How to find and sell contraband in Starfield

Starfield contraband
(Image credit: Bethesda)

Selling contraband in Starfield isn’t a friction-free process. Contraband in Starfield can come under many guises, but at heart, what you’re dealing with are illegal intergalactic items. 

From stolen space artwork, harvested organs or special types of chemicals, the various authorities in Bethesda’s colossal galaxy basically don’t want you turning a fast buck on them. 

Thankfully, finding contraband items in Starfield is a relatively straightforward process. You'll usually always find some contraband on ships from the Crimson Fleet or Spacers. Likewise, you can find it easily by landing on a planet, bringing out your scanner to search for the nearest base or research facility, where you'll often find and be able to plunder their naughty contraband. And when we say ‘plunder’, we mean ‘shoot a bunch of space pirates / mercenaries, then loot their corpses to obtain said wares'.

Once you’ve claimed possession of Starfield contraband, it’s then a case of finding places to hock your illegal goodies. Most stores / sales folk want nothing to do with contraband items, but thankfully Trade Authority vendors have no such qualms about buying your naughtily obtained goods. 

Below, we’ll walk you through the process of how to find and sell Starfield contraband if you’re just starting out in the biggest Xbox Series X game of the year. With our easy-to-follow steps, you’ll be looting and profiting from Starfield contraband in no time at all. 

Please note: The following guide assumes you are playing Starfield with a gamepad, so these steps show Xbox controller buttons, rather than keyboard inputs.

How to find and sell Starfield contraband  

  1. Find contraband in bases and research facilities 
  2. Go through your inventory to check for contraband
  3. If you’re just starting out, travel to Jemison 
  4. Head for the city of New Atlantis 
  5. Find the Trade Authority office
  6. Start selling your illegal wares   

Read on to see full illustrated instructions for each step.   

1. Find contraband in bases and research facilities

(Image: © Bethesda)

Typically the fastest and most reliable way to find Starfield contraband is by heading to bases and research facilities. Once you land on a planet, press LB to bring up your scanner (this will display icons showing the locations of said facilities). Picking up contraband then normally involves killing enemies and looting their bodies or searching a base’s various buildings.  

2. Go through your inventory to check for contraband

(Image: © Bethesda)

Hit the Menu button on your controller, then select your character’s Inventory Section from Starfield’s character menu. Contraband items are marked with a small yellow symbol to help you identify them.  

3. Find a Trade Authority office (we advise in Wolf)

(Image: © Bethesda)

Now you need to find a Trade Authority office or kiosk. These guys will buy anything and there's usually a Trade Authority vendor in every city, and a Trade Authority kiosk at every Ship Services office. But there's a catch: to get to these, you'll usually need to bypass scanners in the major settled systems like Alpha Centauri — as you enter settled systems controlled by UC or Freestar Collective, your ship will be scanned for contraband and you'll be arrested if any is found. Even with a shielded cargo hold and a jammer to lower your detection chance, you can still get caught. And in the early game you might not have the resources for those.

The simplest solution in the early game is to head for the Wolf system which, while owned by UC, won't scan you on entry. Then, dock at and enter The Den starship, which has a Trade Authority vendor!

4. Start selling your illegal wares

(Image: © Bethesda)

Once you find a Trade Authority office, you can immediately start selling your Starfield contraband. Just bear in mind that vendors have limited funds over a given time period, so if you want to move on a bunch of contraband and the vendor has suddenly run out of pennies, learn how to wait in Starfield to fast forward 48 hours. After this time skip, you’ll find the seller has newly restocked funds to buy more of your contraband.  

And that’s it! You can now pawn off your ill-gotten gains and make a tidy profit. In need of more Starfield guidance? Then check out how to use Starfield photo mode, get up to speed on how to increase carry weight in Starfield and make sure you know how to upgrade your ship in Starfield.  

Dave Meikleham
UK Computing Editor

Dave is a computing editor at Tom’s Guide and covers everything from cutting edge laptops to ultrawide monitors. When he’s not worrying about dead pixels, Dave enjoys regularly rebuilding his PC for absolutely no reason at all. In a previous life, he worked as a video game journalist for 15 years, with bylines across GamesRadar+, PC Gamer and TechRadar. Despite owning a graphics card that costs roughly the same as your average used car, he still enjoys gaming on the go and is regularly glued to his Switch. Away from tech, most of Dave’s time is taken up by walking his husky, buying new TVs at an embarrassing rate and obsessing over his beloved Arsenal.