Pawn in the game
By RANDY GONZALES
Think "Pawn Stars" meets "American Pickers," and you have Flatlander Pawn & Gun.
Allan Penka, who has owned the shop at 2707 Vine, Ste. 18, for four years, operates it like a true pawn shop. Customers can bring items in to sell or bring in something for a loan. Just like you see on TV on "Pawn Stars" -- just minus Chumlee, the show's unlikely breakout star.
"You can get loans, there's no time limit; in Kansas there's no time limit," Penka said. "You just can't get three months behind on your interest (10 percent per month). Once you get a day over, it becomes mine and it goes out for sale."
Penka said only approximately 10 percent of his shop's business is pawns.
"Most of the larger items is the things they loan," Penka said.
They're also items people can do without when they're in a fix.
"Most common thing that's pawned is laptops," Penka said. "It's stuff that someone can do without if they need money at the time."
Penka, who grew up in La Crosse but lives in Russell now, also has a little "American Picker" in him, and for his store. Just like the TV show, Penka will go out and about seeking hidden treasures of old items worth more than they might seem on the surface. He also has "pickers" come to his store to sell items they have found.
One such item recently unearthed was a toy.
"There was a little toy that seemed insignificant, but it was ... a Jack Armstrong little bomber toy," Penka said. "I found out -- had no idea what it was worth -- found out that they're worth quite a bit."
Penka just checks around the area to see what might be out there.
"I just send out feelers," Penka said. "The last place I went, there was a retired couple, lived on a farm. Just wanted to sell a bunch of stuff."
Penka has plenty to choose from in his shop. There's everything from movie posters to old rifles; from video games to classic guitars.
Penka recently bought a collection of classic movie posters. Turned out one was from the movie "Night of the Living Dead" that he sold for $600.
He also recently sold a classic guitar for $3,000.
Currently on pawn is a comic book. Not just any comic book, but a Spider-Man No. 1 -- the first one in the series. It's pawned out at $10,000.
Penka tries to make a deal that's good for both him and the customer.
"You try to be fair, because you want them to come back," he said. "You don't want them to feel like they got ripped off when they sold you something."
Penka said the TV show about the pawn shop in Las Vegas has proven beneficial in his deals.
"The show has helped out tremendously for (customers) to understand you can't buy something for $1,000 and then come here and sell it for a $1,000," Penka said.
But when he's home, relaxing, Penka doesn't usually watch the show.
"Not too often," he said. "Not that I don't like it, it's just when I'm at home, I don't want to think about this place, and it makes me think about this place."
Penka will watch "American Pickers" from time to time. His brother, Jason, who owns the computer shop next door, even has met one of the stars of the show.
"I watch the 'Pickers' one more; it intrigues me," Penka said. "There's a lot of stuff around here, you just need to look."
Penka said he also sometimes take a chance on something he buys -- just like the TV show.
"Sometimes you roll the dice -- you don't always win," Penka said. "You just have to hope you win more than you lose."