Sunday, June 24, 2012


Those who know me well, know that for me, almost everything in life is defined in humorous terms.  And, our blog is usually reserved for things we think of as fun or interesting.  However, today I'm posting something on the more serious side.  If you own, work, consign, sell or buy from an antiques or second hand shop, you may find the following article of interest.  The boogie man is not far from your door

The following article will also appear in the NEW CENTURY COLLECTOR July issue.

by Dennis Barker
Publisher, New Century Collector
It seems that California is about to toss its antiques industry off a cliff.  Having failed in the past, not unlike the Phoenix, the idea of applying pawnshop merchandise reporting laws to antiques shops seems to have resurrected itself.  Pushed by the California Pawnbrokers Association, and what would have to be considered anti business political interests, bill AB 391, was passed by the California Assembly in April, and sent for approval to what appears to be a receptive Senate.  Most observers believe the democratic Governor will give the final push, sending California antiques shops careening into the abyss.

The crux of the law requires antiques shops to report merchandise traded, purchased or consigned to a central police database. Along with the electronic database submission, dealers must also fingerprint the seller, and archive a copy of the prints and the seller's photo identification for police inspection.  And it gets worse. All newly acquired merchandise must be held in a segregated holding area for 30 days before it can be sold.  In an economy where many antiques businesses are hanging by their fingernails, the prospect of hundreds of dollars in new licensing fees, computer equipment, increased labor, and additional space to meet the holding requirements, is discouraging at best.   If it all seems a little Orwellian, that's because it is. No antiques shop can thrive, or perhaps even survive given the repressive nature of this law.

And, why should conservative Utahan's care about what goes on in "weird California", a state that thrives on the cutting edge of insanity?  It's simple; the Utah Legislature is also edging our antiques industry dangerously close to the cliff.  In 2007 Utah Sate pawnbroker regulations were amended to include secondhand merchandise dealers. The amendment defines a secondhand dealer as: (a) “Secondhand merchandise dealer” means an owner or operator of a business that: (i) deals in the purchase, exchange, or sale of used or secondhand merchandise or personal property; and (ii) does not function as a pawnbroker.

Since 2008, during each Utah Legislative season, there has been either threat or attempt to amend the Utah Pawnshop and Secondhand Merchant Transaction Law to include antiques shops. Fortunately, each year, the UADA (Utah Antiques Dealers Association) has successfully made a case for the retention of our 2009 exemption from pawnbroker regulations. However, the Utah Pawnshop lobby continues its efforts to include the antiques industry.

If we're not careful, we are all going to end up fingerprinting little old ladies selling their teacups.  As an officer of the UADA, I spend a lot of time following the issue.  I go to Utah House & Senate hearings, meetings with legislators, and the Utah Pawn & Secondhand Merchandise advisor board meetings; everywhere I think we might get a tidbit of information.  What I hear is often discouraging, and it's not going to help to ignore reality.  Police, the Division of Consumer Protection, Pawnshop owners, their lobbyists, and friends in the legislature, are all pressing for universal compliance.  Regardless of our current exclusion, antiques shops, as an isolated faction of the secondhand industry will sooner or later be nothing more than another meal for the beast.

There are white hats, and there are black hats. Pawnbroker regulations are, you guessed it, for pawnbrokers.  No other category of secondhand business has exhibited the social or legal problems that originally forced the regulation of pawnshops. And, it is unreasonable to think that since they share the commonality of dealing in used goods, they are somehow wedded. They are not.

It is appropriate and right, that Antiques, collectibles, retro, vintage and resale shops resist inclusion under this burdensome law. But the larger truth is that although many other secondhand businesses are already caught in the web, their inclusion is no more fitting.  It is largely a waste of private and public resources, all to appease traditional bad actors in the used goods community.

So, what's to be done?  Only by all secondhand businesses acting in a communal effort, will the Legislature understand and address our problem.  There is as we know, strength in numbers. Whether your business is already caught in the snare, and is currently complying with this law, or is one of the thousands of second hand businesses that are surely in their sights, stand together. This is Utah, not California, and a majority of our Legislators stand squarely in support of small business.  Most are unaware of the problem. We need to educate them.  Find out who your House member and State Senator are, and call, send a letter or email, and let them know your business is not a pawnshop and should not be included in their regulatory mire.

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