Expelled from school with no qualifications, Posh Pawn’s James Constantinou is a now millionaire. How, exactly, has he done it?
From fossilised whale vomit to Queen Victoria’s underwear, there isn’t much James Constantinou won’t lend money against.
The 50-year-old entrepreneur and star of Channel 4’s Posh Pawn series has made a name for himself as the man who will loan money for anything – and it’s a gamble that’s paid off.
A millionaire in his own right, James now deals in super cars, super yachts and jewellery most of us can only dream of.
But in an exclusive interview with FQ James says making it to the top hasn’t been a walk in the park, and his fortunes weren’t always so bright.
School drop out
“I was expelled from school at 15 and didn’t sit any exams,” says James, who grew up on a council estate in Bethnal Green in the East End of London before moving to the commuter belt of Surrey when he was 10. “I was always going to work for myself – I had a problem with authority.”
You could say the key to James’s success is that he’s been in the right place at the right time. Before becoming a pawnbroker he was in the property market, dealing in high-end properties in places like Cobham in Surrey, a favourite among Chelsea footballers.
After hearing rumblings of a possible banking crisis in 2008 he got out while he could – and it was just in time.
“We thought the good times were going to last forever,” he says. “We sold all of our stock in terms of land about three months before everything started crumbling.” With money in the bank but wary of investing it, James took some time out before deciding what to do next.
“All my friends were telling me their banks wouldn’t lend them £1,500 even though they had turnovers of millions,” he says. “Suddenly the bank’s criteria had altered. I would arrange to meet people and they were literally pulling up in their smart cars saying they didn’t have enough money to put petrol in their Porsches.”
“The lightbulb moment came one lunchtime in Café Rouge. I saw an advert about asset lending on art in the newspaper and it spurred me on. I started thinking about pawnbroking and looked into getting a licence.”
James decided the upmarket town of Weybridge – home to footballers, TV personalities, singers and actors – was the perfect base for such a venture.
“I went to visit a shop to let and discovered it used to be a pawn brokers – it seemed like fate. I thought that was a good sign. I got a licence but I didn’t really know what I was doing. I would take my mum’s jewellery down to other jewellers to see what it was all about. I didn’t think pawnbrokers were very friendly people and I didn’t like the way I was being treated. I found the business really quite archaic and thought I could change that.”
Read our exclusive interview with James in full in the latest issue of FQ here
The sixth series of Posh Pawn is due to air on Channel 4 this spring.