This is an old topic but I have to comment and say I disagree with the answer given here.
I joined the site just to clarify this.
I don't believe Rand meant for the gilded balls to represent a pawn shop.
In fact, they only came to be a symbol for a pawn shop later on.
Originally the 3 gilded balls were the symbol for Merchants.
"The heraldic shield of the Medicis with its three balls quite possibly derives from a family affiliation with St Nicholas, but their own family legend explained it otherwise. Before they were bankers, the Medicis were originally engaged in the medical profession; Averardo de Medici, an officer under Charlemagne, slew a giant named Mugello, on whose mace were three gilded balls, and Averardo adopted the three golden balls as the device of his family. Later, other merchants involved in monetary dealing adopted the balls as their symbol, with the three balls coming to symbolise the entire profession."
Kent Lansing is not being cynical, he is being sincere. He is saying that he wouldn't choose an animal or beast to represent man, but a more evolved symbol, 3 gilded balls which were used to represent Merchants, to represent men who live by a rational standard of trade and exchange with each other.