The old practice of hocking personal belongings to get cash fast — a.k.a. pawning — is on the uptick, no doubt due to the hot reality show Pawn Stars, which documents the doings at a Las Vegas shop. But that series usually focuses on rare finds that are sold for a flat fee, not pawned. The real heart of pawning is short-term "safety net" loans for more ordinary items. Here's how it usually works (no matter what The Old Man might do on TV): You bring in your item, the pawnbroker makes an offer, and then — after some negotiation — he gives you cash.