In the five-part podcast series CHAINS, Alix de Massiac paints a portrait of the Amsterdamse Stadsbank van Lening, a four-hundred-year-old pawnshop that’s a unique combination of business and social service. The Stadsbank lends money, accepting jewellery as collateral. Payment is immediate, but onward sale or melting down are irrevocable if the loan isn’t paid off on time.
From the Televizier Ring to gold carpet-beaters, regional jewellery from Zeeland or gems said to have belonged to the Russian Tsar: the jewels dealt in by the Stadsbank come from all over the globe and all segments of the population. The depositors of the gold and silver have one thing in common: they are relinquishing part of their history in exchange for cash. Washing machine broken? Get your necklace out of the safe.
Drawing upon what the clients, staff and objects have to say, CHAINS describes how the Stadsbank has changed along with the city and its residents. The Stadsbank reflects economic developments, but also our view of what constitutes ‘a dignified existence’. Items of gold jewellery often prove more than a mere luxury. Imbued with personal histories, they are sometimes needed to make ends meet at the end of the month. Or to put a bunch of flowers on the table.
Of the twenty-four branches that the Stadsbank once boasted, only three remain: in the city centre, in De Bijlmer and in Osdorp. Soon the branch on the Nes in central Amsterdam, where once the jewels belonging to Rembrandt’s wife Saskia were pawned, will be closed. But the queue at the counter is undiminished. What is the future of the Stadsbank? And what will happen to the pawned objects, and to the clients who rely on the money their gold or silver jewellery brings in?
Money is life. Stay alive.
Concept, montage and production: Alix de Massiac Sound design: Nathalie Bruys
Sound mix: Tom Ruijg
Voice-over: Alix de Massiac and Seecum Cheung Translation: Jack Eden
Editors: Kirsten Algera and Ernst van der Hoeven
Graphic design: Sandra Kassenaar
Photography: Mathijs Labadie
Assistance: Emil Rosi Lanz, Benjamin McMillan and Mirelle van Tulder
Chains - Episode 5 - The Grave Of The Loan Sharks
In the fifth and final instalment, Mariken, the manager of the Stadsbank, tells us all about its future. Having gradually expanded and then reduced in size over the lifespan of its 400 plus years, this institution is facing some challenges. Just like the price of gold, the Stadsbank is contingent on a big and fluctuating ecosystem of people and policies.
Chains - Episode 4 - The Price Of Gold
We hear an appraiser exchange with a customer, who can get more money for an item he’s pawned before. The Stadsbank uses a calculation that fluctuates and with which they figure out how much money they can lend and what the interest rate on it will be. This calculation is primarily based on the price of gold. So when the price of gold does go up, as a customer you’re in luck and you can get more on the same piece of jewellery. Some customers keep a close watch of the economy, and come in on a weekly basis to pawn and repawn items.
Chains - Episode 3 - A Cold Drink
Come Friday, the showcase of the shop is empty and we meet a customer looking for a little extra cash to buy his girlfriend dinner and some flowers. Forty euros can have different meanings for different people from all walks of life. A glass of wine for a manager is another weekend well spent for a customer, who narrates the worst day of his life: the day he lost the necklace his father gave him when he was born.
Chains - Episode 2 - Russian Tsars And Dutch TV Queens
In Episode 2, the staff of the Stadsbank give us the grand tour of the shop, a popular destination for shoppers looking for a bargain. The items on sale get sold at a blistering pace. As soon as the shop opens up on Monday, people pour in and buy earrings and rings and necklaces and the odd silver serving platter... These customers often have little to do with customers that pawn their jewellery, and despite buying their jewellery don’t know much about them.
Chains - Episode 1 - City Bank Of Loan!
In episode 1 of CHAINS, we meet a longstanding and satisfied customer, and go behind the scene to meet the staff.
Chains - Trailer
CHAINS is a MacGuffin podcast by Alix de Massiac that explores the Amsterdam municipal pawnshop through the voices of people who go there, people who work there, and the objects pawned there.
The Stadsbank van Lening, as it is called in Dutch, receives items of jewellery from all over the world from people who have to part with a piece of their history, in exchange for quick cash. A broken washing machine? Get your necklace out of your nightstand.
Part business and part social service, this 400-year-old institution has evolved with the city and its inhabitants. Of the 24 outlets that once existed, only three remain: one in the city centre, one in the Bijlmer, and one in Osdorp. But the chain of customers queueing up outside hasn’t grown shorter.