Pawnshops for prosperous accept wine as collateral

NEW YORK Wed Feb 22, 2012 4:36pm EST

Bottles of wine, one costing nearly $460, are shown in a wine shop in San Francisco, California January 14, 2008.  Researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the California Institute of Technology found that because people expect wines that cost more to be of higher quality, they trick themselves into believing the wines provide a more pleasurable experience than less expensive wines.  REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Bottles of wine, one costing nearly $460, are shown in a wine shop in San Francisco, California January 14, 2008. Researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the California Institute of Technology found that because people expect wines that cost more to be of higher quality, they trick themselves into believing the wines provide a more pleasurable experience than less expensive wines.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Some U.S. pawnbrokers are taking liquid assets - literally.

Along with family jewels and fine art they will accept wines as collateral for loans to help ease cash shortages of businesses and people on all rungs of the economic ladder.

"You'd be amazed by how many wealthy individuals have terrible credit ratings," said Jordan Tabach-Bank, head of Beverly Loan Co. in Beverly Hills, California.

"And besides, if you go to a bank, it can take weeks or months to get a loan. When we make a loan, it's usually the same day,"

The pawnshop for the prosperous lends to hedge-fund managers, bankers, lawyers, doctors and even Oscar winners.

"Most people have a vision of pawn shops as sad sites. But that's not the case here," Tabach-Bank said. "I have a lot of people who come in who have a business opportunity and they need an infusion of cash for business purposes."

USGoldBuyers.com, an online pawnbroker with an office in New York, will also accept fine wines, said spokesman Jose Caba, adding that the rich do not always have liquid assets to keep up with their expensive toys.

"That's where we come in," he said. "We don't really want to sell the wine, or any asset that we take in whether it be gold or fine art."

He estimates that about 90 percent of the loans made have been repaid.

But interest rates and length of the loans vary widely.

British-based pawnbroker, borro.com, recently lent $120,000 in exchange for 128 bottles of Chateau d'Yquem, which had an estimated worth of $250,000.

Within the last three weeks, borro.com had taken a case of 1989 Chateau Petrus, valued at about $38,000, for a loan of $24,000, said its Chief Executive Paul Aitken.

Loans were also secured on various vintages of the five First Growths Bordeaux: Chateau Haut-Brion, Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Chateau Haut-Brion, Chateau Margaux and Chateau Mouton Rothschild -- top wines regularly sold at auctions where cases fetch tens of thousands of dollars.

Aitken's clientele, whose net worth ranges from $1 million to $10 million, are mostly small business owners with cash flow problems. Financial advisers and wealth managers recommend many of their clients to him.

Britain's Prime Asset Loans, based in Durham, has a specific list of wines it will loan against including the First Growth Bordeaux, Burgundy's Domaine de la Romanee-Conti and, depending on the vintage, Australia's renowned Penfolds Grange.

"We lend up to 70 percent of the value of the wines and the term is usually seven months," said Richard Mews, a partner at Prime Asset Loans. "Investors are using this type of loan more as it is quick, easy and there are no fees."

Credit Municipal de Paris, which has been offering loans against fine wines, champagnes and aged spirits since 2008, can keep more than 90,000 bottles in its 18th century wine cellar.

"Just deposit your bottles against a loan that is immediately awarded," said spokeswoman Florence Marambat, adding that Bordeaux were the wines most frequently offered as collateral.

(Reporting By Leslie Gevirtz; Additional reporting by Dominique Vidalon in Paris; Editing by Richard Chang and Patricia Reaney)

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