The conventional wisdom when you mention pawn shop instruments is that whatever price you wind up paying, it's more than you should. And if some poor musician puts his axe in hock, it more than likely is presold before it is defaulted on loan. True, pawn brokers like the ones in Ian Hunter's 1973 essential tome Diary of a Rock and Roll Star, who let Gibson Melody Makers and Fender Jazz basses go regularly for less than their market worth, are a thing of the past, much like rock stars. But there are indeed bargains still to be found, particularly outside the six-stringed realm, with keyboards, sound boards, microphones, effects pedals, DJ equipment, and, most of all amplifiers.
We did the legwork so you don't have to. Here are the 10 best pawn shops for used musical gear in Phoenix.
10. USA Pawn & Jewelry Co
3020 W Thomas Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85017
"See Love Save" says the sign outside alluding to buying pawn shop engagement rings. Don't know what romantic bad karma is being recirculated there, but USA Pawn does have a vast array of used amplifiers and monitors in addition to its arsenal of cheap guitars. Long ago before people became slaves to credit cards, there was a thing called layaway, which is the way USA Pawn does business. Two clarinets and a flute available on layaway plans of $11 and $12 a week for instruments well under $100 if purchased outright. You can pay 28 dollars a week for a Fender acoustic if you don' t have the $175 asking price now. You can also purchase a set of Ludwig Accent drums for $33 a week that have been priced down now to $183.99. Who knows how cheap it will go if it's still here next month because everything is priced to move. You can see how a 24-channel Spirit studio by Soundcraft mixing board been marked for clearance from $432.99 to $129.
9. TNT Pawn
2511 W. Indian School Road
Phoenix, AZ 85017
Is there anything else in TNT Pawn besides musical instruments? We hadn't notice because there's a lot of intriguing inventory to occupy oneself with. This emporium. just west of Black Canyon Freeway. we visited this one seems the best one to take a kid to, mainly because there were an abundance of marching band reeds and woodwinds (including saxes starting from $275 going up to $2000), starter keyboards, and a half-dozen lefty beginner guitars, which are not as abundant in pawn shops as you may think, despite the likelihood of meeting people named Lefty at one. Guitars of note included a Crestwood dobro for $99 and a Washburn camoflage Flying V for $200. There's also a nice selection of gear, ranging from a $40 Danelectro pedal to a $1500 Mackie 24-channel mixing board. And TNT has a selection of musical supplies like strings and such that could rival any Mom and Pop music store. TNT Pawn, dare we say, pretty dynamite.
3922 W. Indian School Road
Phoenix, AZ 85019
Some of what makes this pawn shop worthy of the super handle is the variety of instruments on hand that make it perfect for the dabbling musician who wants to stretch his capabilities. Besides the large selection of Casio and Yamaha keyboards (including a standalone Yamaha piano for $500), you can dabble with a marching band xylophone for $169, a Besson trombone for $299, a Donelli accordion for $300 and a Blessing Clarinet for $90. Simmons drums seem to have fallen out of favor but are still great for the practicing drummer and when they come back as coveted vintage gear, you can brag you got one here for $199.
7. Hawkins Desert Pawn
6333 N. 59th Ave. # 1
Glendale, AZ 85301
Sometimes it's the luck of the draw. You never know what you'll get and in a remote pawn shop like this one your odds could conceivably increase. This quiet pawn shop not more than a block from Glendale Pawn also has a friendly staff that doesn't hassle you and really lets you examine stuff. I mooned over a Behringer Eurodesk mixing board or some Denon CD turntables, a lighting rig and a nice violin for over ten minutes (mostly because I couldn't find the price tags). No matter, I'm the kind of shopper that looks things over then goes back when I have questions. And the one item that I might go back for? There was a Budweiser guitar I know several alcoholic musicians would kill for.
6. Glendale Pawn and Jewelry
6548 N. 59th Ave.
Glendale, AZ 85301
Intimidation might be the stock in trade at some pawn shops where you need to be buzzed in and people sit behind glass like bank tellers. Not in Glendale Pawn, located in the heart of Peoria, surrounded by payday loans, check cashing emporiums, and used tire shops. And what could be less intimidating that the guy overseeing the modest musical instrument section allowing to step behind the counter and touch anything I wanted while he left to go the back room! Sure, there were a lot of Peavey guitars and basses in the $129 to $229 range that no one would risk trying to steal (especially since the 30 percent off marked down would almost be stealing). But there was an impressive cello for $500 a pretty decent selection of amps and some good prices on laptops and turntables on the other side.