Pawnbroking in Singapore



Pawnbroking in Singapore started in the 19th century.1 In the past, pawnbrokers were regarded as the “poor man’s bankers”.2 Now their customers include white-collar workers, gamblers and businessmen,3 and an increasing number of younger customers.4

Early History
After the founding of Singapore in 1819, Raffles articulated his views on pawnshops in 1823 that “… auctioneers and pawnbrokers should be placed under specific regulations, and none allowed to act as such without giving security for complying with the same and taking out a license for the purpose”.5 The earliest mention of the existence of pawnbrokers was in 1824 when the British colonial administration collected a sum of $480 from them.6

In 1830, pawnbroking was included in the Farming System where the rights to issue pawnbroking permits were transferred to a Pawnbroker Farmer.7 From 1850, the colonial government alternated between the two systems of issuing of licenses and Farming System.8

Establishment of Pawnshops
In the earliest recorded examples of pawnshops in China during the Spring and Autumn Period (770–476 BC), they played the role of a social-relief facility for the poor.9 In Singapore, the earliest known Chinese pawnshop Sheng He Dang (生和当) was opened by Lan Qiu Shan (蓝秋山)and a few partners in 1872.10 By 1886, there were 26 pawnshops.11 In 1898, the Pawnbrokers Ordinance (forerunner of the Pawnbrokers Act) was passed to regulate the thriving industry.12 The industry continued to prosper in the early 20th century. From 1920 to 1929, there were 25 pawnshops, out of which 22 were owned by the Hakkas.13 The pawnshops generated monthly turnover of over $2 million.14 However, the Great Depression in 1929 affected the local economy and some pawnshops were forced to close.15 The industry began to recover from 1935 until World War II.16 After the war, the industry regained its growth momentum and the number of pawnshops increased to 32 in 1955,17 and 44 in 1959.18 By 1978, there were 50 pawnshops in Singapore,19 and two decades later in 1998, there were 69 pawnshops.20 Over the years, the Pawnbrokers Act had been revised in tandem with the societal changes. For example, the Act was amended in 1977 to prohibit pawnbrokers from accepting fixed deposits from the public.21 The change was introduced to protect the public from possible failures of the pawnbrokers to return them the deposits.22

Later Developments
In the mid-1980s, pawnshops began to do away with the abacus and pawnshop tickets, and modernising their business through installing computer systems in order to streamline their operations.23 In 2004, this traditional trade was challenged by Singapore Post’s entry into the business when it launched its first pawnbroking service, SpeedCash, at its branch in Bedok.24 The service was subsequently extended to other branches, like Yishun Central25 and Bukit Batok East.26 Far from being obsolete, the total number of registered pawn shops in Singapore is 227 as at April 2016.27



References
1. Overlooked services are financial lifeline to some. (2002, October 7). The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Oh, B. P. (2009, February 17). Jewellery firm Aspial goes into pawnbroking business. The Business Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Yeo, G. (1997, June 15). Pawnbroking trade sees growth with more shops opening here. The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Younger customers. (2004, July 7). The New Paper, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: (with portraits and illustrations) from the foundation of the settlements under the Honourable the East India Company, on February 6th, 1819, to the transfer of the Colonial Office as part of the colonial possessions of the Crown on April 1st, 1867. Singapore: Printed by Fraser & Neave, p. 114. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
6. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: (with portraits and illustrations) from the foundation of the settlements under the Honourable the East India Company, on February 6th, 1819, to the transfer of the Colonial Office as part of the colonial possessions of the Crown on April 1st, 1867. Singapore: Printed by Fraser & Neave, p. 156. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
7. Ong, E. C. (2007, April). Moneylending: A short history. BiblioAsia, 3(1), 25; Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: (with portraits and illustrations) from the foundation of the settlements under the Honourable the East India Company, on February 6th, 1819, to the transfer of the Colonial Office as part of the colonial possessions of the Crown on April 1st, 1867. Singapore: Printed by Fraser & Neave, pp. 114, 156. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
8. Ong, E. C. (2007, April). Moneylending: A short history. BiblioAsia, 3(1), 25
9. Pawning to get rich in China. (1993, June 7). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. 何谦训 [He, Q. X.]. (2005). 新加坡典当业纵横谈 [Xinjiapo dian dang ye zong heng tan]. 新加坡: 新加坡茶阳(大埔)会馆, 新加坡当商工会 [Xinjiapo: Xinjiapo Chayang (Dapu) hui guan, Xinjiapo dang shang gong hui], p. 40. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 332.34095957 HQX)
11. 何谦训 [He, Q. X.]. (2005). 新加坡典当业纵横谈 [Xinjiapo dian dang ye zong heng tan]. 新加坡: 新加坡茶阳(大埔)会馆, 新加坡当商工会 [Xinjiapo: Xinjiapo Chayang (Dapu) hui guan, Xinjiapo dang shang gong hui],  p. 41. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 332.34095957 HQX)
12. Legislative Council. (1898, September 14). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. 何谦训 [He, Q. X.]. (2005). 新加坡典当业纵横谈 [Xinjiapo dian dang ye zong heng tan]. 新加坡: 新加坡茶阳(大埔)会馆, 新加坡当商工会 [Xinjiapo: Xinjiapo Chayang (Dapu) hui guan, Xinjiapo dang shang gong hui], p. 41. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 332.34095957 HQX)
14. 何谦训 [He, Q. X.]. (2005). 新加坡典当业纵横谈 [Xinjiapo dian dang ye zong heng tan]. 新加坡: 新加坡茶阳(大埔)会馆, 新加坡当商工会 [Xinjiapo: Xinjiapo Chayang (Dapu) hui guan, Xinjiapo dang shang gong hui], p. 41. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 332.34095957 HQX)
15. 何谦训 [He, Q. X.]. (2005). 新加坡典当业纵横谈 [Xinjiapo dian dang ye zong heng tan]. 新加坡: 新加坡茶阳(大埔)会馆, 新加坡当商工会 [Xinjiapo: Xinjiapo Chayang (Dapu) hui guan, Xinjiapo dang shang gong hui], p. 42. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 332.34095957 HQX)
16. 何谦训 [He, Q. X.]. (2005). 新加坡典当业纵横谈 [Xinjiapo dian dang ye zong heng tan]. 新加坡: 新加坡茶阳(大埔)会馆, 新加坡当商工会 [Xinjiapo: Xinjiapo Chayang (Dapu) hui guan, Xinjiapo dang shang gong hui], p. 43. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 332.34095957 HQX)
17. 何谦训 [He, Q. X.]. (2005). 新加坡典当业纵横谈 [Xinjiapo dian dang ye zong heng tan]. 新加坡: 新加坡茶阳(大埔)会馆, 新加坡当商工会 [Xinjiapo: Xinjiapo Chayang (Dapu) hui guan, Xinjiapo dang shang gong hui], p. 43. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 332.34095957 HQX)
18. 何谦训 [He, Q. X.]. (2005). 新加坡典当业纵横谈 [Xinjiapo dian dang ye zong heng tan]. 新加坡: 新加坡茶阳(大埔)会馆, 新加坡当商工会 [Xinjiapo: Xinjiapo Chayang (Dapu) hui guan, Xinjiapo dang shang gong hui], p. 47. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 332.34095957 HQX)
19. 何谦训 [He, Q. X.]. (2005). 新加坡典当业纵横谈 [Xinjiapo dian dang ye zong heng tan]. 新加坡: 新加坡茶阳(大埔)会馆, 新加坡当商工会 [Xinjiapo: Xinjiapo Chayang (Dapu) hui guan, Xinjiapo dang shang gong hui], p. 70. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 332.34095957 HQX)
20. 何谦训 [He, Q. X.]. (2005). 新加坡典当业纵横谈 [Xinjiapo dian dang ye zong heng tan]. 新加坡: 新加坡茶阳(大埔)会馆, 新加坡当商工会 [Xinjiapo: Xinjiapo Chayang (Dapu) hui guan, Xinjiapo dang shang gong hui], p. 76. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 332.34095957 HQX)
21. Bill will give pawnbrokers powers of arrest. (1977, June 4). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Two ways to solve pawnshop fixed deposit problem. (1977, June 30). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Lim, T. (1986, November 29). S'pore pawnshops plug into the electronic age. The straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Nadarajan, B. (2004, May 28). It's a Sing Post outlet — but not a post office. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore Post. (2004, June 30). Singapore Post officially launches SpeedCash [Press release]. Retrieved April 26, 2006, from Singapore website: http://www.singpost.com/download/AboutSingPost/Media/NewsReleases/2004/PR20040630.pdf
25. Tan, A. (2004, May 5). Sing Post will open two Pawnshops by June. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore Post. (2004, June 30). Singapore Post officially launches SpeedCash [Press release]. Retrieved April 26, 2006, from Singapore website: http://www.singpost.com/download/AboutSingPost/Media/NewsReleases/2004/PR20040630.pdf
26. Singapore Post. (2005, November 9). Singapore Post opens third SpeedCash branch [Press release]. Retrieved April 26, 2006, from Singapore website: http://www.singpost.com/download/AboutSingPost/Media/NewsReleases/2005/PR20051109.pdf
27. Ministry of Law. (2016). List of licensed pawnbrokers in Singapore. Retrieved from Ministry of Law website: https://www.mlaw.gov.sg/content/rop/en/information-for-pawners/list-of-licensed-pawnbrokers-in-singapore.html



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Trade and industry
Commerce and Industry>>Trade
Pawnbroking--Singapore
Business, finance and industry>>Business organization>>Business enterprises