American football, he decided to launch a number of businesses. These included a radio station, a nightclub, a car parts manufacturing firm and a dry cleaner, but sadly, they all failed, and he lost much of his wealth.

He was also extremely generous, giving money to the needy – which worsened his financial losses. In an interview with the Washington Post, he said there was always a chance to find other opportunities to make a good living.

Sadly, problems with real estate investments led to Sims’ appearance in the Bankruptcy Court in July 1990. A report in the Seattle Times in April 1995 said he had pawned numerous mementos from his playing days including his, his Heisman Trophy and his Oklahoma University football helmet.

Today, he remains a much loved sporting figure in Detroit and oversees 54 Billy Sims Barbecue restaurant franchises with Jeff Jackson, the chain’s co-founder.

3. Lindsay Lohan

American actress Lindsay Lohan, 37, has had many ups and downs during her Hollywood career. She was a child model from age three and a regular on the TV soap, Another World, by the time she was ten.

She had her big break at 12, when she won a lead role in the 1998 Disney movie The Parent Trap and went on to star in the cult film, Mean Girls, in 2004.

However, in 2007, she was arrested for driving under the influence and in 2009, the courts extended her probation for one year after she failed to attend treatment for substance abuse.

With her acting career sliding as a result, Lohan reportedly pawned £11,000 worth of her designer clothing to move to England and get an apartment when she won a role in a play in London.

In 2022, in an interview with the Daily Mail, she spoke of how she was gradually making her comeback and had turned her life around. She married Kuwait-born financier Bader Shammas in 2022 and the couple have a son, born in July 2023.

4. Lukasz Tracz and Sebastian Solano

College friends Lukasz Tracz, 38, and Sebastian Solano, 39, are co-founders and CEOs of Jeeter, an American business with an estimated net worth of £157 million. They decided to plough all their money into launching their own company in California, selling legal cannabis products, in 2018. In an interview with CNBC in 2022, the business partners said making their millions hadn’t all been plain sailing.

They met 18 years ago while in a part-time job waiting on tables to pay their way through college. They formed the idea for a business after watching the HBO drama series, Entourage, raising money initially by organising college parties at nightclubs and charging students around £120 each to attend, including transport there and back. They later transformed it into a professional company called Life in Colour, which they sold in 2012 for an undisclosed sum.

In the early years of trying to get Jeeter off the ground, they fell on hard times, so they decided to try car pawning to make extra money. They realised pawning their belongings was the way forward to launch the company.

They both pawned their own cars and watches to raise extra money. Combined with a £500,000 bank loan and savings from their earlier business venture, they managed to raise enough money to launch and develop Jeeter.

Their perseverance paid off, as market analysts estimate it could be worth billions a few years down the line if it continues its current growth trend.

Raising funds fast

It’s not only celebrities who are turning to pawn shops to raise money fast secured on their belongings. Many of us are pawning to help us navigate the current financial crisis.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs have spoken of consumers’ depleted savings and fragile financial situation as the impact of the economic crisis continues.

In the UK, around 350,000 people a year use pawn shops to raise cash quickly, according to data from the Financial Conduct Authority. It is a viable solution that can actually help you turn things around.