On March 11th, 2020 we were notified that PayPal no longer wishes to do business with AGM, and that our PayPal account is terminated.  They were quite clear - the decision is not up for discussion or appeal, and is irreversible.  We are "banned for life."

What does this mean for you?  

PayPal will never again be a payment option at AGM - this is permanent.

We had to replace the credit card processing engine on the site since this was also run by PayPal.  It took forever to do.. but is finally done!  So there is a new firearm-friendly credit card processing service installed.  The only hitch at the moment is that it does not mark your invoice "paid" automatically.  You are sent a receipt via email, and we are notified of your payment - then your invoice will be marked "paid" when we do the next daily site update.  There is a cleaner solution for this as well, but we elected to just go with it as-is for the moment in the interest of having Catalog 115 open sometime this century.

You can also send payment the old fashioned way - by mailing a check or money order.  Make your check payable to Advance Guard Militaria, and send to this address:

Advance Guard Militaria

270 State Hwy HH

Burfordville, MO 63739

or

You can call the office (1-800-233-1918) and we can process your credit card payment here.  For our international customers, call 001.573.243.1833.  Our hours are Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm US central time.


Why did this happen?
Buried deep in PayPal's voluminous Terms of Service is some fine but unambiguous print about selling weapons.  We have always sold antique weapons (knives, swords, daggers, etc.) as well as other military antiques that are officially frowned on by PayPal due to their corporate social policies.  They had been kind enough to overlook it in the past, and in fact one of their customer service reps that helped us with technical things a few years ago enthusiastically declared the site "COOL!" and became a customer himself (he liked swords), but with the candid admonishment "don't ever ask a higher-level manager look over your site."  Because the PayPal logo or text is not on the home page, or on any item page, the fact that you have to go through a few steps to actually get into a catalog and look at the inventory, and through the good graces of a few of their people who were sane enough to recognize our business as historical and not 'dangerous', we happily flew under the radar for a long time.  However we are now listed by BATF as a properly licensed Federal Firearms dealer, and that list is a matter of public record.  Though there are but a few military firearms currently available on the site, that is (I suspect) the thing that did us in.

Ambushed!
No, not really.  I knew this might happen at some point.  Other friends who run military antiques businesses have had this same experience with PayPal and shared their cautionary tales.  One of our closest pals sells only pre-1898 firearms (mostly Civil War muskets) and is also in the 'banned for life' club.  I just feel a bit stupid for knowing this was possible, but yet I left $$$ sitting in our PayPal account for purchases and to use with their debit card for upcoming trips.  Between the AGM and eBay accounts, there was close to $10,000 that is impounded, and will be held for a minimum of 180 days.  (Yes, you read that correctly.)  This is also not open to discussion, and irreversible.  Thank goodness this didn't happen right after an AGM catalog opening!

Robbed!
Well, in this case - yes, absolutely.  They tell you that the $$ is held for 180 days.  The stated purpose is that it makes sure that the funds remain available in case they are needed for refunds.  (180 days being the maximum amount of time that customers would have to request one.)  For our catalog account, this represented the way to recover most of the impounded funds, since we are for the most part all friends and colleagues.  For our eBay account, we do not really know those people, so I resolved to just be patient and wait it out.  However.. we learned that the same thing happened a month or so earlier to our friend Ed Hicks of Warpath Military Collectibles.  Ed is also an FFL, but was very careful and 100% compliant with PayPal policies.  He had PayPal as a payment option only for his eBay sales, all quite eBay / PayPal friendly.  He got the very same treatment that we did, and at the end of his 180-day period, instead of instructions for finally withdrawing his funds, he was informed that since he is such a "danger to the PayPal community", he has been assessed a fine which is coincidentally equivalent to all of the $$ he had left in his PayPal account.  Ed took this to the North Carolina State Attorney General, who actually took it up with PayPal on his behalf.  The result, though was frustrating.  The AG simply reports that it is in their terms of service that we all "agree" to - they have the right to simply seize a user's funds at will with absolutely no recourse.  

REVENGE!
Of a sort.  Seeing what happened to Ed, I started a daily campaign of reaching out to PayPal in the hopes of finding an honest employee (which does happen from time to time) who would let me know if this was indeed the fate that awaited our remaining funds.  Conveniently, they aren't able to offer in-person help, since they are all hiding in their homes for fear of the boogyman virus.  I did take advantage of the 'refund' loophole to evacuate the funds from our catalog account, but we still had over $3,000 locked up in the eBay account.  Given what they did to Ed, I could see no probability of a better outcome for us, and decided that I would rather burn down the village than let it fall into the hands of the enemy.  So, all of our eBay customers were refunded, with a brief note explaining that it was a choice between letting them have the $$ or letting PayPal steal it.  We were going to be out $3,000 either way, so f&@k 'em.

Those DIRTY BASTARDS!!

As far as PayPal goes - I am thoroughly enraged by their little organized theft scheme.  As far as their decision to 'deplatform' those of us who deal in antiques they find unacceptable, as much as I find their 'principles' to be ignorant and arbitrary, I must also be true to my Capitalist Libertarian principles.  They are a private company.  Though I completely disagree with their politically-inspired policies, as a private company it is absolutely their right to do business, or in this case NOT to do business with clients as they see fit.  Ideals are worthless if you abandon them when they are personally inconvenient.  

Truth be told, if you or I had access to the kind of power that PayPal has, choosing who can and who cannot do online business.. you know it would only be a matter of time before we caved in to temptation and tried to use this power to create a better world according to our personal definition of that ideal.  For me, step #1 would be to lower the hammer of doom on businesses that put slaw, pickles or onions on an otherwise perfectly good BBQ sandwich.  Freakin’ savages.  Fortunately for people afflicted by twisted taste buds, I do NOT have that power.  Unfortunately for people who are in the antique militaria business, PayPal DOES.

Lessons Learned

So now you know - if you collect, buy, sell militaria and antique weapons, this could (and eventually probably will) happen to you as well.  Don't keep any more money in your PayPal account than you would be willing to permanently loose.  Hell, empty the thing daily!  I knew this, but got complacent, and it cost us over $3,000.  That stings, but it could have been much, much worse.

Also, if you are in this business, choose your bank carefully.  Knowing PayPal might someday dump us, we had an alternative payment system up and running, just waiting in the background should it ever be needed for this very purpose.  Unfortunately, I have learned that the little local bank that services our Plan B system has also adopted policies hostile to businesses who deal in anything firearms related, antique or otherwise.  Just like PayPal, to them a musket is every bit as offensive as a guided missile.. so we will not be making them our primary payments processor after all.  Fortunately, the other bank in town holds the exact opposite view, and was quite enthusiastic about setting up the service on our site.  

 

Wait. You're really still reading this?  Here is some more that you may or may not have already known:

Operation Choke Point

'Trigger warning' – this might be perceived by some as a bit political.

From the perspective of a social activist, when you cannot actually outlaw thought, activities, hobbies, or merchandise that you disagree with, another angle is to attack those things by making it impossible (or at least very, very difficult) for those you oppose to operate.  Extremists on both edges of the political spectrum engage in this activity, trying to silence individuals and groups on the opposite side.  As it relates to antique militaria, activists have pressured convention centers to eliminate collector shows.  When it comes to firearms, their approach is to make it difficult for licensed dealers to accept online payments, and even to get insurance for their business.  This really picked up after 2012 when the Obama administration's 'Operation Choke Point' saw the Department of Justice and FDIC working together to pressure banks to decline banking services to merchants involved in various activities they labeled "high risk", which was primarily legitimate firearms dealers.  While this policy has been reversed under the Trump administration, the legacy is long-lasting, and many banks with no official opinion on the issue one way or another still have policies in place that they feel will protect them from being harmed by a future administration that might feel differently.  I'll post a few links below for more information if you are just really bored and want to read all about it.

https://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/17/trump-reverses-obama-operation-chokepoint-241767

https://www.americanbanker.com/opinion/theres-no-downplaying-the-impact-of-operation-choke-point

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/op-eds/obamas-operation-choke-point-finally-unmasked

https://www.consumerfinancemonitor.com/2019/05/23/fdic-settles-operation-choke-point-lawsuit/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/05/24/operation-choke-point/