Relocating to U.S. - traveling with bows


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Hi everyone,

I'm hoping to get some advice about traveling with my bows. I'll be relocating from Australia to the U.S. for work early next year, and will be bringing my violin with me. My concerns are for my 2 pernambuco bows and their tips (my third bow is a codabow and I presume I can print info off the Codabow website to show there's no ivory present). I've owned these bows for the past 20 years but no longer have any receipts to prove I've had them that long.

Can anyone advise what the best course of action would be? I've thought about replacing the tips with another material but would prefer if I didn't absolutely have to do so...

Thanks in advance,

Ken

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That's a good idea.  If you're only going for a short time (like a year), leave them behind and use another bow in the interim.

 

Once it all sorts itself out (which is hopefully sooner than later) it would be nice to think that it will become a non-issue again.  But until that happens...

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Welcome to our otherwise not too bad country.

 

There has been a great deal of discussion on Maestronet about this topic; from this I gather there is no absolute guarantee that you won't have a hassle.

 

If Brad says you're better off not bringing them, then it's worse than even I thought. 

 

I would contact the American Embassy or a Consulate, and at least make them work.  And perhaps they might know if there are more safeguards in place now to accommodate our visitors.

 

Best of luck and enjoy your stay.

 

Will

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Here is a Q & A link from the USFWS http://www.fws.gov/international/travel-and-trade/ivory-ban-questions-and-answers.html#4 , and the part that I think is relevent to your situation (see below). As I read it, you are going to need the required documents to move your bows into the U.S. If you can't get the documents, it's probably better not to bring them as Brad has already said.

-Jim

Musicians and musical instrument manufacturers

Can I import African elephant ivory as part of a musical instrument?

You may import worked African elephant ivory as part of a musical instrument provided that the ivory was legally acquired before February 26, 1976; the ivory has not been transferred from one person to another person in the pursuit of financial gain or profit after February 25, 2014; the person or group qualifies for a CITES musical instrument certificate; and the musical instrument containing elephant ivory is accompanied by a valid CITES musical instrument certificate or an equivalent CITES document that meets the requirements of CITES Resolution Conf. 16.8. Raw African elephant ivory cannot be imported as part of a musical instrument.

If all of the proposed actions are finalized, will I be able to travel internationally with a musical instrument containing elephant ivory?

Orchestras, professional musicians and similar entities will be allowed to import and export certain musical instruments containing African elephant ivory under specific conditions. Worked African elephant ivory imported as part of a musical instrument will continue to be allowed provided the worked ivory was legally acquired prior to February 26, 1976; the worked elephant ivory has not been transferred from one person to another person in pursuit of financial gain or profit after February 25, 2014; and the item is accompanied by a valid CITES musical instrument passport or CITES traveling exhibition certificate.

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...If Brad says you're better off not bringing them, then it's worse than even I thought...

 

I don't know how bad it really is.

 

I recently conducted an experiment to try to find out.  I sent two junk violin bows with white tips to a friend living abroad.  I don't know if the tips were bone or ivory.  I asked him to bring the bows through customs when he came back just to see what would happen.  I told him that I didn't think he would be arrested, bow the bows might be confiscated which would be OK since they were junk bows.  He walked through customs carrying the bows in one hand.  An inspector asked him what they were, and he said they were violin bows.  The inspector said "OK" without looking at them.

 

The problem is that you won't know what will happen when you try to bring your bows in until it's too late.

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I don't know how bad it really is.

 

The problem is that you won't know what will happen when you try to bring your bows in until it's too late.

I think that's the worst part; you just can't rely on what anyone has told you.  There's no consistency; no matter what you've been told by someone, the next guy never seems to know what the first one did.  

 

Going through Customs has always seemed to be a matter of whether agent "Grumpy" got up on the wrong side of the bed that morning, or the right side of the wrong bed.  And there is no doubt— from my small share of "amusing" (a euphemism, indeed) episodes—that giving some people a badge and a few rules shows not just anyone should be given even that little power.  It makes you wonder what they would do with more.  I know that flies given some of them should already have the wings removed.

 

I hope to again find Szigeti's scary story of almost losing his Petrus in Vietnam, at the border; he has a whole little blurb on dealing with customs, dating back into the early 1900s.  I'll post it if I find it.  It seems some things never change.     

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Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who chimed in...I'll explore replacing the tips with silver with my local luthier, but may have to end up just bringing my codabow and buying a new bow in the U.S. I'll miss my primary bow though. Gotten quite used to the sound it draws...

Cheers,

Ken

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Here's an idea. Instead of replacing the tips with silver, just remove them, swallow them before boarding the plane, and reglue them on when you get here.

 

Sorry, the subject  is not funny at all but so ridiculous that humor is the only reasonable response.

How about putting off the trip for a couple years until after the election?

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Here is a Q & A link from the USFWS http://www.fws.gov/international/travel-and-trade/ivory-ban-questions-and-answers.html#4 

 Raw African elephant ivory cannot be imported as part of a musical instrument.

 

Darnit!  I was thinking of gluing a whole live elephant (that would be about as raw as possible) to the head of a bow to see the faces of the customs agents.  I guess they would just turn me right back around with a stern warning.

 

Yes, I know it would mess up the bow's balance. 

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That's just a 'rough guess' on your part, isn't it?

Well, some on these pages say balance isn't all that important, but the weight might be a problem.  And the case has to be specially made.   :)  Plus I imagine it would lead to a whole new search for a really good glue.  Too many clients coming back saying, "My ivory tip keeps falling off, and he's hungry all the time."

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If you are going to do a shipment of 'non taxable household goods for import' beds, blenders, chairs, tables, pots pans etc. Then you could pack the bows carefully  in a double cardboard box and tape them to the side or inside a large object where they will be safe.  Less than 10% of the shipments of private household goods even get looked at probably less than 10%.  If you use your commercial shipper to expedite the goods through customs, which is much smarter that trying to do this yourself anyway, your goods will likely go through very fast and easy being that your departure point is Australia.  Non taxable household goods seldom get opened, they just don't have time and they have bigger concerns. So if it passes through the port of entry without setting off the equipment scanning for nuclear bombs you're probably going to make it. 

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Here's a recent anecdote. I have a violist friend over here who has an amazing Peccate. Peccate carved a little snail shell "scroll" on the end of the original ivory tip plate instead of the flat triangle one normally sees. A few weeks ago, I ran into my friend at the conservatory, and he gleefully told me he was about to leave on a concert tour of the US and Canada with his string trio. We chatted about the cities, some restaurants, their repertoire etc. The next day, I suddenly remembered that my friend and his partners were running a huge risk. I frantically started e-mailing, warning of confiscations and offering to find suitable loaners stateside, suggesting they contact their manager etc. It was too late, they'd already left. In the end, nothing happened at customs. Their bows and instruments sailed through US customs twice (flying into NY from France, then Canada-US by car) without any problems, and with no special papers. Have there been new orders issued to customs officials, or was this just happy, dumb luck?

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