By Heidi Grieser & Richard Markosian
Antique dealers are accusing pawn shop owners of trying to put them out of business. According to these dealers the pawn shop owners are lobbying for amendments to the 2006 Pawnshop and Secondhand Merchandise Transaction Information Act to no longer allow antique dealers exemption from the law.
The 2006 law created a state-wide police database into which pawn dealers upload fingerprints, descriptions of the goods, and the sellers they deal with, every 24 hours. Previously there were separate county databases which weren’t much help to law enforcement.
Mike Katzenavis, Owner of Crown Pawn supported this law in order to help law enforcement crack down on illegal transactions that pawn dealers could be unknowingly facilitating. He says the law has worked and they have helped police catch criminals looking for an easy way to sell stolen merchandise.
Respected used-and-rare bookstore owner Ken Sanders argues that his store and other second hand businesses should not be lumped in with pawn shops, who he calls “fringe money-lenders.” On January 11, 2011, Ken wrote a letter on his website and circulated it to the press to gain support to maintain his exemption status.
“We ask our friends and other interested parties to speak out now regarding this matter. Given that the 2011 legislative session has yet to start, and no changes to the act have yet been proposed, some might see our call to action as premature. We most assuredly do not. We cannot afford to wait around to see if the legislature will pull our exemptions; now is the time to let the legislature know how crucial these exemptions are to our existence.”
Last year the second-hand record stores, such as Randy’s Records were removed from their exemption status. Now Randy’s is required by law to submit all items they purchase to a database for law enforcement review and gather fingerprints of their customers. They were told they would be required to comply by January 1st 2011. So far they have decided to wait and see what happens rather than comply with the law. Randy says,” I’m a law abiding citizen and if I were to go along with this it would put us over the edge. A lot of taxes are collected with us being in business. It will hurt [the government] in the long run if they do put us out. I don’t want to come across as being purposefully disobedient. A lot of customers would give their records to a thrift store or throw them in the trash…Sometimes we will buy stuff for a dime or a quarter and sell it for a dollar…This isn’t these aren’t the kind of items thieves break into people’s homes to seal.”
Randy and his employees hope that law enforcement will come to their senses and recognize that the law that might be useful for pawn shops would likely cause their demise. Salt Lake City area antique dealers feel the same way.
Utah Stories attended one of the antique dealers association meetings where Carmen Miranda, who has operated her downtown shop for the past 30 years was up in arms. “They want to know everything about my business. And they want me to pay an additional $500 per month so they can set up a system so they can snoop around in my records and business.” She went on to compare these tactics to a “Nazi State.” Dee Jackson from Jitterbug antiques also believes that if a law such as this passed it would put him out of business. He pointed out his huge collections of antique toys, “They want me to individually categorize each of these items…I’ll sometimes take in 100-200 small toys from a collection in one purchase. If I were required to enter all of this into a computer I would need to hire another full -time employee to help. I wouldn’t be able to stay open.”
Mike Katzenavis chairs the board of the Utah Dept. of Consumer Protection, who make recommendations to the legislature. Katzenvanis owns Crown Pawn, and has been labeled by the antique dealers as the man spearheading a plan pull small antique dealers and used booksellers under the same laws that he is under.
Katzenavis denies there is any truth to that claim, he says, “I’ve spoken to the Representatives about this issue. Right now for the antique dealers it’s Chicken Little and the sky is falling, but I can say on this legislative session there is nothing targeting the antique dealers or rare book dealers.”
“There is a lot of nonsense being spread out there, and I’ve got a couple of nasty calls saying ‘You better back off this, or else’” says Katzenavis. While he can’t speak for the future, Katzenavis is sure that antique dealer exemptions are not on the legislative agenda, and that, “They are not on the radar. This has all been self-motivated.” According to Katzenavis, who printed out a copy of the current law, all of the antique and second-hand dealers are misinformed about how to comply with the database requirements as well. “We purchase on average about 300 individual items per day and it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to enter the items in and take a fingerprint.” The law doesn’t mandate that each item be individually entered into a database but only that if 10, 20 or even 100 items of a similar kind are purchased that a general description is provided, such as DVDs x40. Katzenavis also corrected the price per month, which is not $500, but just $250 annually, or just $21 per month. Also, no sophisticated or overly complicated software is required, “we use Microsoft Access, which I believe most PCs already have installed.”
The only thing the new law amendments will change according to Katzenavis is “holds and seizures,” which would require buyers to hold goods for 15 days to give law enforcement time to do their jobs.
“We actually do a lot of business in antique jewelry now,” says Katzenavis. Perhaps the antique dealers and pawn shop articles aren’t as different as they once were. Pawn shops might view antique dealers as competition now and vice-versa, but Katzenavis says he is not making any attempts to change the current law.
It is very hard to know whose version of the truth to believe, but Utah Stories can confirm that something is coming down the pipes. An empty bill was created and titled on Feb. 5, 2011 ‘Pawnshop and Secondhand Merchandise Transaction Information Act Amendments.’ It is proposed by Dem. Representative Jennifer Seelig, who did not return our phone calls.
This bill can be viewed at: