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Rare and exotic items.

Museum of Pawn (Gone)

Field review by the editors.

Scottsdale, Arizona

Old Town Scottsdale has grown up in recent years, as the area attracts rich young people to augment its core wealthy retirees. Some local establishments continue as before - like the Sugar Bowl ice cream parlor (as seen in the comic strip, The Family Circus), and archetypal spring-training meeting spot, the Pink Pony. But the push upscale has forced other merchants to keep up or close up.

We're guessing that's what happened to Western Jewelry And Loan, which three years ago became the Museum of Pawn. The place is crammed full of stuff, much of it standard pawn shop fare -- electric guitars, television sets and jewelry.

Animal trophy

But how many pawn shops have you been to that display three ancient Egyptian sarcophagi? Purchased from a collector's estate, these valuable antiquities stand cheek by jowl with stuffed buffalo heads and plastic cartons filled with used remotes. The place is densely packed -- no "negative spaces" here.

The museum's charm lies in these juxtapositions. A four-foot Thai Buddha and a four foot Betty Boop replica. Pre-Columbian busts compete for attention with motorcycles and used VHS tapes. A mounted tiger wearing a raccoon skin throw on its back stands next to a porcelain leopard figurine.

You can't call the antiquities priceless, though, because unlike at other museums, all exhibits here are tagged for sale. The sarcophagi, for example, are the class of the museum, and each can be had for $40,000 (the same price for which Jose Canseco recently listed his 2000 New York Yankee World Series ring). Owner Don Demarest is also the largest bail bondsman in the state of Arizona, who is famous for his personal collection of Egyptian artifacts.

Ceiling art gallery.

Like the Sistine Chapel, the Museum of Pawn has stuff to see attached to the ceiling, impressionistic paintings and World War II posters. But when we visited in early March, it was raining, and the ceiling art was threatened by the museum's leaking roof. We could not tell whether the jars placed on the floor to catch the drips were valuable pottery or just buckets from the back.

<>Many other items are behind glass cases, and look valuable. But you can't really tell. Chinese jade, Japanese netsuke figures, Bavarian tankards, African drums, various militaria. You've seen the items showcased on television programs, but was it Antiques Roadshow or QVC? $10 or $1,000 for that Native American mask? Either tag wouldn't surprise us.

What did surprise us is that we really liked going through the museum. There are no audio guides - you are on your own. But wandering among the various displays was a great way to spend a rainy morning. And what more can you ask for from a museum?

Museum of Pawn


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