Entrepreneur and star of Channel 4’s Posh Pawn series, James Constantinou spotted a gap in the market for high end asset lending and in doing so he’s become a millionaire in his own right. Here we chat about business challenges, coveted collectibles and all things posh pawn.
What did you see yourself doing as a child?
Like most children of the seventies, I envisaged myself becoming an astronaut or a rock star. I held on to these dreams for quite some time but was eventually convinced by my careers officer at my comprehensive school that these would not be safe options, and that a GCSE in woodwork might not get me on the NASA short list.
What was your first job?
My first job was in fact a labourer on a building site. It was hard work, but it taught me the value of things. I would eventually get home covered in muck; my feet having turned orange from the building sand. The pay was around £50 per week which actually seemed a small fortune to me at the time. I only had to worry about fuel for my Vespa and a Wimpy, I thought I was Little Lord Fauntleroy.
Tell us how Prestige Pawnbrokers came about?
The idea of setting up prestige pawnbrokers came about during the crash of 2008 and the banking crisis. Loans were being called in and well-heeled individuals suddenly were in need of some finance. Pawnbroking seemed an ideal vehicle to get into the money lending business bearing in mind my background and skills I had to bring to the table.
Among other enterprises, I had previously dealt in classic cars and had imported furniture from Asia as well as bought and sold all sorts of interesting items, almost from the day I left school. The concept of high-end asset lending seemed a no brainer to me at the time and the added security of holding on to the asset for the duration of the loan was very appealing.
What were the challenges you faced bringing your idea to the market?
We understood that the market was there, but the main challenge was getting other people to understand it too. Marketing proved the key to its success and once we gained some notoriety with the press and various news stories, we started to gain some traction in this field. Obviously once the TV show was aired, we became centre stage in this particular arena. We understood that the market was there, but the main challenge was getting other people to understand it too.
You specialise in luxury goods. What’s your best ever find?
I’ve seen some wonderful works of art and some truly beautiful pieces of jewellery but there are some items that are perhaps not as valuable to the collector’s markets that are in my opinion priceless. I’ve spoken about this previously, but we were presented with some very personal letters handwritten by the former Rolling Stones member Brian Jones.
They contained touching thoughts and personal details relating to his relationship and his career as an up and coming band member. The letters were addressed to Brian’s mother and father prior to the band becoming famous and were found in the attic of a house that was owned by his parents. Brian was sadly found dead not too long after these letters were written which made the content all the more poignant.
The band are a massive piece of British rock culture and therefore these letters are priceless, they simply cannot be replaced, as such there is no real value that can be placed on them. They cannot be replicated or surpassed as the moment has gone.
On a smaller scale, where do you think is a good place to start looking for antique gems etc?
The issue is that there are so many avid collectors out there all looking in the same places.
My advice is to search on all of the usual platforms such as Facebook marketplace and Gumtree. It’s a numbers game but you can pick up the odd gem on some of these. Set up an alert so that when key words are put in the listing you are sent a notification to alert you of a advert with these words entered in the heading, this way you will be aware of it as soon as the listing goes live.
What’s the most invaluable advice you were given?
The best piece of advice I was ever given was by a dear old friend of mine who had been very successful in the property market. He said: “if you want to succeed in business, your desire for gain must be greater than your fear of loss.” This stuck with me ever since he first said these words to me 20 years ago. I was discussing a property deal at the time and I was a little twitchy about it…. I’ll keep you guessing about how it turned out.
Who or what inspires you?
People who strive to do something and are prepared to work hard. Individuals with vision and those who are prepared to take risks to better themselves. I’m talking about those with an idea or a dream that are prepared to risk all and believe in their concept or idea, this is inspiring. It’s not all about the money it’s about having the balls to put everything on the line in order to achieve something.
Is there anything you’re still trying to source and would really like?
Well we are all looking for that golden ticket, lost piece of art or the Porsche motorcar James Dean famously died in following a crash in 1955. Nobody knows its whereabouts but there has been plenty of speculation ever since.
To be honest I’m quite content with the wonderful artefacts, collectables and fine jewellery we see on a weekly basis…I haven’t got time to go treasure hunting.
Obviously, the last year has hit many people and businesses hard, any advice for anyone who could be potentially sitting on a bit of unknown cash?
My advice to anyone sitting on some cash right now would be to hold on to it for another six to 12 months as things are going to get very interesting.
Cash will ultimately be king as it always is during times of economic downturn and opportunities will be plentiful. Sit yourself down and buckle up for the ride