The Licensed Collector's Activities
Subject to other applicable provisions of the law and regulations, a collector's license entitles its holder to transport, ship, receive, and acquire curios or relics in interstate or foreign commerce, and to dispose of curios or relics in interstate or foreign commerce to any other Federal firearms licensee. However, restrictions are imposed on importations into the United States. Only licensed im- porters can bring in military firearms. Military surplus firearms sold under "Lend Lease" and similar arms assistance programs cannot be imported, as these weapons are >>prohibited<< by the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 (22 USC 2778). Those collectors having questions concerning the importability of specific curio or relic firearms should contact the Bureau of ATF, Firearms and Explosives Import Branch, Washington, DC 20226.
The principal advantage of a collector's license is that the collector can acquire curios or relics from both licensees and nonlicensees without regard to his/her State of residence. A licensed collector may acquire and dispose of curios or relics at any location, the only limitation being that a disposition made to a nonlicensee is to be made to a resident of the same State in which the collector is licensed.
Restrictions on the Licensed Collector's Activities
As previously stated, the collector's license covers only transactions in curios or relics. A licensed collector has the same status as a nonlicensee with respect to transactions in firearms that are not curios or relics. While a licensed collector may acquire curios or relics and dispose of same from a personal collection, the collector is not authorized to engage in business as a dealer of curios or relics (Note: I was told exactly the opposite by an ATF agent over the phone.) A dealer's license is required for this activity. If the curios or relics acquired include National Firearms Act weapons, the collector is liable for the special (occupational) tax prescribed by the National Firearms Act. THE SOLE INTENT AND PURPOSE OF THE COLLEC- TOR'S LICENSE IS TO ENABLE A FIREARMS COLLECTOR TO ENHANCE A COLLECTION OF CURIOS OR RELICS.
Q: Which firearms are considered "curios or relics"?
A: A listing is published by BATF as ATF Pub 5300.11. Additions are constantly being made to this list.
Q: How do I apply for this license?
A: Contact BATF for an application (ATF Form 7). Field offices are located in several major cities. Look in the White Pages under "US Government - Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms".
Fee as of my last renewal was $ 30 for 3 years. This may well have changed since then. Processing time could be as long as 90 days.
Q: Does this license give me the same status as a dealer under State law?
A: Many state laws do not regulate sale of firearms at all. In these locales, you can do everything that Federal law allows. Note that some states may require slightly different record-keeping. Some states require dealers to be licensed, but allow limited private party sales. Since you are not a dealer, you may be able to slip by. Collectors are restricted in purchase and sale of handguns in some states, and can't really do much at all in others (e.g. NY, DC, and other such enlightened areas). In CA, for example, I can only deal in curio or relic long guns. Be aware that as a non-dealer FFL holder, you are very much in a legal twilight zone.
Q: What does BATF mean when they say that I cannot "engage in the business" of buying / selling curios or relics?
A: Sec. 921(a)(21)(C) says, in part, "a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms, but such term shall not include a person who makes occasional sales, exchanges or pur- chases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby..." is a "dealer".
Q: What does that really mean?
A: You got me.
Q: What about "curio or relic" NFA weapons, e.g. short barreled rifles, destructive devices, full auto, etc?
A: Some have been removed from the National Firearms Act, such as original Chinese contract Hi-Power pistols with shoulder stocks. Some are classed as "curios or relics" but still fall under the NFA and are still subject to all of its controls, taxes, etc.