Prohibited Items That Can't Be Sold on eBay - dummies

Prohibited Items That Can’t Be Sold on eBay

By Marsha Collier

Even though possessing (and selling) many of the items in the following list is legal in the United States and elsewhere, you are absolutely, positively prohibited from buying and selling the following on eBay:

  • Firearms of all types: This also means firearm accessories — including antique, collectible, sport, or hunting guns; air guns; BB guns; silencers; converters; kits for creating guns; gunpowder; high-capacity ammunition magazines (receptacles designed to feed ten rounds or more into a gun, not the publications about ammo); and armor-piercing bullets. You can’t even sell a gun that doesn’t work.

    You can buy and sell single bullets, shells, and even antique bombs and musket balls — as long as they have nothing explosive in them.

  • Firearms and military weapons: No way can you sell any type of firearm that is designed to propel a metal (or similar) projectile, regardless of whether it works. (Paintball, archery, or spud pistols are another story.) Military weapons? Items included in that category are bazookas, grenades, and mortars.

  • Police and other law-enforcement badges and IDs: Stop in the name of the law if you’re thinking about buying or selling any of these items, including actual United States federal badges or reproduction badges. In fact, selling just about any U.S. government badge (even the Forest Service) can get you in hot water.

    You also can’t own or sell those agencies’ identification cards or credential cases or those really cool jackets they use in raids. Selling a copy or reproduction of any of these items is prohibited, too, because these items are copyrighted.

    If you find a badge that’s legal to sell and own, you need to provide a letter of authorization from the agency. The same letter of authorization is required for fake badges, such as reproductions or movie props.

  • Replicas of official government identification documents or licenses: Birth certificates, drivers’ licenses, and passports fall into this category.

  • Current vehicle license plates or plates that claim to resemble current ones: Note that expired license plates (at least three years old) are considered collectible — as long as they are no longer valid for use on a vehicle and you mention the plate’s age in the listing.

  • Lockpicking devices: These items can be sold only to authorized recipients. Federal law prohibits the mailing of such devices.

  • Human parts and remains: If you get the urge to sell a kidney to pay your bills, eBay is not the place to sell it. You can’t sell your sperm, eggs, blood, or anything else you manage to extricate from your body. What’s more, you can’t even give away any of these items as a free bonus with one of your auctions.

  • Drugs or drug paraphernalia: Narcotics, steroids, or other controlled substances may not be listed, as well as gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB). Drug paraphernalia includes a swath of items that are primarily intended or designed for using a controlled substance, including vaporizers, bongs, and water pipes.

  • Anything that requires a prescription from a doctor, a dentist, or an optometrist to dispense: Listen, just because it’s legal to use doesn’t mean that it doesn’t require special permission to get.

    For example, even though penicillin is legal to buy in the United States, only a doctor can prescribe it — which is why, when you get sick, you have to stand in that loooong line at the pharmacy sneezing on all the other sick people. And if you’re looking for Viagra auctions on eBay, don’t even go there.

  • Stocks, bonds, or negotiable securities: Nope, you can’t sell stock in your new pie-baking company or an investment in property you may own. And if you’re thinking of offering credit to someone, you can’t do that either. (Note that collectible items are permitted.)

  • Bulk e-mail lists: No bulk e-mail or mailing lists that contain personal identifying information. You may not even sell tools or software designed to send unsolicited commercial e-mail or promote social “likes” or “followers.”

  • Pets and wildlife, including animal parts from endangered species: If you’ve had it with Buster, your pet ferret, don’t look to eBay for help in finding him a new home. And you can’t sell your stuffed spotted owls or rhino-horn love potions, either. If you’re in the animal business — any animal business — eBay is not the place for you.

  • Child pornography: Note that this material is strictly prohibited on eBay, but you can sell other forms of erotica.

  • Forged items: Autographs from celebrities and sports figures are big business — and a big opportunity for forgers. Selling a forgery is a criminal act. The state of New York is taking the lead on this issue, investigating at least two dozen suspected forgery cases linked with online auctions.

    If you’re in the market for an autograph, don’t even consider bidding on one unless it comes with a Certificate of Authenticity (COA). eBay requires that sellers give buyers the right to a full refund if any doubt about authenticity crops ups. The figure shows an item that comes with a COA from an auction on eBay.


  • Items that infringe on someone else’s copyright or trademark

  • Stolen items: (Seems obvious, but you’d be surprised.) If what you’re thinking about selling came to you by way of a five-finger discount or fell off a truck, don’t sell it on eBay.

Ignorance is no excuse. If you list an item that’s in any way prohibited on eBay, eBay will end your auction. If you have any questions, always check eBay’s Trust & Safety department.