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Importing Or Transporting Concertinas Into The Usa


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Whilst we all know concertinas are endangered species, I have have read an article where the plight of a visiting European orchestra was detailed. They were stopped by US officials on entry to the country. The issue being their instruments, specifically violin bows etc that have finishings of ivory. The orchestra had to perform with borrowed bows and face a $500 fine per bow to get them back when they go home.

 

Apparently the US is applying some sort of control over the product of endangered species, including ivory, some rosewoods, mother of pearl, tortoiseshell and others. Special certification is required, support documentation and only certain points of entry into the US can be used.

 

This asks the question: does this affect concertinas? I know some instruments are defined as ivory keyed, most rosewoods are Indian rosewood, but some are other species, There are tortoiseshell instruments and some with mother of pearl trims..

 

Has anyone across the pond looked into this? Could the unwary get caught out? Has anyone tried to get an instrument 'certified'? Could they share the experience for the benefit of others?

 

I have no immediate need or desire to send an instrument to the States, but having read the article, I do wonder if our concertina fellowship may have a problem. Yes I know many instrument keys were bone, but I have seen others with ivory. I have held tortoiseshell instruments, and seen different rosewoods used.

 

Dave

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Dave, I have been following this issue, but unfortunately I am working out of state at the moment, so I really can't put to hand the relevant information. Yes, we should be concerned. It is not just instruments but a large variety of items including jewelry that is effected. Hopefully someone else will have more information.

 

Alan

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Thanks for that, I thought it might be a bit of a minefield, I suspect it might be some international thing, if so the issue might include moving instruments in and out of other countries too.

 

Dave

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I have found that the tightening up also applies across the EU, and thus affects the UK

 

the woods listed as controlled are:

 

Rose woods: Brazilian; Honduran; Madagascan; Siamese

Ebony: Madagascan;

Mahogany: Honduran, Cuban; Mexican.

 

So I guess some work may be needed to determine which species were used, and are used, plus how to get certificates on the species and how the 'pre-treaty' clauses may work.

 

Thank heaven that goats are not on the listing, otherwise many sets of bellows may be confiscated

 

Dave

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I am particularly interested, as I will be moving back to the USA in December. My two Lachenals have bone buttons, but the older one (1890s?) is Rosewood, and the newer one (1920s ?) is Mahogany, or at least that is how they where described when I bought them, and that is what they appear to be, to my untrained eye. I don't know if it is possible to tell one type of rosewood from another.

 

Does the age of an antique have any relevance, as one of these is estimated at over 100 years old? What documentation is required? I don't have any provenance for these, so nothing to indicate the source of the wood used, and the ages are only estimates based on serial numbers.

 

How could I get an instrument "certified" prior to the move if that is possible? Or more pessimistically, how could I learn ahead whether an instrument fails certification, and is at risk? If the newer instrument is a problem I would prefer to sell it before I move, and eventually use the cash toward having a new instrument made instead rather hazard a fine or lose the instrument. The older one I don't ever want to part with, but I still would not want to risk having it destroyed.

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It's something that I've been watching with concern for a while, but Willie Clancy Week is starting here and I don't have much time to comment on this at the moment. Here are a couple of interesting links: The “Ivory Ban” and what it means for traveling musicians, Violin Bows Seized at NY Airport for Suspicion of Containing Ivory, Released, whilst some friends of mine in Florida, who import contaners of stringed instruments that they manufacture in China, have had to pay a $100,000 penalty over the importation of LEGAL mother of pearl (inlaid into fretboards of instruments) because the paperwork/processing wasn't 100% correct...

 

It's getting Draconian! :blink:

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Those of us with old concertinas indeed are worried, since so many of them did use now-banned or restricted woods, the exact nature and provenance of which can be disputed. Then there are issues with ivory, bone, mother-or-earl, and so forth. I have aJones with bone buttons that is probably best kept here in the country, since I don't want to risk having it confiscated or destroyed by a zealous customs officer for lack of proof concerning the button material. Yes, I have an appraisal from "Button Box" to the effect that the buttons are bone rather than ivory.

 

So, I'm following this issue, as are several friends who are violinists with bows that may be subjected to confiscation.

 

Here are some recent articles discussing the topic that appeared in the NYTimes. Has anyone actually followed the recommended path by contacting Fish & Wildlife ["Musicians traveling abroad with ivory instruments are still required to obtain a federal certificate that serves as a passport of sorts for their items. Mr. Hoover said musicians should apply online at the Fish & Wildlife service website at least 30 days in advance of travel.]? See: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/author/tom-mashberg/ [specifically, the 3rd item in this "Arts Beat" series, from May 15, 2014];

and

(Tom Mashberg reporting in the NYTimes, June 20): http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/21/arts/design/law-to-impose-tough-limits-on-sales-of-ivory-art.html?_r=0 NB his statement: ""Crucial to the bill is a section that outlaws the sale of all ivory objects unless an item is both at least 100 years old and consists of less than 20 percent ivory. Federal rules require that items be 100 years old but do not set any content restrictions."

 

Stay tuned; I predict more confusion to come.

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I doubt if there is any problem. I just bought an old but converted and restored concertina and had it sent to the USA by post and there was no duty or customs issues on musical instruments of various types -- including accordion types.

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I doubt if there is any problem. I just bought an old but converted and restored concertina and had it sent to the USA by post and there was no duty or customs issues on musical instruments of various types -- including accordion types.

 

This issue is actually nothing to do with U.S. Customs as such, but it's when items are passing through customs that they might be examined by Agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - and if they do so and decide that your concertina might be made of Brazilian rosewood, or Macassar (i.e. Madagascar) ebony and/or the buttons are ivory, you might think very differently - ask Gibson, who were fined $300,000 and lost $419,000 worth of timber...

 

And notice that the violin bows (that I linked to in my previous post) were "restrained from entering the United States over suspicion of containing forbidden African elephant ivory" - not because they were known to contain it (presumably in their tips, which are actually usually whalebone if they look like ivory) but even "after the orchestral management produced additional certifications" they still had to pay "a total of $525 in fines and fees." It sounds a bit like kidnapping and holding to ransom to me! :unsure:

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The issue is CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

 

As of this spring, the member nations approved a CITES Passport for instruments. The idea is that you get the age and materials certified once, and then the instrument has its own documentation it can take with it that should prevent problems. However, I'm not sure how widely implemented this is yet. The US information is here: http://www.fws.gov/international/permits/by-activity/musical-instruments.html

 

All that being said, I would be very leary of taking a possible seizable instrument across international borders.

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I thought that the issue was sending concertinas, and I still doubt that except in some rare and unusual case would a concertina be questioned. If someone has a concertina with ivory, tortoise-shell, etc., then it would be a good ideas to have it certified. It would be an unusual case for Fish and Game to be investigating concertinas sent by courier post to an individual.

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I have found that the tightening up also applies across the EU, and thus affects the UK

 

the woods listed as controlled are:

 

Rose woods: Brazilian; Honduran; Madagascan; Siamese

Ebony: Madagascan;

Mahogany: Honduran, Cuban; Mexican.

 

So I guess some work may be needed to determine which species were used, and are used, plus how to get certificates on the species and how the 'pre-treaty' clauses may work.

 

Thank heaven that goats are not on the listing, otherwise many sets of bellows may be confiscated

 

Dave

 

 

So far, on assessing ebonies, I am fairly comfortable that Madagascan Ebony would not have been used, it has a quite bold grey-brown, yellow brown or tan brown streak through out. The concertinas were dark, 'ebonised' ebony and the figuring would have made the Madagascan ebony impracticable. I believe that African ebony will have been used, which is not listed.

 

Rosewoods are not so easy, I am also comfortable that the rich and very dark rosewoods would have been Indian rosewood which is not listed, I am sure that I have not seen Honduran, but if you have a light shaded rosewood ended concertina with nice dark and rich banding, I think it is likely to be Brazilian rosewood, or even Madagascan, both are listed.

 

Most of the mahogany seems to be African or American. which are ok

 

Dave

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So far, on assessing ebonies, I am fairly comfortable that Madagascan Ebony would not have been used, it has a quite bold grey-brown, yellow brown or tan brown streak through out. The concertinas were dark, 'ebonised' ebony and the figuring would have made the Madagascan ebony impracticable. I believe that African ebony will have been used, which is not listed.

 

Though (of course) most so-called "ebony" ended concertinas are actually ebonised (black-stained) pearwood, or something similar, I believe at least two of the mid-19th century, high-quality, insruments that I own are Macassar (Madagascan) ebony - they're a George Case and a Joesph Scates from the same workshop.

 

Whilst some more recent instruments with solid-ebony ends look like it too - and just looking like it could be enough to become an issue...

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I see that you fellows are mixing up Macassar with Madagascar........! These two Ebonies are not the same.

 

Madagascan Ebony comes from Madagascar and is usually Black with little or no streaks of other colours ...... well, all wood varies somewhat in colour so it is not possible to be too dogmatic about it.... This is the type I have been using for many years ( all legally purchased I should add) though I have now come to the end of my stock.

 

Macassar Ebony is from Sulewesi and is commonly very stripped with light browns and blacks...

 

I doubt either of these timbers were used for the frame verneers of Concertinas.... much more likely during the late 19th and early 20th centuries would be the use of Indian or Sri Lancan varieties, due to trade within the Brittish Empire.

 

The unfortunate part of all this, from my point of view, is that I use Ebony as a Tone Wood.... whereas much of what has been removed from forests has gone into the making of black furniture which is popular in China and Japan... thus bringing many species to the point of extinction.

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It does assume that customs staff can tell the difference between various woods and between bone and ivory, my guess is that they are more likely to play safe!

The question with passports comes down to - who is competent to assess an instrument for a passport and do customs accept their competence!

Chris (whose Scates Amboyna with ivory buttons isn't going anywhere again!)

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I see that you fellows are mixing up Macassar with Madagascar........! These two Ebonies are not the same.

 

Madagascan Ebony comes from Madagascar and is usually Black with little or no streaks of other colours ...... well, all wood varies somewhat in colour so it is not possible to be too dogmatic about it.... This is the type I have been using for many years ( all legally purchased I should add) though I have now come to the end of my stock.

 

Well you'd know best on that Geoff, though I think it must be a very common error because I've often heard it. Mind you, the way materials are described in the antiques trade, or by the old concertina makers, is often not altogether accurate and "ebony" seems a particularly fraught one, whilst Google seems to conflate the two terms...

 

By the way, I was told (only this week), by a German customer of theirs, that (exotic hardwood suppliers) Nagel have gone out of business and that the sourcing of their ebony was a major factor in that.

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Well Steve,

there are a lot of different members of the Ebony family and some confusion is bound to happen. Macassar is the port town on Sulewesi from where their Ebony was exported, hence the name. What is usually sold as macassar Ebony has a Specific Gravity of less than 1, as far as I recall, whereas the denser Ebonies from the African régions and India/Sri Lanca are 1.1 to 1.2 SG.

 

Yes the Nagel's of Hamburg story; rumour was that they decared for bankruptcy to avoid being taken to the European courts for involvement with taking Ebony from the National parks in Madagascar.... it all ties in with the Gibson company's fines for importing the stuff into the USA. I used to buy wood from Nagel but changed supplier many years ago.

 

This has caused problems down the line for many people, including musicians. As an instrument maker I try to buy my wood at least ten years in advance of using it... so you can imagine the shock of having one's stock , legally purchased, nice and dry and stable only to find that its use is now banned!

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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I see that you fellows are mixing up Macassar with Madagascar........! These two Ebonies are not the same.

 

Madagascan Ebony comes from Madagascar and is usually Black with little or no streaks of other colours ...... well, all wood varies somewhat in colour so it is not possible to be too dogmatic about it.... This is the type I have been using for many years ( all legally purchased I should add) though I have now come to the end of my stock.

 

Macassar Ebony is from Sulewesi and is commonly very stripped with light browns and blacks...

 

I doubt either of these timbers were used for the frame verneers of Concertinas.... much more likely during the late 19th and early 20th centuries would be the use of Indian or Sri Lancan varieties, due to trade within the Brittish Empire.

 

The unfortunate part of all this, from my point of view, is that I use Ebony as a Tone Wood.... whereas much of what has been removed from forests has gone into the making of black furniture which is popular in China and Japan... thus bringing many species to the point of extinction.

 

You are right I misread the ebony variety name, looking for Madagascan I saw Madagascan. Sorry about that.

 

I think the issue is also one of grounds for impounding products. the bows were held on the suspicion of ivory, and the $500 release fee was still required.

 

Ebony is no just about solid ends, it is also to do with casing veneers, even the moldings around metal end plates

 

Dave

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