The Cash Inn Pawn Shop team, which plays the buying and selling game. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Cash Inn Pawn Shop team, which plays the buying and selling game. Picture: SUPPLIED

Roy Peretz is an enterprising, one-of-a-kind individual who sees an opportunity around every corner.

Peretz is a colourful Spanish-Israeli personality who arrived in South Africa from Israel in the '80s. By trade a chemical engineer, he was enticed by the government of the time to invest in the homelands.

Seeing a great opportunity for development there, he built a chemical factory, employed hundreds of locals, and guided his company to becoming one of the most successful of its kind on the continent.

After 10 years in this business, Peretz was itching to expand into another field altogether. He saw the pawn industry as a viable option - he had knowledge of diamonds and gold and high-end watches. He also loved dealing with people and the "art" of buying and selling inspired him.

So began the history of Cash Inn, a pawn shop he launched in 1998 at 341 Jan Smuts Avenue, next to the Colony Shopping Centre in Hyde Park. Alongside his offices, where clients would pawn their gold, jewellery and cars, among other items, he opened a second shop.

It served as a sort of shop-cum-museum in which clients would browse among unusual objects, from highly rated sports memorabilia to art, and from collectibles to pianos, motorcycles and sculptures. There was no limit to what the shop displayed. Customers came from far and wide for the chance to acquire something special.

Running this side of the operation is fellow Israeli, Eytan Nadler, a gentle giant of a man with a wry sense of humour and a no-nonsense attitude when it comes to the cut and thrust of bargaining.

Cash Inn thrived and became a benchmark for the pawn-shop industry, elevating the business above the sad and seedy operations around town that gave pawn shops such a bad reputation.

Peretz's reputation came to the attention of a TV company, Rapid Blue, which had been instructed by A+E Networks, a British TV organisation, to find a reputable South African pawn shop for a reality TV series based on the successful American version called "Pawn Stars". This series, filmed in Las Vegas, chronicles the daily activities of a 24-hour family business.

In Peretz and his team they found the right combination and before long "Pawn Stars SA" was born. In the show, the team deals with customers wanting to pawn rare items. It became an instant hit on the History channel on DStv, enjoying screenings around the world.

The team, comprising Eytan Nadler, Liel Rimon, who runs Top Cash pawn shop in Morningside in Johannesburg, and Peretz's PA Irene Bower, became famous overnight.

A second season was scheduled, which gained them even more fans. Cash Inn and the team were on the world map.

After one episode, Peretz received a phone call (which he first thought was a prank) from renowned Chelsea footballer Frank Lampard, a motorcycle devotee. He had seen a rare Royal Enfield motorcycle with a sidecar in one of Roy's Pawn Stars shows on TV in the UK and wanted to purchase the machine. Fame at last!

While the TV series was enjoying its success, Peretz expanded his popularity into the field of radio.

Soon he was hosting his own shows on Radio Today and then ChaiFM, which targeted the Jewish community.

Peretz can be heard every Wednesday on "Pawn Stars Unplugged" from 6pm to 7pm on ChaiFM (101.9kz). This is a lively, fun outing for the team in which a vast range of topics is discussed (including movie reviews by critic Peter Feldman), and often delivered with tongue firmly in cheek.

On Thursdays from 9am to 10am, "Roy and Friends" takes to the air. They interview a host of different guests on topics from security and buying jewellery to the value of modern art, keeping fit, and new books and music. Roy can also be heard on Tuesdays on Darren Scott's breakfast show on HotFM.

The next step for the intrepid Peretz was to set up weekly auctions at his Hyde Park shop. At these events, customers are given the rare opportunity (on Tuesday mornings at 11am) to purchase items at frighteningly low prices. Some of the objects are featured in the TV shows beforehand.

Hundreds of items in the shop are up for sale and everything must go.

It is a chance to pick up a real bargain, be it jewellery, high-end watches, fine art or a rare artefact from the Anglo-Boer War - items that are likely to initiate conversation around the dinner table.

In the field of sports memorabilia, Cash Inn has up for auction a framed, signed Jacques Kallis shirt (R2 150-R3 350), rugby photographs of key moments between the Springboks and Australia and New Zealand (R850-R 1650), a limited edition jersey worn by a player in 1968 in the match at Ellis Park between Transvaal and the British Lions, which Transvaal won (R2 950-R4 200), and a range of wines from the Ernie Els Winery (R4 850-R7 750).

Guitars, violins, a poster from the movie La Dolce Vita (R1 350-R2 150), a wall-decor piece featuring Marilyn Monroe (R850- R1 500) and an item seen on "Pawn Stars SA" - a signed "I am an African" speech by Thabo Mbeki (valued between R25 500 and R31 450).

Items sold at auctions over the past weeks include a signed and framed Bobby Jones (golfer) sketch, a framed Gary Player memento from when the South African golf icon was Presidents Cup captain in 2003, and works of art by Zimbabwean and other artists.

In these tough economic times people are looking for ways to make extra money, but there are not many who realise that there could be a treasure waiting to be discovered in the attic or storeroom.

Peretz has always believed that there is hidden gold in people's homes - if only they would take the trouble to look.

He says: "Often people come into the shop with items they found gathering dust and ask if they have any value. Nine times out of 10 it may not be gold but there is always a chance that it's a valuable discovery and we will pay its value."

With more than 20 years in the pawn industry, Peretz has seen many bizarre items that people bring into his Hyde Park shop. People have tried to pawn items such as grandma's false teeth, a vibrator, gold fillings and even a herd of cattle.

Peretz recalls a man coming into the shop wanting to pawn his false eye. On another occasion, a man in desperate need of cash wanted to pawn the shoes he was wearing. On both counts their offers were rejected.

One man even wanted to sell a kidney to raise funds - and again the understanding staff behind the counter gave him a firm "no". There is never a dull moment in the pawn business - and Peretz loves every minute of it.

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