Pawn Stars

It's Bigger on the Inside

Saturday morning started out like most of our weekends have: with sleeping in and waking up to t-shirt weather and a turquoise sky. However, we saw far more turquoise indoors than out, if you'd believe that.

Walking through the doors of Perry Null's Trading Post was, once again, a sort of time-travel experience. Upon walking across the aged and squeaking floors to the counter, we were greeted by Perry himself, decked out in a checkered shirt, a leather vest, faded jeans, cowboy boots, and quite the impressive bolo tie decorated with sterling silver and a large turquoise butterfly. He shook each of our hands warmly and greeted Deborah as an old friend (which just so happened to work out in our favor...).

I guess I had figured one of the employees would've shown us around...the sales floor, maybe the wholesale rooms in the back. Seemed pretty incredible already, considering the sheer volume of rugs, baskets, pottery, jewelry, firearms, saddles, and blankets we had found ourselves surrounded by.

No, Deborah and her infinite connections in Gallup did us one better. Perry himself ushered us through the gate at the counter and past the "no visitors past this point" sign into the pawn vault itself. 

Over the course of an hour, we were shown the ins and outs of how pawning works in the Southwest, particularly in the Navajo Nation. The pawn vault alone contains over 1,000 saddles, hundreds of animal skins, baskets, Pendleton blankets and shawls, and countless firearms and jewelry. The pawn system in this area runs as a sort of bank, which is why so many ceremonial and traditional artifacts and components are stored there. Because these pieces are only used for ceremonies and highly special occasions, and there is usually limited space in households, they pawn the object for safekeeping and return for it when it is needed on the next occasion. While the New Mexico state law states an advised maximum of six months before the pawn becomes "dead" (meaning no one claims it), Perry keeps items for much longer, sometimes a year or more. At any rate, the collection of items that has accumulated in just the vault is jaw-dropping, although the sheer reality of us being a sort of "V.I.P" might of had a little something to do with it too.

After the main vault tour and a showing of some private artwork and rugs he keeps in the vault (which is also their convenient family hangout!), we were shown the jewelry and basket vaults. At the end of the tour, we were thanked for our visit with some excellent dyed corn necklaces, trading tokens (collect 10 for a $5 credit!), and a really sweet discount for half off plus 5%. Thanks, Deborah. Seriously.

We spent another hour or two perusing the floor, picking up more than a couple souvenirs for ourselves and plenty of gifts for our friends and families trapped in the frozen wastelands to the Northeast. Laura and I went nuts when an employee offered to take us to the wholesale earrings room. We're talking a room larger than a triple-dorm, lined with jewerly and containing a couple tables with more still. Before we left, we were also shown the rug collection, and a couple of us (myself included) were too fascinated by the weaving to leave without one. Most of us girls left with more than a couple rings on our fingers and a new pair of something in our ears. 

"All I've Got is a 10..."

From Perry's, we headed out to more flexible financial territory: Gallup's local flea market! It runs on Saturdays and is two square miles of artisans, haggling, exciting smells (and even better tastes), and pure joy. Although it was a little chilly and very windy- Iowa's nothing compared to New Mexico!- the sun was warm and we used the cold as an excuse to purchase $1 frybread and tamales to keep our hands warm, forgetting our lunches we had packed that morning.

Just like Perry's, the flea market delighted us by the amount of pottery, jewelry and trinkets offered up by the vendors, who were more than excited to tell us about their lives and how they got into their trade. While we made some excellent purchases (among them being beautiful mugs that we utilized heavily in the coming week), I can't help but feel like we made a few friends as well, even if we never see them again. Their hearts were 100% in whatever they created, and their genuine happiness when someone showed an interest in one of their pieces brought an equal smile to my face.

And really, a flea market is nothing without the haggling for a lower price. As Nate repeatedly insisted, "Look...I love this, but all I've got is a ten and we're nowhere near an ATM..."

Sorry for the redundancy, but I don't think I'll ever be not amazed by this place. 

This is only half of the showroom inside at Perry Null Trading Company, featuring countless pieces of jewelry, pottery, fetishes, baskets, and rugs that caught the whole crew up for a few hours.
Just one of the racks in the vault, holding saddles that Navajo peoples have pawned to keep safe from the elements. At first glance, they all seem to be the same. But when you look closer, the variations begin to appear!
Some of the shelves displaying thousands of rugs in the vault, and Perry's two favorites that he received as gifts hanging from the rafters.
The whole group (sans Peter, who was under the weather) outside Perry Null's!
A man selling strands of turquoise and other stones and minerals at the Gallup flea market.