Category Archives: Side Business

Ivory Ban, update

News of a proposed ban came down in February. I made a post at that time:

More than any other trade, I foresaw this as wiping out the ivory pistol grip business… good, bad, or indifferent. But really either indifferent or bad. Everyone who cuts ivory grips these days cuts from tusk inventories imported prior to 1989. Which is to say, an ivory ban would wipeout a small commercial niche here in the US that is providing some livelihoods and not hurting live elephants.

But, it’s the kind of gesture that you figure an environmental lawyer or apparatchik in the Obama administration would glom on to, and I expected it to see it implemented with some vigor.

This has not happened. There was the original announcement of a rule change, followed by almost nothing. I have a keen eye on the vintage accessories market for Colt single actions and indeed my own side business is tangential to that. Ivory grips are being traded and sold as they were.

The new ban would have been an exercise in the promulgation of administrative law, and figure by now it’s doubtful anyone thinks Fish and Wildlife has the power on their own to expand the scope of the relevant 1989 CITES statute. Probably including Fish and Wildlife. Because for the ban to stick, you have to make an enforcement action at some point. And for an enforcement action, you have to jail someone for selling pre-1989 ivory. And to be able to jail someone, it needs to be a codified statute with a codified penalty for infraction.

Lacking for that, the whole thing goes down the tubes the minute the first prosecuted violator challenges in court. So they are never going to enforce and lose. They are going to take credit for having ‘done something’ and that’s that. But it will be ambiguous until some point when a future administration acknowledges it never had the weight of law.

This never became much of a ‘talker’, but even if it did I had no feeling people would understand this is a proxy for the gun issue.

The guitarists with their ivory nutted Gbsons, Martins, and Fenders got a carve out first.

The NRA has weighed in now to speak for the collectors.

With the NRA in, figure the administration might be game for a culture war skirmish. But I still don’t think anyone ever gets prosecuted for this. Bottom line, it was dumb and not worth doing.


It’s agate country. Please brake for nerds

Rare Saturday post re the Bachmann / Dayton Bridge.

You go up there north of Bayport – I say up because its north of me – and it looks like a moonscape right now. I’m not terribly worldly, but it’s the most enormous thing I’ve ever seen built. It requires probably thousands of acres of ground preparation.  So they have moved a lot of earth around and stirred up some agates, and caused some excitement among rockhounds.

Not that it shouldn’t, but going back to my youth, I remember how many big Lake Superior agates we used to kick up just walking the tilled cornfields between my old neighborhood and the previously mentioned Lake Elmo airport. Guess I’m not surprised about the presence of agates in the valley.

Other thing is … my writer’s voice may come off all angry here too much. I’m actually just nerdier than all get out. I’m a baseball nerd and a gear nerd basically. But I have a great affection for nerds of all types. I have many friends who are Star Wars nerds or game nerds.

I wasn’t aware the rockhound nerd community had such vigor. Woulda thought it was a bit narrow as a niche.

It’s probably making a resurgence with Shawshank Redemption being such a big hit.  Someone’s probably doing a nice business in those little hammers.

Collector / Dealer guy

A fella who happened to have one of these things I know so much about found my afficionado’s websight yesterday.  Because if you google that topic, you find me.

He called me in the morning, from rural Grand Island, NE.  I had a buyer for him in Grand Island by the afternoon.  The seller, who was down on his luck and could use a couple of dollars, was astonished.  The buyer had a new toy, and he was thrilled.  They both gave me attaboys.  I didn’t get a taste of the action.

MN Dept of Revenue: OK, you can decide if you are an artist

I write about this before, here:

I’m still mystified by the nature of the dispute, ie, how it is there is ambiguity whether you are a pro or not.

Seems to me if you file a schedule C, you’re a pro.  If you don’t, you’re not, and you can’t deduct expenses.  If someone 1099s you, you’re a pro and you ought to file a Schedule C.  If you’re not showing a profit and don’t file a schedule C, then no, you can’t deduct an expense.

Thompson Collecting

Aficionados won’t be surprised at the ease Steele County had in selling this.  Thompson collecting is a pretty passionate sub-culture.  You do need a class III license, because these are full-auto.  You also need to be wealthy enough to play the game.  Seems to me the going rate is actually what was experienced here, about $40,000.

I read this book as maybe a 12, 13 year old:

With the benefit of hindsight I am reminded now how conceptually off the wall this book is.  Girl gets Tommy gun.  Hilarity ensues.

It’s a bit out of fashion now, ya figure.

The artisan and the Schedule C

Odd piece (to me) on the Strib opinion page

I wear multiple hats, systems engineer by day, oddball gunsmith by night.  The gunsmithing practice has a heavy focus on the aesthetic.  It’s artsy, if anything.  And I take my payments either through a card processor or Paypal, which is typical of people in the grassroots arts and craft world.  You know, people who turn bowls and make doilies and sell them on Etsy.

Anyway, if you exceed $10,000 in payments, you get a 1099-K from your payment people.  For some reason or another Paypal didn’t do this for the longest time, but were brought into compliance I believe by PPACA’s tax regime when it was implemented at the end of 2010.

Broadly among Paypal users it caused quite a bit of consternation, with the exact opposite observation of the editorialist here:  many people who use Paypal are Ebayers, and they do consider their junk picking and flipping a ‘hobby’.

It’s not exactly that the Ebay antique flippers just didn’t want to pay the taxes on that activity.  It’s that as hobbyists, they didn’t think it was a serious enough endeavor that they should have to maintain detailed cost basis’, which is what you need to properly claim an expense on a Schedule C.  And I don’t blame them, but with modernity we do have Quicken and Excel.  If you hadn’t been getting 1099’d  before, you learned how to do a Schedule C now that you were.

I found it easy enough, and I’m reasonably dense.  You have income, you have expenses or cost basis.  You put them on the schedule C and subtract.  There’s your profit, and that goes into your gross income on your 1040.  Your status as a hobbyist or pro is immaterial.  It’s certainly it’s not a question on the form.

So with the opinion piece here, I know what the mechanical dynamics are.  And the big thing is, I’m real sympathetic to tax headaches encountered by the artisan or Ebay flipping schedule C filer.  But I’m not sure what the artists are running afoul of such that they get audited, and such that they’re expense deductions are rejected because they are ‘hobbyists’.  Only thing I can think of is they claim an expense that exceeds their schedule C income.

If you’re not showing a profit, yes, you’re a hobbyist and you can’t make an expense offset.