Pitcairn Update, October 2014
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Critical Steps Ivory Owners Can Take Now

  • Prepare an inventory of your ivory items and try to identify the type and amount of ivory (as a percentage of materials) in each piece. This may be important since, for example, a new regulation in New York exempts bona fide antique objects in which ivory comprises less than 20% of the total materials, as long as the owner provides the required documentation.
  • Begin to compile documentation that shows when the ivory object was purchased, or imported, or inherited. These could be photographs, sale receipts, letters, gift tax or estate tax returns, etc. Collecting this type of detailed evidence is not something you would want to do in a rush when you’re ready to sell an item or have to file estate paperwork.
  • If you already have a relationship with a major auction house, ask for help. Even if auction houses begin to avoid ivory items, they typically have expert legal teams and will try to help valued clients.
  • Be patient. There’s no question that the new burden of proof has spurred a large increase in paperwork. You may have to hire attorneys and appraisers, something that wasn’t always necessary in the past. For major collectors, this will take time.
  • Ivory sales are an international issue and regulations differ not only from country to country, but even from state to state within the US. Be especially careful before you acquire an antique ivory item overseas as it may be very difficult to bring it into the US.
  • If you want ivory items to remain in your family, plan ahead to be sure there are adequate liquid assets to pay estate taxes on items that cannot be sold.
  • Be truthful. Enforcement has been stepped up to a point that we have never seen before. You can’t hide the fact that an item is made from ivory or includes ivory.
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    When is Ivory “Antique?”

    According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, to qualify as antique, the importer, exporter, or seller must show that an ivory item meets all of these criteria:

    • It is 100 years or older;
    • It is composed in whole or in part of an ESA-listed species;
    • It has not been repaired or modified with any such species after December 27, 1973; and
    • It is being or was imported through an endangered species “antique port.”

    Source: US Fish and Wildlife Service
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    Professions & Pastimes Affected by Ivory Regulations

    For many people, the impact of new ivory regulations reaches beyond figurines, furniture, or other family treasures. For some, ivory regulations may affect their very livelihood. The following, which is condensed from the US Fish and Wildlife Service website, highlights how ivory regulations may affect some professions and pastimes.
    Antique Dealers

    • Within the US, you may still sell African elephant ivory that a seller can demonstrate was lawfully imported prior to January 18, 1990 or was imported under a CITES pre-Convention certificate. (Sales may be subject to state regulations.) Asian elephant ivory sold in interstate commerce within the US must meet the strict criteria of the ESA antiques exception.
    • Commercial importation of African elephant ivory is no longer permitted. This applies even to items that qualify as antiques.

    Musicians & International Travel

    • If the USFWS proposed actions are finalized, orchestras, professional musicians, and similar entities will be allowed to import and export certain musical instruments containing African elephant ivory under specific conditions. You may continue to import worked African elephant ivory as part of a musical instrument 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 for 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.
    • However, commercial importation of musical instruments containing African elephant ivory is prohibited. Therefore, you may not purchase a musical instrument containing African elephant ivory from another country and have it shipped to the US.


    • The proposed actions of the USFWS will not significantly affect the importing of African elephant sport-hunted trophies, but would limit imports to two African elephant trophies per hunter per year.

    The general information provided here has been condensed from the website of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The USFSW website provides much more in-depth information about ivory regulations, which are quite complex. Please consult the website or an ivory specialist to learn how these regulations apply to your situation.

    Source: US Fish and Wildlife Service
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    Terms & Resources

    US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
    The USFWS is a federal government agency with the mission to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.
    The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
    CITES is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
    Endangered Species Act (ESA)
    The ESA was enacted by Congress in 1973. Its purpose is to protect threatened or endangered species of plants and animals and the habitats in which they are found.

    Return to main article – Ivory Regulations Create New Challenge for Estate Planning.
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