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January 14, 2011



I haven't encountered this problem yet. I agree that destroying the necklace would be a sin because the elephant deserves respect.

I'm very open-minded and don't have a problem with the torture/bomb books you've described, but listing them online is dangerous because if someone's searching for them deliberately, they might want to use them in the worst way. I wouldn't want to cause that to happen to anyone.

Personally I wouldn't want to re-sell anything that caused harm or death to someone no matter the cost. I can see drawing a clear line there.

Robin LaCorte

I have the same issue with furs. I appreciate the artisty and beauty of the cut and quality of each piece. Would I ever purchase a fur in current day? Not a snowball's chance in h*ll, but a vintage fur is from a different era and time with different values and ethics with regard to the treatment of animals...a time that I didn't exist in! To discredit or dishonor furs from the 40's or 50's would also discredit the animals that perished as a result. I have resold fur, but I am very careful to never give support to organizations or companies that currently produce furs. When we know better, we do better. Might be semantics, but that is how I feel. The same is true of guns and anything related to them. While I can appreciate a vintage gun, I would never sell or purchase one regardless of the income potential. I have a visceral reaction to them and it is just too far gone for me.


I'm still dipping my toes in ReSelling, so I haven't encountered anything like this yet. But I equate the ivory necklace to a fur coat. Would I wear ivory or fur thrifted/inherited from a loved one? Yes. Would I buy a brand new fur or ivory jewelry? No way.

Shevawn Weber

I manage a thrift shop and we sell certain items on eBay. When we listed an old set of three special billiard balls, eBay sent us a notice they had ended the auction because one of the balls contained greater than 5% ivory. Who knew? We confront a similar situation when knock-off handbags are donated. Since the law states it is against the law to possess a knock-off product, we throw them into the trash. As resellers we are faced with ethical decisions every day. In Cook County, Illinois, it is against the law to resell a baby crib or car seat for a child. There is no way to know if a child's car seat was involved in a car accident, thereby nullifying the manufacturer's warranty (and possibly transferring liability to the seller should the used child car seat fail in the future).

A La Modern

Great post - I'd never really thought too much about thrifting in terms of what might be ethical to sell. We haven't really come across any major dilemmas, but would probably steer clear of most things if we knew about it.

Maybe the closest thing I think about sometimes is the thrifted ashtrays and other smoking implements that we sometimes purchase. I know smoking is not illegal and others have a right to do what they want (not going to get into that whole side here!), but sometimes feel bad about offering them for sale. For us (and believe many of the ppl purchasing), we think of them purely as decorative objects. Sort of like what Robin said above - from a different time and era, where everyone smoked (parents and all my older relatives did,though nearly all quit).

Still,have been limiting greatly the number of ashtrays we pick up =)

Shara @ monkeybox

I purchased a vast amount of airline uniforms - from Captain to Stewardess - at my local thrift store. I paid about $35.00 for about 50 uniforms. I was very excited about selling them to collectors, etc. I just pappened to buy them on September 9, 2001. Two short days later the terrorists hit the World Trade Cneter. I made the decision to NOT sell the uniforms after there were reports of terrorists in airline uniforms. I donated them to the local University Theater where they removed all the patches and insignias.

~ Junkyard Jennifer

The necklace is beautiful. I agree with other comments in that I would resell vintage fur or ivory but I'd never buy or sell a new item of the same thing.

In all my years of thrifting, I haven't come across any ethical barriers yet but this will probably be the year now that I've read your post! It always seems like that happens. You never think of something but as soon as the subject comes up, it happens. This was an interesting article and it gives a lot of food for thought.

~ Jennifer


This is such a great post. Money means nothing when the manner in which you earn it is unethical, or simply gives you a bad feeling.

Lou Paun

I really appreciate your ethical concerns! You make the world a better place.

Personally, I have no problems with old ivory. My in-laws gave me a pair of antique carved ivory bracelets, and I wear them with pleasure. The animals weren't endangered then, and wearing them honors both the animal and the artisan. New ivory is a different story -- I wouldn't touch it!

I'd have destroyed those books, too. Normally I revere books, but the few that are devoted to causing harm could end up doing so much damage.


what a brilliant post and stimulating discussion (this is why i LOVE this blog)- your followers offer such great feedback too.
i am a thrifter but not a re-seller (yet) but i think this post even makes me thinkg about how i might reconsider what i buy in the first place. personally, i'm glad you ended up with the two books you did and that you disposed of them; someone else may not have done so. i also think your attitude about honouring the necklace is brilliant. it's beautiful; keep it as a reminder of the beautiful animal it came from.


What a great conversation to have started, Selena! I am a thrifter, though not a reseller, and I actually have encountered several items that have had me considering the ethics involved in purchasing them. The first is when I saw a leg trap at yard sale. In that case, I knowingly purchased it so that I could destroy and dispose of it - I didn't want someone else to buy it and use it to trap an animal. I don't oppose hunting so long as it is done humanely and for practical purposes like eating (versus killing an animal to make a fur coat or ivory jewelry), but I hated the thought of someone else buying the trap and - in my mind - torturing an animal by using it.

The other situation I ran across is when I found a KKK record tucked into a stack of classical LPs I purchased in bulk from the estate of an antique dealer (I didn't know it was in there when I bought the records, this was an after-the-fact discovery). To this day I have no idea what was on it because my husband and I agreed that it should be broken up and thrown away immediately...just the thought that it existed intact was disturbing.

I applaud your decision to destroy the books and I appreciate your thoughtfulness about the necklace. I inherited an alligator purse and I don't know what I'll do with it for all of the same reasons that you outlined in your post. Given the fact that the ivory necklace is vintage, I personally would feel comfortable selling it on Etsy (though I would be sure to share the provenance to make it clear that I don't support the production of new ivory wares). I might even consider donating at least part of the proceeds to a charity that supports elephants (such as this sanctuary in TN -

I do think that there are situations where something horrible can be remade into something of worth and do good in the world, like this necklace here (Check out this video if you get a chance, this young woman is amazing! As thrifters we are in a somewhat unique position to re-imagine life for items that are ethically suspect.

I've never come across a thrifting discussion like this - thank you!


I may be able to put your mind more at ease in the case of this particular necklace. My husband brought me an identical necklace from a business trip in Alaska. It came with a card that explained the ivory was legally used by indigenous Alaska tribes (not elephant). Am I correct that the discs range in from about 5/8" to 1/4"? This of course doesn't help with your broader concerns in reselling.

Stephanie Ganger

I found this an interesting post. I am not sure where I would have stood on various things, especially as I know there can be some value historically for keeping a single copy of a book in a museum.

As for Ivory that is trickier. I personally love ivory but do not want to be in possession of or contributing to something illegal. I would love to have a vintage piece or two myself, but it would have to be a fantastic and unique piece and pre-illegal vintage. As for your specific necklace I would find out more about it.

This will cause me to come of with a clearer list of what things I will buy used. I already have a small list of brands and such that I personally will not buy even used so adding a few more items to that list as a rule of thumb for purchases will not be a bad idea.


Selena! Don't resell it! Did you see the "more info" link under the Ebay information?

read 653o

That is a really pretty necklace though! :)

Teresa Raines

I think that if I found those books I would have purchased them just to destroy them. As a librarian I'm not supposed to admit to this kind of bias, but if a book has been published that details harming others it doesn't need to be in circulation. I have also purchased jewelry that is made from vintage ivory. I kept the pieces.


I would have destroyed the books, too. As for the ivory, that's a difficult choice. There are sanctuaries that protect and care for elephants and I might donate the money made after expenses. I might also donate the necklace to a Native American craftsperson because I do believe they honor nature in their work. I appreciate you thinking about this and bringing up the topic. You have a good heart and good instincts and I feel you will know what is right for you. @>----


Selena, what a thoughtful column. And what thoughtful responses it has inspired. Here's my experience and an idea:

I completely agree with the fur folk here.
Would I ever buy a new fur? Never. But I have thrifted an incredibly amazing vintage fur coat made by one of the classiest known fur stores on planet earth. I purchased it because I love animal who sacrificed its life to keep humans warm, and this particular animal means a great deal to me. I honor, revere, and respect the fur, the folk who made the coat and company who marketed it back in the day when luxury, class, elegance, and style meant a lot more than they do today.

Now, as for the necklace: you know, a lot of folk love elephants and may even consider elephants their own personal "guides" or "totem" animals. You are creative and thrifty: Why not make individual pendants/necklaces out of the it and sell them on etsy as "totem" necklaces? Then you go donate a portion of the proceeds to a charity that helps elephants/animals to survive and thrive. A win-win all around. Not utilizing the necklace will not bring the elephants who sacrificed their lives for it back again, but using it for good can help other animals in the future. Just a thought.


Interesting issues raised, food for thought. How do you handle the issue of purchasing something extremely valuable from someone who doesn't realize its value? Hasn't happened to me, but I've seen the American Pickers guys handle it tastefully by telling the seller the item is valuable and offering them a fair price. Does this happen a lot? Has it been an issue for anyone on here.......or is it "all's fair in love and thrifting"??!!


The ivory necklace is beautiful. You photographed it beautifully. I think I would be inclined to keep it as a reminder of your intention to (as a previous post mentioned) make the world a better place.

Bad books should be destroyed .. if it's wicked content or wicked condition (excessive dust, mold, mildew, etc). I believe it was here that I read a most excellent essay on that topic.

When going threw stuff at a deceased relative's home I came across a Nazi knife which her brother must have brought back from WWII Germany. That fairly well sickened me. Fortunately I did not have to make a decision. I can respect that such items in the context of a museum collection could serve a valuable, educational purpose.

I'm agreeing with many of the previous posts in which your readers mention that this is exactly the type of essay which sets you a cut above other bloggers. You are a thrifter, crafter, mother, wife with a conscience and we very much appreciate you for this! Thanks for sharing even the difficult stuff. You help keep all of us ever-thoughtful.


My biggest dilemma is buying something for pennies that is worth more. I don't have issues when someone has a bunch of stuff out, a general idea of the value and has priced it low because they want it up and out, but I do have an issue when I see that someone has no idea that the dishes are quite rare or that tray is really silver etc.

I love bargains and love thrifting, but have gently and privately told sellers (garage and tag sales, not shops) that they a valuable item and each and every time, they have been so appreciative.

I would never mention it to a seller if someone was in the process of buying it, but if it is on the table, I pick it up and bring in over to them and point out the markings etc and let them know. It's their choice if they want to remove it, put it out at a higher price or simply let the price stand.

My best finds are when I buy something marked low simply because I love it and later learn it's a valuable item.

However, I'm not a reseller so I have a different perspective. Thrifting is fun for me and this is one of the only ways I can keep it that way.

This is a really good post.

Carrie Bryant

Love this question and topic. I have recently started thrifting on a regular basis. I plan to keep these discussions in mind when I am out looking for treasures.
Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful responses.

Erika Sews know, I've never run across something like that before, but I only thrift for myself and don't face any re-selling issues.

Good luck deciding what to do with that beauty of a necklace!

m block

So interesting you should mention this. I got a silver plated menu holder from my sister in law years ago. I loved it. I put a pictures of my kids in the place the menu should go. Years later she asked if I ever looked at the markings on the top. Turns out it might have come from a germany yacht that Hitler had the government build for his leisure. I was shocked that I had this in my house for years before she told me what she knew of the piece. Who gives that as a gift!!


I once bought a Tasha Tudor book at a rummage sale and got home to find it was signed. I questioned if I should take it back and let them know what they had since I bought it for just a few dollars. I ended up keeping it and still have it but have wondered if that is fair. My MOther in law grew up in London and was a child during the war. She would tell us stories of having to have their own gas masks in case of a raid. She said she had a friend who had one with a face of Mickey Mouse on it. She was so matter of fact abut it. It creeped me out and saddened me to think of having to grow up tht way but she seemed to take it in stride because that was just what she knew. Interesting to think about.


Interesting topic. I have a few pieces of ivory, some jewelry and a couple of small carved pieces, that I know is old because it has been in my family. I'm not interested in selling it and apparently that is a good thing.


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