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Mark Rosenthal

Transporting Vintage Concertinas Since Obama's 2014 Executive Orde

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In 2014, President Obama took credit for implementing new rules that he claimed were intended to protect endangered elephants. (http://www.renaissancejewelers.com/uncategorized/obama-has-banned-the-sale-of-antique-ivory/) In March of that year, the New York Times published an article (at https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/21/arts/design/new-limits-on-ivory-sales-set-off-wide-concerns.html) that reports on those new rules regarding bringing ivory and materials from other endangered species into the U.S. Those rules require the owner to provide a level of certification that the NYT article says is nearly impossible to meet. Specifically, the head of the Obama-appointed panel that created the rules admitted to the Times that the panel that formulated the new restrictions is aware they impose insurmountable hurdles. In addition to ivory, certain woods are also affected.




I own a number of English concertinas, some with ebony ends, one with rosewood ends and bone buttons that may or may not be ivory. A couple of years ago I spoke with the head of the Division of Management Authority at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and learned that some kinds of rosewood and some kinds of ebony are also among the affected materials; possibly other materials as well. But his suggestion regarding how I could go about determining whether the materials in my concertinas are affected are not even remotely realistic. He says I should find a biology professor at Harvard or MIT who has nothing better to do with his time than identify the species that the materials in my instrument came from and write up a report for me. Armed with that, I'd then have to fill out an application with U.S. Fish and Wildlife for a Musical Instrument Passport. And that only deals with getting the U.S. to allow me to bring an instrument I already own back into the U.S. if I should travel with it outside of the U.S.


Does anyone here have actual experience bringing antique instruments they own back in to the U.S.? What is the situation really like? Is it as much of a nightmare as the articles imply?


Also, does anyone here have any experience with the question of how this insane policy affects someone in the U.S. who wants to purchase a vintage musical instrument that's being sold by someone outside the U.S. and might contain one of the listed materials?

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I brought an antuque concertina with me from England when I moved back to the USA in December 2014. I was certainly worried about it! I know that the buttons are bone, not ivory, but who knows whether an inspector would agree. I also don't know the species or origin of the rosewood ends. I did have a concertina repair specialist I had done other business with write up a letter for me verifying his assessment of the date of manufacture (1890's) and estimated value of my instrument, and I kept that document with me, just in case. I brought the concertina as part of my carry-on luggage, didn't check it, but that was largely because of concern about damage in checked luggage. I had no idea whether it would undergo more or less scrutiny as a carry-on, but at least I could see what is happening. I don't recall exactly what I wrote on the customs entry forms, but I think I did make some mention of it. No trouble at all, nobody even looked at the instrument, but I also didn't make a big deal about it.

 

Of course, we were also bringing our pet cat with us, in cargo. (see avatar!) That was a much bigger deal, and was therefore the main point of attention. We also had a whole household of belongings shipped by container. (Note that I didn't include the concertina in that shipment either!)

 

I don't know if my experience would be typical. I'm guessing that many items are brought in and never questioned, and it is just a matter of who gets lucky.

 

I had tried to determine if some special import form was required, but simply couldn't figure it out. It seems that if the material is legal then there is no form to use, which means you have no documentation to protect you against seizure if an agent thinks the material may be restricted. And conversely if the material is illegal then no documentation will be of any help. Even the relocation specialists involved with moving my household goods were of no help. They just suggested that I take it on the plane with me, so that they wouldn't have to deal with it in their shipment of my household goods.

 

Not sure how applicable my experience is to you. I also have bought another vintage instrument here in the USA. I can say that I don't intend to take these lovely instruments with me when I travel abroad. Maybe I'm concerned over nothing, but with all the confusion I don't know what the odds are for trouble on future border crossings and I don't want to push the issue. That is sad considering I would enjoy playing with old friends in England on future visits. Maybe I'll have to buy another instrument of current manufacture to have as well before I travel? ;)

Edited by Tradewinds Ted

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From Casey Burns flute maker :

Howdy Folks,

 

I have sorted out what is required for us here in the US as far as CITES Permits, etc. for sending our instruments made from CITES II protected species out of the country.

 

For exports of instruments containing African Blackwood or other CITES II species:

 

Go to https://www.fws.gov/forms/3-200-32.pdfand request a Master File plus the Single Use Permits. The Master File is $200 and the Single Use Permits are $5 each. The Single use permits are essentially clones of the master permit.

 

I think one actually waits for the Master File to be granted before one pays for each of the Single Use Permits - according to the FWS agent I spoke with. However, they will want to know how many approximately one will need and these are good for 6 months. Additional ones can be ordered per the directions on that form. I'll see if I can get this clarified.

 

In terms of documents etc. for the wood which for most of us will be pre-CITES II dated receipts from suppliers dated before 2017 including ones in the US, photos of the wood, etc. are all requested and depending upon the volume, the degree of data resolution required will be decided on a case by case basis. This only pertains to the wood that one intends to use in instruments intended for export. There is no requirement to document wood intended for sales within in the US. Thus one might consider allocating the wood into such categories as domestic use only and exportable instead of the entire woodpile!

 

One also needs to go to https://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/permits/downloads/forms/ppqform621.pdfand submit that application plus its $70 fee. They requested this be done and paid for electronically.

 

Once the permits are in hand, the $5 single use CITES permit and a copy of the USDA permit accompanies the instrument being shipped. The Single Use Permit and a copy of the USDA 621 permit is then included in the same slip envelope on the outside of the package as the Form 2976-A Customs forms required for any export (these can be found at the Post Office and related online postage sites such as Endicia, which generates them automatically).

 

These exports are inspected and sent off via a USDA approved shipping facility. Usually when one mails a package overseas from ones local post office, it is routed through one of these approved facilities (almost everything I send overseas from here in Seattle is routed through San Francisco). The USDA agent I spoke with this morning will confirm that this is truly the case, and that the documents go on the outside of the package. He wasnt 100% sure, and will confirm this in a few business days.

 

.

 

One way around all of this nonsense is to simply stop exporting instruments made from CITES II protected wood. Sales of instruments to clients in the US can continue and no permit or reporting is required. For us woodwind makers there are alternatives to African Blackwood that are not under CITES protection. Mopane for instance. Or (heaven forbid) Delrin. Octopus Wood in Turkey has fantastic boxwood and Muzaffer Yeltekin is great to do business with. I get the older and dryer blue stained wood for my flutes (I sort of started the stampede for this - it was nicely dried down to 5%! He may be out of this wood - at least the really dry stuff.)

 

There might be issues when a client wants to sell an instrument made from African Blackwood to someone out of the country. As long as the instrument contains less than 10 kg of blackwood (22 pounds!) there is no restriction or permit required for them to take any instrument with CITES II wood across an international border as a personal item. However, in the case where theyre mailing it as an eBay sale or mailed gift, a permit is required and they have to apply for a $75 single use permit using the same https://www.fws.gov/forms/3-200-32.pdfpermit form that we use to get the master permit.

 

They would have to provide proof that the instrument is pre-CITES or made from CITES approved sources. We makers may get besieged by our former clients for requests of documentation. However, I personally have made over 3000 blackwood flutes over the last 35 years and it will be up to my clients to come up with a bill of sale or some sort of other evidence that they have held these instrumets pre-CITES. Its not up to me to help them sell the instruments they purchased from me or from my resellers, especially if they didnt keep any sort of documentation themselves such as a cancelled check or other evdence! I dont keep such documentation beyond the required 7 years and its sometimes impossible and a hassle to find such info.

 

The permits are required if the maker takes an instrument he or she made to another country with the intention of selling it, however.

 

I simply plan to estimate and register a portion of my blackwood and mark it all For Export rather than register the entire lot. This simplifies things and I might simply only include the wood that I purchased in 2016, which is on the surface of the pile with receipts readily available.

 

I asked the FWS agent about wood that I might purchase in the future from my wood supplier, mentioning that all of his inventory is pre-CITES but that his documentation may be lacking thanks to his recent paperwork surge. They asked me to include a cover letter describing this with information. I will also be asking my wood supplier for copies of his CITES permits (assuming that he gets these) that could be included with mine, for future updates or the current application. The FWS will want updates on wood inventories as these change - the frequency depending upon how often and how much. I suspect for a large firm such as Martin Guitars etc. they will want more frequent updates whereas for us individual makers they may simply want this info when we renew our permits, so that they arent swamped with unnecessary paperwork. Again that will be determined on a case by case basis. I mentioned to the FWS agent that all of the Blackwood that I am using will be pre-CITES for the rest of my career. Its best if the Blackwood ages about 20 years and all of the wood I am getting from my wood supplier is stuff the Clarinet Industry rejected and sold him via Scott Nagel about 20 or more years ago. The clarinet bodies that I am repurposing into Folk Flute bodies were all turned to that form in 1999 from wood harvested in 1979 and earlier!

 

The makers in other countries especially the EU have more stringent permitting and documentation requirements. For us in the US things are relatively simple. I hope you find this info useful. Please share it with other makers. And if you have information that otherwise is different than what I have been told, please let me know and I will send out an updated info sheet.

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I was under the impression (from info I'd read over at the Mandolin Cafe site) that CITES regulations apply to the import/export of instruments for sale, and not for the carrying in or out of personally owned instruments?

 

Also, from an observer's standpoint (foreign national residing in the US and planning to leave before the end of the year) it appears that your new government is eliminating regulations for just about everything so perhaps CITES will be in their sights (crap pun, sorry, couldn't resist) as well.......

Edited by Jillser Nic Amhlaoibh

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There is no requirement to document wood intended for sales within in the US.

The major problem with that attitude is that without such documentation from the maker, any subsequent owner will be unable to provide the necessary documentation if they want to sell the instrument outside the country.

 

They would have to provide proof that the instrument is pre-CITES or made from CITES approved sources. We makers may get besieged by our former clients for requests of documentation. However, I personally have made over 3000 blackwood flutes over the last 35 years and it will be up to my clients to come up with a bill of sale or some sort of other evidence that they have held these instrumets pre-CITES. Its not up to me to help them sell the instruments they purchased from me or from my resellers, especially if they didnt keep any sort of documentation themselves such as a cancelled check or other evdence! I dont keep such documentation beyond the required 7 years and its sometimes impossible and a hassle to find such info.

Too late for Casey's past customers (why would they have bothered to keep such documentation at a time when no one imagined that such a law would be enacted?), but a simple solution to that problem is to stamp each instrument with a serial number, with the numbers sequential in time. Then records of when even a few of them were made -- one per month or even one per year -- will identify timeframes for the rest. This will be the saving grace if I (morel ikely my heirs) ever want to sell my whistles by Chris Abell. They're made from Madagascar rosewood, but each one is stamped with a unique serial number, which can be used to confirm when it was made... and thus that the wood is at least that old.

 

That will also be extremely helpful for owners of concertinas. I believe that all our current makers, as well as those who made our vintage instruments, imprint such serial numbers in places where they won't get lost.*

 

* An exception is short period in Wheatstone's production, but that entire period was pre-1900, and those instruments can be unequivocally identified..

Edited by JimLucas

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It's not my intention to stir the pot unnecessarily, or to stray into politics, but I wouldn't be too hasty to declare the policy insane. I'm sure it could be better, and that more accommodations could be made, but it wasn't the result of some nefarious plot hatched by thuggish bureaucrats intent on depriving the world of music. This subject pops up regularly on music forums, and it seems there is a great deal of resistance on the part of musicians to admit that they might be part of the problem. I'm not saying that buying a century old concertina with ivory buttons is in any way wrong, but I would be willing to wager that not all of the wood in the thousands or Brazilian rosewood guitars made in the last few decades, came from stumps, or old barns, or wherever the suppliers claimed.

 

Put yourself in the position of the folks at the Fish and Wildlife service. How is one to distinguish between pre-ban ivory, and new ivory being passed off as antique? I'm not saying that these rules were well crafted, but by the same token, there is a very real problem, and most people aren't truly interested in grappling with it. It's not just the nouveau riche of China, or Russian oligarchs. We are consuming the resources of the world at an unsustainable rate. Viewed from a certain angle, the demand for these products is a problem in and of itself. Most people wouldn't dream of buying a piece of ivory that they knew for a fact came from a recently slaughtered elephant, but unscrupulous suppliers and a bit of willful ignorance are all it takes to decimate a species.

Edited by James McBee

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I own a number of English concertinas, some with ebony ends ...

 

But probably not...

 

The vast majority of so-called (by their makers) "ebony-ended" concertinas are actually nothing of the sort, and should more properly be described as "ebonised ends" because they are only stained black!

 

There are a few exceptions though, including a handful of mid-19th century concertinas by George Case that have Macassar ebony ends.

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To Dana Johnson and Casey Burns:

It's going to take me some time to read through and understand all the details in both of your responses. As I do, I expect I'll be posting follow-up questions. But I did want to acknowledge your very detailed responses, and thank you for taking the time to provide all that information.

Edited by Mark Rosenthal

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It's not my intention to stir the pot unnecessarily, or to stray into politics, but I wouldn't be too hasty to declare the policy insane. I'm sure it could be better, and that more accommodations could be made, but it wasn't the result of some nefarious plot hatched by thuggish bureaucrats intent on depriving the world of music. This subject pops up regularly on music forums, and it seems there is a great deal of resistance on the part of musicians to admit that they might be part of the problem. I'm not saying that buying a century old concertina with ivory buttons is in any way wrong, but I would be willing to wager that not all of the wood in the thousands or Brazilian rosewood guitars made in the last few decades, came from stumps, or old barns, or wherever the suppliers claimed.

 

Put yourself in the position of the folks at the Fish and Wildlife service. How is one to distinguish between pre-ban ivory, and new ivory being passed off as antique? I'm not saying that these rules were well crafted, but by the same token, there is a very real problem, and most people aren't truly interested in grappling with it. It's not just the nouveau riche of China, or Russian oligarchs. We are consuming the resources of the world at an unsustainable rate. Viewed from a certain angle, the demand for these products is a problem in and of itself. Most people wouldn't dream of buying a piece of ivory that they knew for a fact came from a recently slaughtered elephant, but unscrupulous suppliers and a bit of willful ignorance are all it takes to decimate a species.

 

I don't disagree with you, but I'd put the emphasis on your comment, " I'm sure it could be better, and that more accommodations could be made". When the head of the committee that came up with the recent revisions to the rules for how the U.S. government implements CITES admits, in the New York Times, no less, that he's aware that his panel has imposed "insurmountable hurdles" on innocent musicians, then he's failed bigtime! He's taken people who support efforts to save elephants and other endangered species, and converted a sizeable percentage of them into people who will object to any and all future government regulations that are intended to protect those species. By implementing unreasonable regulations, he's created a constituency that will press for the elimination of all such regulations at their first possible opportunity. And given who our new president is, that opportunity may come sooner rather than later. Yes, it's a difficult problem. But a badly-crafted solution is guaranteed to create pushback, and this particular badly-crafted solution may prove to have been worse than no solution.

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I own a number of English concertinas, some with ebony ends ...

 

But probably not...

 

The vast majority of so-called (by their makers) "ebony-ended" concertinas are actually nothing of the sort, and should more properly be described as "ebonised ends" because they are only stained black!

 

There are a few exceptions though, including a handful of mid-19th century concertinas by George Case that have Macassar ebony ends.

 

It's true that some concertinas described as "ebony-ended" aren't actually ebony, but I doubt that it's the "vast majority".

 

I have a few ebony-ended Wheatstone Aeolas from the 1920s and an "ebonized" six-sided Wheatstone model 3E from the 1950s. The difference is very obvious.

 

On my 1920s Aeolas, the wood on the inside of the ends is the same black as the outside. The edges of the fretwork, i.e. the approx. 1/8" surface that's perpendicular to the inside and outside surface are also the same black color. Any instrument as old as these are will inevitably have a "ding" here or there from having bumped into things over the years. The wood exposed by the dings is all the same black as the inside and outside surfaces. It seems unlikely to me that stained wood would show these effects.

 

On my 1950s "ebonized" Wheatstone, disassembling the button box reveals that the inside surface of the end is some variety of wood that's very light in color. The outside is a very dark black. But wherever it's gotten dinged over the years, it's obvious that a layer of black paint has chipped off, and the worst dings clearly show light colored wood underneath a thick layer of black paint.

 

I've mostly been focused on English models, so I can't say if things are different among Anglos. But most of the black-colored instruments I've ever seen have been high-end models: Wheatstone Aeola, Lachenal Edeophone, and Lachenal New Model (i.e. the six-sided model with raised ends that was the predecessor of the Edeophone). Most of the lower-end models I've encountered have had rosewood ends. The only black-colored non-high-end model I've ever seen is the 1950s Wheatstone 3E, made in an era when the company was trying to cut costs in order to recover from the downturn in sales caused by WW-II.

 

If you think my 1920s Aeolas are actually stained, can you explain how staining could produce a consistent-colored wood all the way through?

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Real ebony is CITES restricted too, so maybe you would rather have ebonized wood...

 

I wonder how old rosewood takes to being ebonized?

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I wonder how old rosewood takes to being ebonized?

 

It doesnt absorb the dye, so you'd have to paint it - which has often been done to concertina ends after they left the factory (especially those of mid-price Wheatstone Anglos, to make them look "more expensive" :rolleyes:, and Salvation Army concertinas, to look more sombre :() but it chips off.

 

You need a small-pored grain, like pearwood or maple, to achieve a good "ebonised" finish.

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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I have a few ebony-ended Wheatstone Aeolas from the 1920s and an "ebonized" six-sided Wheatstone model 3E from the 1950s. The difference is very obvious.

 

On my 1920s Aeolas, the wood on the inside of the ends is the same black as the outside. The edges of the fretwork, i.e. the approx. 1/8" surface that's perpendicular to the inside and outside surface are also the same black color. Any instrument as old as these are will inevitably have a "ding" here or there from having bumped into things over the years. The wood exposed by the dings is all the same black as the inside and outside surfaces. It seems unlikely to me that stained wood would show these effects.

 

On my 1950s "ebonized" Wheatstone, disassembling the button box reveals that the inside surface of the end is some variety of wood that's very light in color. The outside is a very dark black. But wherever it's gotten dinged over the years, it's obvious that a layer of black paint has chipped off, and the worst dings clearly show light colored wood underneath a thick layer of black paint.

 

If you think my 1920s Aeolas are actually stained, can you explain how staining could produce a consistent-colored wood all the way through?

 

Firstly, the 1950s "ebonized" Wheatstones you describe are not ebonised, they are simply surface stained, or even painted.

 

Secondly, the ends of high quality pre-war concertinas, and especially raised-ended ones, were always laminated (for strength, and for creating the doming of the raised end) and consist of a triple-ply of veneers sandwiched together.

 

Using wood with a small-pored grain, like pearwood or maple, and suitable processes (there are/were various formulas), and maybe adding pressure, it's perfectly feasible to make such veneers black all the way through - and black pearwood veneers are still available and much-used for stringed instrument making today.

 

If you don't believe me about "Ebony" (finish), ask Steve Dickinson at Wheatstone's...

 

 

 

P.S. There's a lot of "ebony" on antique furniture, going back to the 17th century, that's actually ebonised pearwood!

Edited to add an "i" that didn't register first time...

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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In 2014, President Obama took credit for implementing new rules ...

 

Are we talking about the new CITES rules here, or some special US-only rule?

 

If it is CITES then I think that it is a bit disingenuous to blame Obama for this situation. CITES is an international treaty organization and its head is not an American. If Obama had not signed his executive order then the CITES agreement would still exist outside of the USA which would have pretty much the same effect as far as importing or exporting vintage instruments into or out of the USA.

 

I can well understand the motivation to save the last of the various species of threatened flora and fauna from future harvesting. What I do not understand is that if I own a pre-existing object made from of one of these things then why can't I get a simple certificate, something like an affidavit through my lawyer, to declare that fact and thus not make it valueless or, worse, subject to destruction.

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The vast majority of so-called (by their makers) "ebony-ended" concertinas are actually nothing of the sort, and should more properly be described as "ebonised ends" because they are only stained black!

But how many customs agents know this, much less can tell the difference?

 

And a major problem, as I've mentioned before, is that the CITES treaty is not the law. Each legal entity (because of the EU, I can't just say "nation") is responsible for enacting laws that in theory implement the provisions of the treaty. In fact, there can be significant differences between the provisions of the enacted laws and the provisions of the treaty, at least in the US. Some differences can be "merely" consequential, but provide insurmountable obstacles... e.g., if there's a particular requirement for a permit but no provision for the issuance of such a permit. Or maybe a requirement that customs officers seize objects made of certain materials, yet no reqirement that they be trained in the identification of such materials, much less that they be able to distinguish between those materials and others that may appear similar.

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I have a few ebony-ended Wheatstone Aeolas from the 1920s and an "ebonized" six-sided Wheatstone model 3E from the 1950s. The difference is very obvious.

 

On my 1920s Aeolas, the wood on the inside of the ends is the same black as the outside. The edges of the fretwork, i.e. the approx. 1/8" surface that's perpendicular to the inside and outside surface are also the same black color. Any instrument as old as these are will inevitably have a "ding" here or there from having bumped into things over the years. The wood exposed by the dings is all the same black as the inside and outside surfaces. It seems unlikely to me that stained wood would show these effects.

 

On my 1950s "ebonized" Wheatstone, disassembling the button box reveals that the inside surface of the end is some variety of wood that's very light in color. The outside is a very dark black. But wherever it's gotten dinged over the years, it's obvious that a layer of black paint has chipped off, and the worst dings clearly show light colored wood underneath a thick layer of black paint.

 

If you think my 1920s Aeolas are actually stained, can you explain how staining could produce a consistent-colored wood all the way through?

 

Firstly, the 1950s "ebonized" Wheatstones you describe are not ebonised, they are simply surface stained, or even painted.

 

Secondly, the ends of high quality pre-war concertinas, and especially raised-ended ones, were always laminated (for strength, and for creating the doming of the raised end) and consist of a triple-ply of veneers sandwiched together.

 

Using wood with a small-pored grain, like pearwood or maple, and suitable processes (there are/were varous formulas), and maybe adding pressure, it's perfectly feasible to make such veneers black all the way through - and black pearwood veneers are still available and much-used for stringed instrument making today.

 

If you don't believe me about "Ebony" (finish), ask Steve Dickinson at Wheatstone's...

 

 

 

P.S. There's a lot of "ebony" on antique furniture, going back to the 17th century, that's actually ebonised pearwood!

 

 

 

A few years back when I took some of my instruments out to Button Box for insurance appraisals, Doug Creighton showed me some copies of the original Wheatstone catalogs/pricelists for my instruments. I remember that the 1950s-era catalog/pricelist described the model 3E with some term that sounded enough like "ebony" that it would be interpreted by the average person as meaning the ends were made of ebony wood, even though it didn't actually mean that. In contrast, the 1920s-era catalog used the word "ebony", plain and simple. I thought the misleading term used in the 1950s catalog to describe black-painted ends was either "ebonized" (or perhaps "ebonised"). But I just checked the appraisal, and the term was "ebony-finished". Since they'd used "ebony" with a qualifier to mean "not really ebony", I naively assumed that when the 1920s catalog/pricelist used the word "ebony" without any qualifiers it actually mean real ebony. My mistake.

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In 2014, President Obama took credit for implementing new rules ...

 

Are we talking about the new CITES rules here, or some special US-only rule?

 

If it is CITES then I think that it is a bit disingenuous to blame Obama for this situation. CITES is an international treaty organization and its head is not an American. If Obama had not signed his executive order then the CITES agreement would still exist outside of the USA which would have pretty much the same effect as far as importing or exporting vintage instruments into or out of the USA.

 

I can well understand the motivation to save the last of the various species of threatened flora and fauna from future harvesting. What I do not understand is that if I own a pre-existing object made from of one of these things then why can't I get a simple certificate, something like an affidavit through my lawyer, to declare that fact and thus not make it valueless or, worse, subject to destruction.

 

Jim Lucas just wrote a comment giving a very good explanation of this (see above). CITES is an international treaty, not a law. Each signatory passes its own laws that supposedly implement the treaty. (Most signatories are nations, but as Jim points out, the E.U. is a signatory but not a nation.) In practice, the actual implementation of the treaty as national laws or regulations may vary quite a lot from one signatory to another.
The New York Times article I linked to when I started this discussion (https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/21/arts/design/new-limits-on-ivory-sales-set-off-wide-concerns.html?_r=0) contains several quotes from Craig Hoover, chief of the Wildlife Trade and Conservation branch at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, about the new regulations they issued in 2014. It specifically says, "Mr. Hoover said the eight-member advisory panel that formulated the new restrictions IS AWARE THEY IMPOSE INSURMOUNTABLE HURDLES." [emphasis added] I remember, shortly after those regulations were issued, Obama appeared on the TV news bragging about how the new regulations his administration just issued will save endangered elephants. I also remember a later news article in which he was bragging about his administration crushing tons of ivory objects to send a message.
If Obama is going to take very public victory laps for his administration doing this, he deserves the blame for the unnecessary harm caused by his badly-designed regulations. As a result of these badly-designed regulations, when the Budapest Festival Orchestra flew into NYC to perform at Lincoln Center, their bows were confiscated by Customs and they almost had to cancel their concert. This was ostensibly because the bows had ivory on the tips. But, as reported in a different New York Times article (https://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/03/budapest-orchestra-has-bows-seized-over-ivory-concerns/?_r=1), the orchestra's executive director explained that they had gotten documentation for each bow, with photographs and letters from bow makers stating that the bows contained no banned ivory. However, as far as Customs was concerned, that counted for nothing because the orchestra hadn't gotten an official CITES form from U.S. Fish and Wildlife. But Obama's panel had created a regulatory Catch-22. If your instrument does contain a banned substance, but you have historical documentation to prove its age, when it entered the U.S., and what port it entered through, then you can apply to U.S. Fish and Wildlife for an official CITES form that Customs is supposed to honor. BUT, if your instrument doesn't contain any banned substances you don't need to apply to U.S. Fish and Wildlife for their official approval, and I'm not sure that you even can. And when you arrive at U.S. Customs carrying a letter from a recognized expert certifying that the instrument doesn't contain any banned substances, all it takes is for some bozo customs agent with minimal expertise to disagree with the expert and decide that your instrument does contain banned material, and then you're royally screwed. They can legally seize your instrument and never give it back. They can crush it "to send a message" if some leader thinks it will generate good PR. The Budapest Festival Orchestra was lucky. They were permitted to send their bows back to Hungary after they paid the ransom Customs demanded. The news reports disagree on how much that ransom was. Some sources report that it was just $525 in fines and fees. Other sources report that it was $525 PER BOW, which would have amounted to $3,625.00.
This doesn't just affect people from other countries traveling into the U.S. It affects U.S. citizens when they return home after taking take their instruments outside the U.S. on vacation (or on tour).
As for my describing the customs agents as "bozos", the same NYT article reports that one musician brought two identical bows: same bow maker, same materials, both made in the same year. U.S. Customs confiscated one of the bows but let the other one through! If they actually were experts, that would never have happened.
Edited by Mark Rosenthal

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