5. Pawn1st Metro
9825 North Metro Parkway E
Phoenix, AZ 85051
Here's what to like about this Pawn 1st besides the giant stuffed grizzly bear that towers over you when you walk in. Some of the most valuable are actually on the floor where you can pick 'em up and play 'em. A bonafide (re: not Epiphone) Les Paul Standard was on a guitar stand marked down from $1,299 to $1,199. On the other side of that stand was a Gibson Les Paul custom for $1,179. This while worthless Squire guitars hang in the unobtainable wall region for $65 dollars. But you'll also find worthwhile hanging items among the beginner guitars like a Washburn acoustic for $279 and a Fender Jaguar bass for $200.
Also on the floor you usually find a full disassembled drum kit (Pearl the last time we checked), keyboards that won't fit neatly on a shelf and a host of amplifiers. We also spotted some vintage recording gear like old Fostex multi-track recorder for 70 bucks and a Yamaha Promix 01 Sound On Sound digital mixing system for $100. And you may never need a Chauvet Lighting intimidator, but it is good to know you can get one for little over $100.
4. Pawn1st Pawn Shop
234 W. Southern Ave.
Tempe, AZ 85282
Guns. Pawn. Jewelry. In that order. Those seem to be the main attractions here and yet this Pawn1st has a formidable music section that takes up one whole side of this expansive pawn shop. On that wall hangs a nice selection of affordable acoustics, Epiphone Les Paul Customs and Fender Squires, Schecters, Fretlights and BC Rich and one of those Rockstar Energy Drink promotional guitars you see given away but no one is crass (or savvy) enough to gig out with ever gigs out with for a feasible $129. Even if it sounds like wire strung across an empty can, think of the statement you could make with that. Below them you'll find a bountiful selection of selection of DJ equipment, Marshall heads and keyboards.
3. Mo Money Pawn
1152 East Indian School Road
Phoenix, AZ 85014
The number of musical instruments are dwarfed by the number of lawnmowers, diamond rings, cordless drills and ammo, but sometimes it's quality not quantity. Off to the back there's a glass case that has the mouth-drooling guitars. You can just imagine the once proud owner of a 2003 Gretsch White Falcon selling for 2700 clams was the same guy who owned the 1962 Gretsch Gold sparkletop currently not for sale and tried to get that one back. Other beauties we saw in the glass case included a Gibson 1957 ES 140 for $3000, a 2006 Gibson FIrebird for $1800 and a Gibson ES 225 also $1800. You won't need mo money for the rest of the musical equipment, mostly guitars of the BC Rich, ESP, LTD and Spectrum variety. But there's a whole room off to the side filled with value-priced amplifiers, keyboards and more stringed instruments worth your patronage. Note, you'll have to cross 40 feet of guns and ammunition to get to it.
2. Arrow Pawn & Jewelry
2706 West Thomas Road
Phoenix, AZ 85017
Arrow Pawn seemed to be designed with a rock and roller's heart. The 20-foot plus walls where the guitar head stocks end and the ceiling begins are plastered with a 12-inch vinyl like some long-lost sock hop or the ghost of Hollywood Alley. The staff on duty the day we visited were young, classic rock music was blasting at a confident volume like this was a music store first and foremost. Any musician here to sell used gear would have no reason to feel intimidated unless they stopped first at the Jewelry section which was covered with over two dozen gold-framed Presidential portraits.
The plentiful guitars are mostly the usual cheapo suspects and crazy non-name brands that you'd want just for the look, like a two-toned lightning bolt of an axe that's both worthless and priceless at the same time.
The true bargains are the outboard gear, like the Behringer ACX1800 Ultracoustic Acoustic Guitar Amplifier that's over a hundred dollars under the best used price online, a Roland mixing board for $160 and the two turntables and a mixing board combo from American Audio for $450 in its own anvil case. underneath the glass counter we spied an Electric Harmonic Big Muff for 60 bucks and an Ice Blue USB microphone for a cool $45, not a tremendous mark down but on a par with Amazon minus the postage and wait.
All in all, a pretty relaxed vibe for a pawn shop. The close proximity to the Pamper Yourself Massage Center must have rubbed off on it.
1. SuperPawn (a.k.a. Central Music Brokers)
4420 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85012
No matter what pawn shop chain pastes its sign on the facade, 4420 North Central is always going to be Music Brokers, the daddy of all music pawn shops, the store that will give any Guitar Center a run for its money. As you're buying guitar strings or tuning pedals and eying upper echelon Fender and Gibsons hanging on the wall, you have to keep reminding yourself that it's a pawn shop and someone is at a counter buying your gold in the next room. About the best thing you can say about any music store is that you go in to look for one thing and you come out coveting something entirely different. Like an autoharp you never considered owning that's only $99. Or a Joe Meek condenser mike for 40 bucks. And if you have a couple of grand there's a ’60s-era Avocado Green Fender Rhodes student model keyboard that looks like something out of the Jetsons — a space age fiberglass body with a big knob that looks like a warp speed control that's actually a metronome. The staff here are always knowledgable about music which is the big plus whether you're buying or selling. Better still, they are there just to geek out with you as you gush over this vintage gear.