The Traditional Legend of the Three Balls
The symbol of the three balls was part of the coat of arms of the Medici family, who established the Medici trading and banking empire in Florence, Italy
. The Medicis were a 15th century Italian family of bankers and lenders, with considerable fame and fortune. They became so well known in the finance and lending profession that the other lenders, wanting to share in their success, adopted similar coats of arms, signs, shields and symbols, with three golden balls being the most popular. Once other merchants involved in monetary dealing adopted the three golden balls as their symbol, the three balls came to symbolize the entire profession founded on the ethic of mutual trust. Throughout the Middle ages you can find many coats of arms bearing three balls, orbs, plates, disks, coins, and more as symbolic of monetary success. When Italian bankers began to open branches abroad, the symbol of the three golden balls spread to the European West. It is known that there was pawnbroking in Spain
because Queen Isabella offered to pawn some of her royal jewels to finance Columbus
' long voyage to the New World
The symbol of the three golden balls was brought to the United States
, where pawnbrokers still display the symbol to this day.