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Utah's used-book, antique shops fear crackdown

Published January 13, 2011 10:03 pm

Database • Lawmakers could require fingerprintsfrom all sellers.
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A venerable rare-book seller and a representative of Utah antique shops fear state lawmakers are poised to amend a law that would effectively treat all used-goods vendors the same as pawnshops.

That would mean patrons interested in selling everything from a first-edition Walden to an antique chair would have to be fingerprinted and cataloged in a state database. The ramped-up regulation, vendors say, could push the industry underground or out of state — and put stores such as Ken Sanders Rare Books out of business.

No bill exists as yet, and former state Sen. Jon Greiner, a past chief sponsor of pawnshop legislation, insists nothing is in the works. But since 2006, lawmakers have chipped away at which secondhand vendors (including some consignment shops) are exempt from registering items on the database. And tweaks to the state's pawnshop and secondhand-merchandise law often have come in the waning days of the sessions.



"I am deathly afraid the exemption will expire in this session," says Ken Sanders, who has bought and sold rare books in Salt Lake City for 35 years. "It will either force me out of business or to become a lawbreaker."

Sanders says the November murder of Sherry Black, a South Salt Lake book dealer who unknowingly bought $20,000 worth of stolen LDS books from a gang member, may play as motivation to widen the law. Black was the mother-in-law of Utah Jazz owner Greg Miller.

Greiner, who is Ogden's police chief, notes such crimes can provide fodder for lawmakers to take policy action. But he is not aware of any legislator pushing to broaden the pawnshop law.

New House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, has attempted to expand the law's reach as recently as 2007. Her spokesman says she does not plan to run any bills this session.

"I never know what to expect from the Legislature — we just keep our ears to the ground," says Catherine Weller, of Sam Weller's Bookstore. She notes the Salt Lake City Main Street staple always has been diligent about identifying sellers and gathering information for police in their buys.

Still, if the law changed, she warns, "it would be very detrimental to our operations."

The pawnshop lobby has long felt picked on, arguing most stolen secondhand merchandise gets sold on the Internet, including eBay. The industry has urged — with some effectiveness — that all used vendors in Utah be treated equally.

Jodi Hart, a consultant with Utah Collateral Lending Association, which represents pawnshops, says some lawmakers feel strongly that there should be parity. "However, I am not aware of any attempt to do that this year."

Dennis Barker, who publishes the antique-shop trade paper New Century Collector and calls the database "troubling," says he has heard otherwise. He expects a future secondhand-merchandise bill to place "everyone in or everyone out. We think that's their endgame. But the Legislature is not going to let the pawnshops go unregulated."

Sanders says he is raising the issue with some trepidation.

"I don't really have any illusions that I can take on Speaker Lockhart and the entire Legislature and win," he says. "They will crush me like a bug. So I did not do this lightly."

At the same time, "I can't sell enough $3 used paperbacks to pay the inventory of this store." For Sanders, it's a matter of saving his employees' jobs, his livelihood, indeed, an industry.

"Why in God's name am I being treated like a pawnshop or money lender?" he wonders. "That's not my business."

djensen@sltrib.com

 

 

 

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