Effort to curb purchases of stolen goods 

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

Attempting to prevent “an opportunity to dispose of stolen property,” the Putnam County Legislature last week enacted a law requiring antique jewelry dealers and other shops selling used gold or silver to annually pay $250 for a license and fulfill new paperwork obligations.

Along with other stipulations, the law, to take effect Oct. 1, demands that dealers obtain solid identification of a seller before buying a pertinent item.

Unanimously approving the law on July 2, the Legislature found that “the public health, morals, and general welfare of the County of Putnam will be protected and promoted and the best interests of the people would be served by control and regulation of second-hand dealers.”

Thwarting criminals

Ostensibly designed to assist law enforcement, the measure targets certain “second-hand dealers,” defined in part as “any person” or entity “dealing in the purchase or sale of any second-hand manufactured article composed wholly or in part of gold, silver, platinum or other metal,” or engaged in such activities as purchasing precious metals to melt down, or buying or selling pawn-broking tickets. It amends Chapter 195 of the County Code, on “precious metals and gems.”

Members of the Putnam County Legislature discuss pending business July 2. They are, from left, Barbara Scuccimarra, Sam Oliverio, Ginny Nacerino, Carl Albano, Chairman Richard Othmer, Roger Gross, Joseph Castellano, Dini LoBue; Anthony Carlo, attended but is off-camera.
Members of the Putnam County Legislature discuss pending business July 2. They are, from left, Barbara Scuccimarra, Sam Oliverio, Ginny Nacerino, Carl Albano, Chairman Richard Othmer, Roger Gross, Joseph Castellano, Dini LoBue; Anthony Carlo, attended but is off-camera.

In addition to paying the annual licensing fee, the law forces dealers to post an initial $5,000 bond. Likewise, it bans payments in cash, transactions between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., and purchases from drunkards or the mentally unsound, and states that dealers must retain a relevant item for 14 days after acquisition before selling it.

The legislation does not apply to homeowners who conduct yard sales, if “the items offered for sale are owned by the occupant or seller” and if no more than three yard sales occur yearly. It also excludes an auction held by a licensed auctioneer, established coin shows, and events of not-for-profit institutions or charitable organizations that receive used goods for sales.

However, the law offers only partial exemption for antique stores, granting an exemption to “goods sold as bona fide antiques, with the exception of antique jewelry… .” It does not “grand-father-in” or provide a break to existing shops.

Stores covered by the law must apply to the Putnam County Director of Consumer Affairs for their second-hand dealer license. Once the law takes effect, no one in Putnam County can “establish, engage in or carry on, directly or indirectly, the business of dealing in second-hand articles” without that license.

In the “legislative intent” preamble in the law, the legislators referred to “the increase of incidents of property theft, the increase in the price of precious metals and gems and the ease with which some second-hand dealers buy and sell precious metals and gems without requiring identification or proof of ownership” and said dubious dealers give criminals “an opportunity to dispose of stolen property.”

The law states that “for business enterprises to be allowed to continue to operate without laws to control and regulate the purchase of such articles not only jeopardizes the property rights of many people, but also extremely hampers law enforcement agencies in their efforts to recover stolen property and identify suspects.”

Record-keeping rules

The law also specifies various records dealers must keep, including – among other data – details of the amount paid for a used item; its “complete and accurate description”; a photograph, “in the case of precious metals, jewelry, gems or precious stones”; the seller’s identification information, taken only from a valid U.S. passport, New York State driver’s license, or the alternative state-issued identity card; and “a physical description of the person conducting the transaction.”

Cold Spring's Main Street is home to numerous antique outlets. New county legislation affects second-hand stores, including antique shops, that sell gold, gems, and related jewelry items.
Cold Spring’s Main Street is home to numerous antique outlets. New county legislation affects second-hand stores, including antique shops, that sell gold, gems, and related jewelry items.

Moreover, the law appears to make dealers read local newspapers for notices of lost or stolen goods, or follow law enforcement announcements, to ascertain that nothing in their shops was previously stolen. It states: “If any articles composed wholly or in part of precious metals or gems shall be advertised in any newspaper printed or circulated in the county,” or reported by law enforcement officials as lost or stolen, “and if any articles answering such advertised description or any part thereof shall be in or come into the possession of any licensed dealer … such dealer shall immediately give information relating thereto to the appropriate law enforcement agency.”

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, the county Consumer Affairs Department had not responded to a request, submitted Tuesday, for answers to basic questions, including whether county officials had considered its economic impact on small antique shops that sell jewelry and where the impetus behind the law originated – whether with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department or local police agencies, members of the public, or some other source.

David Cooke, of Sarabeck Antiques in Cold Spring, a leader among Philipstown antique dealers, said Tuesday (July 9) that he was unfamiliar with the new legislation but would review it for possible implications for himself and his colleagues. Meanwhile, he remarked that “it’s getting harder and harder to make a living owning a small business. I don’t think any of the legislators are business owners so they probably don’t have a clue how difficult it is. I understand the need to have regulations in place to help thwart theft” from homes, Cooke added. “But I seriously doubt if this will actually work. When a thief needs drug money they’ll keep breaking into homes and will always find a way to ‘fence’ the stuff.”

Photos by L.S. Armstrong

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Armstrong was the founding news editor of The Current (then known as Philipstown.info) in 2010 and later a senior correspondent and contributing editor for the paper. She worked earlier in Washington as a White House correspondent and national affairs reporter and assistant news editor for daily international news services. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Areas of expertise: Politics and government

6 replies on “New County Law Demands $250 Annual Fee from Antique-Jewelry Dealers”

  1. As a Cold Spring business owner, I am outraged at this ridiculous law that is nothing more than another tax on those of us trying to make a living in these perilous economic times. Our so-called “legislator,” Ms. Scuccimarra, voted for this without even obtaining input from those of her constituents who will be the most affected, not that it would have made a difference given the fact that none of her colleagues had the decency to even consider the effect this is going to have on our fine antique shops and dealers. This is a total disgrace and probably unconstitutional to boot. It’s too bad New York doesn’t have provisions for recall of our elected officials.

  2. There may be a valid argument for some reasonable regulation of antique jewelry sales in order to help thwart theft, but it needs to be done without unduly burdening the shop owner. This legislation sounds over the top. It appears the Legislature gave little thought to the needs of small business.

    And once again, the county legislature, including our legislator Barbara Scuccimarra, both failed to get feedback from those who would be directly affected, and also failed to inform the residents of the County what their reasoning was for these particular provisions. This law doesn’t only affect antique jewelry dealers, because if we lose businesses in the County we lose tax dollars and harm the general economy.

    Finally, it is interesting that the same legislators who are so eager to heavily regulate the sale of gold and silver jewelry at the expense of our small businesses are outraged at the idea of even minimal regulation of gun ownership.

    I realize there has been a plague of killings via tossed gold coins lately, but please.

    1. The politicians in the Legislature are motivated by one thing only and that is their insatiable demand for ever more tax dollars. They try to disguise their greed by pretending that the new licensing tax and fees for antique / vintage / second-hand merchandise businesses are supposed to “protect” the citizenry and prevent the sale of stolen jewelry, when nothing could be further from the truth.

      I am curious to know just what the statistics are in this regard that would justify tampering with the livelihood of so many of our small business owners. Not to mention the obvious fact that there are so many other outlets for stolen merchandise including eBay, online marketplaces, pawn shops in Westchester and NYC, that it is doubtful that professional thieves would even consider unloading their ill-gotten loot in Putnam County in the first place.

      Meanwhile, like the sheriff is so fond of saying, this is one of the safest counties in the USA. Not that it has very much to do with him or his department; mostly because of its racial and cultural makeup, Putnam has always had a very low crime rate. So let’s stop pretending that this draconian edict has anything to do with preventing the sale of stolen jewelry when it’s nothing more than another excuse for Scuccimarra and her buddies to get their hands in our pockets yet again. What a disgrace.

  3. Quite bizarre…a public hearing on the law will be held on July 24 at 3:30 p.m. and again at 6:30 p.m. before the County Exec in room 300 of the County Office Building on Gleneida Ave in Carmel. Perhaps sufficient hue and cry has been raised to make the County Exec think twice before she signs this poorly-conceived enactment into law.

    Those opposing this law should appear in force to voice their position, and/or alternatively write to the County Exec expressing your concern.

    In my opinion, it is possible that the existing law, Chapter 195 of the County Code, may require some tweaking and updating (for example, the existing law pertains only to retailers; a wholesale dealer could skate through). However, the new licensing and bonding requirements seem onerous to the small businessperson.

    It seems to me if this law is signed it will have disproportionate negative impact on Cold Spring, where most of the County’s antique and jewelry trade resides.

  4. From what I’ve gathered, very few of the antique dealers are aware of the law and the ones that I spoke to about it seemed to feel they couldn’t do anything about it anyway. In other words, who has the money to hire a lawyer to fight it? This is something that affects everyone in Cold Spring as it will ultimately put a big hurt on an important segment of Village businesses.

    I urge anyone who wants to express their views on the legislation to contact Mrs. Scuccimarra and the other law makers at the following addresses:

    County Exec Maryellen O’Dell
    [email protected]
    Phone: 845-808-1001

    Putnam County Legislature
    [email protected]
    Phone: 845-808-1020

  5. Among the several questions raised by Ch. 195, as amended, is how it would apply to the “consignment” seller (consignee) who rents booths to merchants bringing in their wares oftentimes from outside the County. The consignee sells the goods on behalf of the consignors and pays them a percentage of proceeds. Does the consignee have to keep records related to the consignments? Or does the initial burden fall to consignors who, in that case, might decide it is just not worthwhile to do business in Cold Spring? Is this what the County wants?

    I talked with one person who runs a shop selling items his parents have collected over the years. Most of these items while nice, are only old (i.e., used), not antiques. He has about one little tray of jewelry. Does the $250 tax apply to him? Or is there a threshold based on percentage of merchandise represented by jewelry (based on what valuation), percentage of revenue attributable to jewelry or some specified dollar amount represented by asking price. I can think of four consignment merchants and at least two other “regular” merchants some of whose merchandise may consist of “old” jewelry. And what about the exception for occasional yard sales: How does this apply to Pop’s Barn Sale, which is conducted weekly?

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