Let us stipulate that no one wants to see further endangerment of elephants. That said, the Feds blew another one:

New federal rules aimed at blocking the sale of ivory to protect endangered elephants are causing an uproar among musicians, antiques dealers, gun collectors and thousands of others whose ability to sell, repair or travel with legally acquired ivory objects will soon be prohibited.

An example:

To illustrate the confusion ahead, experts gave the example of what would happen under the new regulations if someone attempted the interstate sale of a 100-year-old Steinway piano with ivory keys. Such a sale has long been permissible, because the piano qualified as an antique that contained ivory imported long before the mid-1970s, when officials began proscribing the material.

But the new regulations would prohibit such a sale unless the owner could prove the ivory in the keys had entered the country through one of 13 American ports authorized to sanction ivory goods.

Given that none of those entry points had such legal power until 1982, the regulations would make it virtually impossible to legitimize the piano’s ivory, the experts said. That predicament would apply to virtually all the antique ivory in the country, barring millions of Americans from ever selling items as innocuous as teacups, dice or fountain pens.

The Feds are not backing down, because smugglers:

[T]he eight-member advisory panel that formulated the new restrictions is aware they impose insurmountable hurdles. But … the efforts by some smugglers to disguise recently poached ivory as antique material have made the additional restrictions necessary.

My own suggestion — place a bounty on smugglers, and when they’re brought in, feed them to animals — apparently has not been considered.

(Via a Steinway owner.)


  1. fillyjonk »

    28 March 2014 · 9:40 am

    The unintended consequences, they burn. (For the record: I own a nearly-90 year old Steinway. Not that I’d ever sell it, unless the choice came down to “sell it or starve,” but if no one in the next gen of my family wants it when I shuffle off this mortal coil – well, I worry about it winding up in a landfill or something.)

    I’m all for banning sales of NEWLY POACHED ivory, but when it’s an instrument that has “1925” clearly stamped on it….well. (AFAIK, piano keys now are some kind of polymer)

    There’s also concern about people traveling with older instruments that contain ivory, that they could be confiscated and destroyed when they re-enter the US. (Older cello bows and some guitars contained it). A friend of mine is a semi-professional musician, and she’s received a letter from her union about this issue.

  2. Tatyana »

    28 March 2014 · 11:39 am

    Whatever happened to presumption of innocence? If government think an antique dealer is a smuggler, it’s for them to prove, not for the dealer – his innocence

  3. McGehee »

    28 March 2014 · 12:02 pm

    Filly, I think the word “unintended” may not necessarily apply. Their willingness to “impose insurmountable hurdles” suggests they regard antique ivory the way the Taliban regarded those ancient statues they blew up in Afghanistan.

  4. Jack Baruth »

    29 March 2014 · 10:22 am

    I’ve been thinking about buying a Steinway for a while now… looking for a pre-WWII Model M with ivory keys and, it is to be hoped, something besides piano black.

    A lot of rebuilt Steinways have the plastic keys. Intellectually, I know they are better.

    The funniest thing about the whole CITES business is that it encourages musical instrument makers to source in China, where CITES is widely disregarded and then the wood is mislabeled on its entry to the United States. Want a koa guitar? You can pay $4000 for an American Taylor with safe sourcing or $400 for a Chinese Bedell.

  5. Mark Alger »

    31 March 2014 · 2:56 pm

    Simple. Assert a Ninth Amendment right to liberty. Sue the CITES agent for violation of 81USC 241 — conspiracy to deny free exercise of civil rights, abridging said liberty. If they try to get all gummint on you, make it section 242, which adds the crime of doing so under color of law and makes this a predicate act to the equivalent of a Federal charge of felony murder, which makes it a capital case. No sovereign immunity.

    Cut the individual out from the herd. Rules for radicals.


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