Imagine if vendors at Sunday’s upcoming antique fair couldn’t buy any of their merchandise without checking the photo identifications of every person who sold them an item – and collecting their fingerprints as well. Oddly enough, that’s just what California law has required them to do since the mid-1900s.
The thing is, the law has been inconsistently enforced, said Marylon Rose, the founder and owner of the Sacramento Antique Faire, held monthly under the W-X freeway, because local law enforcement agencies didn’t have the manpower to deal with all the paperwork it would have entailed. In many cases, she said, vendors weren’t even aware that such a requirement existed.
Then, in 2012, a new state law paved the way for a statewide electronic database that took the burden off local agencies. Resellers would be required to upload fingerprints, seller identification and product descriptions within one business day of purchases, and they would be required to hold the goods for 30 days. If they didn’t, they would face a $1,500 fine and 60 days in jail for the first violation. The penalties rise steeply from there.
“We believed this law would take the industry and completely wipe it away because no one cares that much about selling things at a garage sale that they’re going to be giving that information to strangers who say that they’re business people,” Rose said. “Concerns about cybersecurity are growing by leaps and bounds.”
Rose and other members of the California Association of Resellers, ReUsers and Buyers went into action, working with Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, and other legislators to discern the statute’s original purpose and devise a bill that would discourage the illegal activity it initially had targeted. The original intent was to discourage fencing of frequently stolen goods such as jewelry, fine silver or televisions and other products with serial numbers.
Santiago carried AB 1182 to establish the types of goods law enforcement wants tracked: serialized goods and any category of stolen goods that represents more than 10 percent of stolen property reported in the California Department of Justice’s annual crime book. That effectively wipes out much of what you’ll find in antique fairs, consignment shops and the like, Rose said.
The bill won unanimous approval in the state Senate and 78 of 80 votes in the state Assembly, but Cameron Park’s Don Rowden and other secondhand dealers were left sitting on the edge of their seats for a verdict from Gov. Jerry Brown. Rowden excitedly reported the news to me at the last antique fair on Oct. 11, also the last date the governor could sign bills from the regular session: “Did you hear? Gov. Brown signed it yesterday.”
Rowden worked in law enforcement for 26 1/2 years, the last 15 of them in narcotics enforcement with the California Department of Justice. His passion is refinishing antique furniture and reselling it, he said, and he’s been doing it for 30-plus years. But this Sunday, you may also find a selection of Little Golden Books, telephone insulators, daguerrotypes, old fire extinguishers and American art pottery at his booth.
The weekend before last month’s antique fair, he said, he had been in American River Canyon for a community yard sale where he had purchased some items from a judge’s house. He said he didn’t like to think of the reception he would have gotten if he had asked for the judge’s fingerprints and driver’s license.
“People don’t come up to me at the Antique Faire in a trench coat, roll up their sleeve and show me 15 Rolex watches and say, ‘Would you like to buy this?’ ” Rowden said.
Imagine a world where all this old stuff ended up in landfills rather than in the hands of people who wanted it, Rose said. That’s why the measure won support from Californians Against Waste.