The pawn shop for the rich and famous

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The pawn shop for the rich and famous

A small pawn shop in the Surrey town of Weybridge is the unassuming public face of a large scale money-lending enterprise where asset-rich but cash-poor individuals can borrow against anything from posh handbags to exclusive supercars.

The owner of Prestige, James Constantinou, prefers to refer to his business as high-end asset lending, but doesn't mind the more casual pawn broker terminology.

He has helped people release cash trapped in expensive luxury items, and tucked away in his storage facility are cars from top-end marques such as Ferrari, Bentley and Mercedes-Benz.

James explains how he started his business: "I was surrounded by all these guys I'd known in the property business," he said to The Mirror.

"They had £5million houses and Ferraris in the drive but still had kids in private school and huge out-goings and the banks didn't want to know.

"It seemed like a business opportunity that was too good to miss so I cashed in some property interests and started to look for premises.

"I was already in Weybridge, one of the most affluent parts of the country, and then I saw this shop, so called up the landlords and went to have a look."

Straying from the usual items usually dealt with in pawn shops, James piqued the interest Weybridge's wealthy population when he started advertising money lending against cars.

"I suppose it was a mental leap to think that pawnbrokers would lend against anything other than the stuff you see in the windows on the high street," says James.

"Then they would ask, 'What else do you lend against?' And the answer was, and still is, 'Almost anything we can validate to be worth what you say it is'."

To date, Prestige has lent money on items as varied as vintage wine, exotic artwork and WW2 collectibles.

However, he often has to watch out for scammers, including one customer touting Nigerian Air Force Jets.

"I put the phone down and said, 'That's a scam', and then an hour later they sent over a picture of the planes with documentation including flight records.

"That had me on the hook for a while but a quick call to the Nigerian Embassy cleared it up as a scam."

On the whole, however, business is booming – something James says is down to doing something the banks simply aren't at the moment: lending money.

Prestige is the subject of the channel 4 documentary 'Posh Pawn', which airs tonight at 9pm.

Prestige is not the only asset-lending service operating in the UK. AOL Cars recently went and had a poke around Borro's automotive treasure chest at a secret facility near Milton Keynes, which you can read about here.