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Purchase Story

Only Ten

Clayton Pennington | April 26th, 2017


The City Council of Belleville, Illinois, thinks that antiques stores are a detriment to its municipality. Ditto for art galleries.

In late March, the city council overwhelmingly voted to limit to ten the number of business licenses for selling secondhand goods within the city limits. Secondhand goods include used clothing, electronics, kitchen equipment, and more but also antiques, artwork, and collectibles. (A strict reading of the city code would suggest that art would not be classified as “secondhand” if it’s newly created and not on the secondary market.)

There are currently 48 businesses in Belleville using the secondhand dealer business classification. They will be grandfathered, allowed to renew licenses, and not put out of business. No new licenses will be issued until the number whittles to fewer than ten.

Is it possible that Belleville—a city of over 42,000—could have no antiques shops or art galleries? Yes, if in time the ten licenses are used up by thrift stores and used appliance stores.

What brought about this stunning development? According to local press reports, complaints of some secondhand stores storing objects outside overnight spurred the action.

The city council bears blame for its inability to separate antiques shops and art galleries from other secondhand goods stores. It can be a tricky distinction, but other towns and cities have accomplished it.

The root of the problem is common: many politicians have no idea of the scope and myriad benefits of the antiques and art industry. Their ignorance leads them to pass ridiculous and poorly planned laws and ordinances.

With no national lobbying organization, it’s up to individual dealers to educate their local officials. When politicians’ lack of understanding the antiques market threatened California dealers, auctioneer and show promoter Allen Michaan took the bull by the horns and invited local pols to his show, the Alameda Point Antiques Faire. He showed them around and introduced them to antiques. “Many had no idea that such a community existed,” said Michaan. “It made a big difference—they could see how popular collecting is.”

It’s up to dealers in Belleville to help their representatives see the light.


Originally published in the May 2017 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2017 Maine Antique Digest

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