Estate Sale Liquidator Guide to Consumer Product Safety

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As an estate liquidator, making sound decisions relating to the products being sold at an estate sale is not only important, but it’s the law.

As a re-seller of products, understanding the U.S. Consumer product safety regulations is essential for your estate sale business.

Understanding the law, will help you avoid selling products that may be harmful to the consumer and their families.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission or CPSC has a detailed guide, but we’ve researched and extracted specific information relating to items often seen at your estate sales.

Consumer Product Safety and Liability

It’s common to see estate sale company policies that include rules such as items “being sold as is”, however examining the inventory during the estate sale staging process to make sure they’re safe and compliant with federal laws is a must.

The CPSC laws are clear and not forgiving.  They don’t consider ignorance of the laws as an excuse.  If you are in the business of reselling items, it’s your duty as a business owner to know the law, rules and regulations that apply specifically to your business and the items sold to consumers.

Estate Sales Products to Avoid

Recalled Items

It is illegal to sell any consumer products that have been recalled by the manufacturer.  In the estate sale staging process, to check each item is virtually impossible, however, here are a few items to pay close attention to and determine whether they’ve been recalled or not.

Children’s Items

Lead in items used by children is a safety concern.  You’re obviously not expected to test products for metal content, but children’s items such as metal jewelry, items with painted surfaces that are intended to be used by children under 12 years old should be taken into consideration.

Most Cribs manufactured prior to June 2011 may not be resold.

Any unstable infant or children furniture or missing parts, should not be included in an estate sale.

  • Baby bath seats due to drowning hazards
  • Bean bags due to choking hazards
  • Cribs and bunk bends if missing parts or not properly assembled
  • Car Seats that may have been recalled
  • Many used hair dryers do not have immersion protection devices
  • Halogen Floor lamps due to fire hazards

The liability involved is not worth the risk, and it’s against the law to sell recalled items.

It is illegal to sell recalled products!

The CPC’s laws and regulations are very clear, they apply to anyone that sells or distributes consumer products.

Whether you own a consignment shop, a thrift store, hold an estate sale or even sell items online, you are required to follow these strict guidelines or you can be held liable.

As a business owner, you want to minimize the liability involved in your estate sale business, but you also don’t want to cause harm to anyone, especially children.

If you are staging an estate sale, any products deemed hazardous or do not comply with the consumer product safety standards, should be destroyed and not included in the sale.

Estate Sale Product Recall Checklist

This is just a quick list, there are thousands of products to look at but here are a few common items you’ll run into at estate sales.  When in doubt, research, ask, and avoid selling.

PRODUCT WHAT TO DO?
Children’s non-precious metal jewelry DO NOT SELL
Children’s gold, sterling, or surgical steel jewelry OK TO SELL
Children’s books with metal bindings

Vintage Children’s Books considered collectibles

OK TO SELL, check for recalls
Educational Kits for chemistry, microscopes, etc OK TO SELL, check for recalls
Art Kits and Paints OK TO SELL, check for recalls
Metal Furniture with painted surfaces OK TO SELL, check for recalls
Strollers, Bikes, Car Seats OK TO SELL, check for recalls
Children’s Beds, Bunk Beds, Cribs, Toy Chests OK TO SELL, check for safety concerns, missing parts, or stability in the item, otherwise toss
Halogen Lamps OK TO SELL if they have a wire shield covering the bulb on top.  Check for recalls

Estate Sale Product Safety Resources

The consumer product safety commission urges all sellers of used items to take the extra steps necessary to ensure they’re only selling safe products.  When in doubt, always toss it.

Reference Sites

Although there are many reference sites to use, when in doubt, we recommend contacting the Consumer Product Safety Commission directly.

They are here to help, their goal is not to put you out of business, but rather assist you in avoiding violations, and liabilities.

Email : business@cpsc.gov or by phone at 800-638-2772

Staying up to date on the latest product recalls, subscribe for updates at https://www.cpsc.gov/Newsroom/Subscribe

If you’re staging an estate sale and want to quickly check a reference site by category of recalled items, you can run a search by visiting https://www.saferproducts.gov/Search/default.aspx

To Sell or Not?

As an estate sale professional, going above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to selling items is sometimes a daily struggle.

There is a fine line between an item that can sell and an item that shouldn’t be sold.  Most items can be sold, but the question to ask yourself is “should it be sold?”.

If you’re just starting an estate sale company, besides consumer product safety.  Possible company liability should always be at the top of your list.

Although the majority of items found at estate sales can be sold, with certain items, the risks involved are simply not worth taking the chance.

High Risk Estate Sale Items

Under Garments

You wouldn’t think that someone would be keen to buying used underwear’s and bras, but many people do.

We decided to reach out to our estate sale professional private group and Facebook to get their answer on whether or not they do sell used under garments?

Whitney Smith owner of True 2 You Estate Sales LLC serving Norman Oklahoma said “We choose to donate all underwear, extremely risqué Lingerie, worn socks and pantyhose, etc.. for a few reasons.”

She continued “When and if the client asks us during our estate sale interview about clothing, we let them know that we will sort through the clothing and select items that sell well.  We will sort and donate under garments.  Other than sanitary purposes, we feel that this can have a negative look to shoppers, neighbors, friends, and at times extended family members that shop the estate sale”

Although the answers varied, the majority of professional estate sale companies will sell new and packaged under garments, vintage designer ones for collectible purposes, however almost all will toss or donate as instructed by the client due to sanitary reasons.

Liquor Bottles

Almost every home you enter will have liquor bottles.  If it’s empty, and it’s a collectible bottle, go for it.  If it’s full, don’t try to convince yourself that it’s a vintage, collectible, rare to find bottle of wine that’s worth selling.  It’s not worth the risk or the extra buck!

Every state in the country requires a liquor license when handling or selling alcohol.  The fine is hefty, and the tainted reputation after that is simply not worth it.

Baby Furniture and Accessories

Besides product recalls due to actual use.  Certain antique furnishings, chairs, cribs, etc… are used by doll collectors.

When it comes to items relating to child safety, it’s best to not include the items in the sale.  If it’s a collectible, be sure to clearly advertise it as such.

From toys, to high chairs, cribs, and car seats, whether they are on the recall list or not, the safety specifications and requirements change on a yearly basis.

Items are updated to meet the new safety standards.  It’s best not to include these items in the sale or clearly place a label above “Sold for collectible purposes, cannot be used”.

If you’re adamant about selling these items, make sure you spend the time to research its date of manufacturing and safety standards before you include it in the sale.

Estate Sale Vehicles

From boats, to motorcycles, cars and RV’s, vehicles can be often found for sale when you get an estate sale lead.

If you transfer the title to you and sell the vehicles, that could be a huge problem because every state has a requirement on the number of cars you can sell in a year before you’re required to hold a car dealer license.

As an estate sale professional, you’re only facilitating the sale, and you’re not the original owner, you can sell as many vehicles as you want.

Always make sure you have the seller’s information, a signed consent from the seller, and a clean title in hand at the sale.  If you don’t have this information, any liabilities will end up in your lap and that’s what you want to avoid all together.

Estate Ivory Finds

Don’t sell it!  It’s simply not worth the risk involved.  Although there are limited requirements that must be met in order to sell Ivory items, they’re virtually impossible to meet, and the liability, fines, and legal ramifications are simply not worth the sale.

Learn more from our in-depth article about selling Ivory at estate sales.

Food and Spices

It’s not illegal to sell food and spices, as long as it’s not expired, but many estate sale companies would rather not include them in the estate sale to avoid any unforeseen consumer issues or liabilities.

Estate sale professionals will either sell it, toss, or like many prefer, donate the food found at estate sales to local homeless organizations and food banks.

Firearms and Accessories

When firearms are found at an estate sale, you can sell them as long as you do it properly.  The type of firearm and the state you are in will dictate whether or not it can be sold and how.

When dealing with firearms, there is a whole list of rules to follow, your best bet is to make contact with a local gun dealer that will facilitate the transfer of any firearms, or related items.

Ask them to serve as your guide when you have firearms, ammunition or accessories for sale.  Their experience, and professional advice is priceless.

Just like firearms, certain accessories such as high-capacity magazines are illegal to have on the premises, none the less sell.

Currently, 10 U.S. states and a number of local governments, either ban or regulate high capacity magazines. HandgunLaw.us is a resource for additional information.

It’s best to do your research and follow strict federal and local law when handling firearms, ammunition or firearm accessories at estate sales.

Other Weapons

There are many antique weapon collectors, from swords to knives and everything in between.

You’re generally free to sell these items, but certain weapons such as brass knuckles or police batons are a big no-no.

If you come across a weapon you’re not sure about, contact your local police department for guidance.

Medication

Since most homes have a slew of medications on hand.  You’ll likely run into bottles of opened and unopened medication, both over the counter and prescription ones, syringes, and other medical related items.

Medicine should never be included in the estate sale.  Safety and liability are a big concern here, so never chance it!

Properly disposing the medication and sharps is extremely important due to public safety.

The FDA provides clear recommendations on properly disposing medicine.  Accidental exposure to these items can be harmful and sometimes deadly.

  • Mix the medication without crushing the capsules or pills with dirt, kitty litter or coffee grounds in a container or zip-lock bag and throw it in the trash.
  • Select medications can also be disposed by flushing down the sink or drain. View a list of medicines that can be flushed.
  • Take back programs. Check with your local pharmacies and establish a connection of disposing by delivering to those pharmacies and locations that will accept medicines for disposal.

Syringes often referred to as “sharps” should never be thrown loosely into the trash or flushed down the toilet.  There are strict procedures on the disposal of sharps due to public safety.

Search for disposal sites by State on this site and will provide you with instructions and drop-off locations.

Did we miss anything else you’d like to add?  We’d love to hear from you, leave us a comment below and we’ll be glad to make necessary edits.

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