Thursday, May 15, 2008

Pawnshop Francais

"Paris has the Louvre of Pawnshops" proclaims the Los Angeles Times. Their May 12 story is about a Paris pawnshop founded in 1777, affectionately known as Auntie. It's real name is Credit Municipal of Paris, it's on the Right Bank, and here's its pedigree:

  • Auguste Rodin hocked his statues to pay for tools

  • Claude Monet gave up his wife's medallion, and when she died, he had a friend buy it back so she could wear it in her coffin.

  • Items pawned there recently include an $8,000 bottle of Burgundy ("People can now exchange liquidity for liquidity" jokes the the director-general)

  • Other clients have included Victor Hugo (who set a scene in Les Miserables there), Emile Zola, and Paul Verlaine

The shop, like all pawnshops in France (there are only 19) is run by the city on a not-for-profit basis. Auntie owns "a sprawling underground maze of rooms that now hold 76,000 boxes of jewelry, racks of furs and countless odds and ends as well as a collection of art second in size only to the Louvre.," per the Times. Ma fois, what I wouldn't give to poke around there.

An MSN story gives more details about the wine business there. MSN says that 93% of the customers redeem their treasures, but 2 or 3 auctions per week are held to dispose of unredeemed articles.

The store, at 55 la Marais (a street where shops are allowed to stay open on Sundays) is called "chez ma tante" or Auntie because for 200 years people have been saying they left jewelry or heirlooms "at my auntie's house." Read about the street itself at Paris Info or Paris Marais.

The Bordeaux Undiscovered blog has a nice article on the shop as well, which is where I found the picture. And all these sites use the same phrases in their story so I suppose there was a major press release in April.

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