They say you can buy or sell anything on eBay, but if you wade through the site’s terms and conditions, the definition of “anything” becomes a bit narrower. Some forbidden items seem pretty obvious: many states in the U.S. regulate the sale of firearms, booze and tobacco to some degree or another, and bootlegged movies and knockoff handbags are as frowned upon on the site as they are on the street. But what about escargot? Stalactites? A massage? We spent some time digging through eBay’s rules. Here are some of the more obscure items that can only be auctioned under certain conditions, or can’t be found at all.
• Catalogs listing items that you’re offering for sale are a no-no. Catalogs that are collectible memorabilia and don’t offer current merchandise for sale, like old Montgomery Ward catalogs, are fine.
• Intangible items are a no go, so if you want to sell your soul for a quick buck (or the ability to play the blues), you’ll need to go down to the crossroads at midnight.
• Humans and human body parts can’t be listed, with two exceptions: 1) items that contain human scalp hair (like wigs) and 2) clean, articulated, non-Native American skulls and skeletons intended for medical education. Any other bones, plus organs and blood, are forbidden.
• With animals and products derived from them, things get a little complicated because of U.S. and foreign government regulations.
- If you have any necessary permits and can guarantee safe over shipping, you can list…Crickets, worms and some other insects, as long as they’re to be used for bait or food for pets; hatching eggs from animals that aren’t endangered species, migratory birds, snakes, or turtles if they’re being shipped within the U.S.; shellfish to be eaten; snails or slugs that are known as domestic aquatic snails or one of eBay’s five allowed edible types.
- Endangered species, migratory birds, noxious insects, pets and sharks are forbidden.
- Pelts, furs and any body parts from an endangered species or from cats and dogs are not allowed. Non-endangered animal pelts and skins are OK if you state the species in your listing and follow applicable state laws.
- Stuffed or mounted waterfowl or gamebirds can be listed only if the birds were bred in captivity.
- Any and all products made from bears or mountains lions are not allowed.
• Certain fossils and historical artifacts and relics can be listed, but with a few restrictions. They can’t come from federal or state public land or Native American land and have to match the time-period category they’re listed in. If the item is reworked, modernized or is a reproduction, this has to be fully described in the listing.
• Legislation on the sale of event tickets varies from state to state and eBay users have to abide by their home state’s laws. In Missouri, for example, you can’t resell tickets to sporting events for more than face value. On concert tickets, though, you can make a nice little profit.
• Cave formations can’t be taken from caves on federal land, and other listings must adhere to The Federal Cave Protection Act.
• Items in the style of Native American art or crafts, but not made by Native Americans, must be categorized as such and cannot be described in a way that may suggest the item was made by a Native American.
• Grave-related and funerary items like burial plots, caskets and gravestones can be listed as long as they haven’t been used.
• You can list cell phone service contracts by themselves or bundled with a phone as long as you’re an authorized reseller of cell phone services, offer a full refund within 10 days of payment to a buyer who is rejected for a service contract, state in your listing what parts of the country are serviced by the plan, and follow a few other guidelines.
• Most used clothing, except undergarments, is OK, as long as the listing states that the item is used.
• Inactive or expired credit or debit cards can be listed as long as 1) the expiration date on the face of the card is at least 10 years old, 2) the listing blocks or blurs the name and part of the number on the card in a picture and includes the expiration date in the description, and 3) the issuing card company allows the sale of expired cards.
• Government documents like antique (100+ years old) birth certificates/marriage licenses and expired U.S. passports issued 20+ years prior to the date of the sale can be listed. Current vehicle license plates, driver’s licenses, passports, fake IDs, government-issued medals and VIN plates cannot.
• Expired coupons can’t be listed because they could be used to commit fraud.
• “Murderabilia” related to serial killers over 100 years old (like Jack the ripper) and outlaws of the Old West are allowed. The personal belongings or letters or artwork created by convicted violent felons, items related to the Zodiac Killer or Black Dahlia murder case, and items from notorious crime scenes are not permitted.
• Fitness training, dance and music lessons, video editing and many other services can be listed in eBay’s Specialty Services categories, but not if the listing in any way offers or suggests sexual contact.
• You cannot list offers for personal relationships, online or off, or Facebook friendship.
This list is by no means exhaustive. If you’ve ever tried to buy or sell something and got shot down, or know of some more interesting items that are prohibited or restricted, speak up!
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