“Like hurricanes and monsoons, legislation has a season. And as anyone who was weathered such severe tropical phenomena can relate, a proper warning system becomes invaluable. This year the storm came in the form of House Bill 192, and many Utah antique dealers were caught unawares. “At a fast glance, H.B. 192, innocuously titled Property Transaction Amendments, didn’t appear to be about antiques at all. The general description of the bill stated that it, ‘modifies the Pawnshop and Secondhand Merchandise Transaction Information Act regarding functions of the Division of
Consumer Protection and exemption of certain businesses.’ “The intent of the bill, according to its sponsor Representative Rebecca Lockhart, was to aid law enforcement in the recoveryof stolen property with a value based on age, rarity, condition, craftsmanship or collectibility and the apprehension of the involved parties. “Secondhand dealers, such as pawn shops, are currently required to provide detailed information about the individual selling the secondhand items, including a thumbprint, as well as a description of the object itself. “And that is where antiques came into play.
In previous years’ incarnations of the bill,such as H.B. 402 in 2007, antique dealers have been exempted from participating in the Act. House Bill 192 sought to change that.” In order to head off H.B. 192, several area dealers met in an informal, yet heated meeting with Lockhart. Other dealers urged their own representatives to not support the bill. Later that day, Lockhart substituted the existing bill for one that kept the antique dealer exemption intact.
Sandy Antiques Mall owner Randy Tansk was one of those involved with the Lockhart meeting. While satisfied with the end result, Tanski predicted that this issue will rise again. “Will we see it next year?” he said. “Count on it.” According to Tanski, the pawn shops are jealous because antique dealers and collectors are not saddled with the same onerous requirements and restrictions. They want to see their rules go away, and the easiest way to do that is to include everyone else.
In 2004, the California Pawnbrokers Association introduced legislation to expand the definition of “second hand goods dealer” in their pawnbrokering statute. It was defeated. That same legislation has appeared in one form or another in 2005, 2006 and 2007. It has appeared twice now before the Utah legislature. And there is wind that it is coming again.
Recent high publicity news stories about prominent antique dealers and collectors allegedly involved in the sale of stolen highend art have placed antique dealers back on the radar. Lockhart has stated that the purpose of her proposed legislation is to aid law enforcement in the recovery of stolen property. With this one incident, it appears that Lockhart now has the ammunition she needs.
In 2003, the Nevada legislature enacted a similar bill, lumping antique dealers with pawnshops in “a regulatory effort to prevent sales of stolen goods.” Pat Patera of the Northern Nevada Business Weekly reported, “The law gathered dust. No municipalities troubled to enforce it—except Reno.” According to Patera, last year, a Reno bureaucrat went on crusade because an associate was robbed and three of the 40 stolen jewels were recovered in an antique store. “Last fall, dealers got letters and visits from city officials demanding they submit to background checks, fingerprinting, eight-page personal and financial questionnaires and a host of fees,” Patera said. Of the recent enforcement, a Reno dealer of 20 years said, “We’re presumed guilty. I resent that deeply. The idea that we’re dealing in stolen goods—it’s become ludicrous. The eight-page questionnaire is the most offensive.” In addition, city employees require weekly inventories and lists of all dealers and pickers. According to Patera, the “inquisition” has resulted in many dealers folding or moving. These two events, the arrest and treatment of two respected dealers, and the result of the Reno enforcement, have crystallized into a call to arms for Utah antique dealers.
The Antique Dealers Association of Utah will hold an official organizing meeting on July 2. Plans are in place to retain a lobbiest to help head off potentially damaging legislation. But the larger concern for many is the extent of such legislation. “If antique dealers are affected,” said Donnie Morris, “then it only stands to reason that book dealers, coin shops, art galleries— anyone dealing with second hand goods will ultimately be a target.”