Ivory Ban Leads Budapest Orchestra to Be Fined for "Importing" Bows They Insist Contained No Ivory


Sometimes, causing officious state agents to think you are committing a crime is the crime, as the Budapest Festival Orchestra just learned, in this story via radio station WQXR-FM from New York:

The Hungarian orchestra was traveling from Budapest to Avery Fisher Hall, where it gave a pair of Dvorak concerts on Sunday and Monday. The musicians landed in Newark; the instruments were shipped on a separate plane to JFK, where the string bows were abruptly confiscated. They were held in cargo cases and returned to the orchestra on Tuesday after it paid a $525 fine.

Orchestra spokesman Adèl Tossenberger said in an e-mail that the seized bows did not contain any ivory and the orchestra received a certificate from a Hungarian expert verifying this. But U.S. regulations stipulate that a musical instrument containing African elephant ivory may be brought into the country only if it is accompanied by a specific CITES musical instrument certificate, which verifies that it was purchased before February 25, 2014.

Government officials insist it looked just like ivory to them:

Claire Cassel, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), wrote that an agency inspector "found on physical examination that the tips of seven of the bows imported by the Budapest Festival Orchestra were made from elephant ivory. (The material clearly exhibited certain types of lines – called Schreger lines – that are only found in elephant ivory.)"

Cassel added that the orchestra did not have a CITES permit for the bows in question. "The Service refused entry for the seven bows and issued a ticket for the CITES violation. The orchestra was allowed to re-export the bows when it left the United States; no bows were seized or forfeited to the U.S. government."….

The incident comes after the USFWS announced on May 15 that it was relaxing rules enacted earlier this year that would have prohibited most traveling musicians from entering the U.S. with instruments that contain small amounts of African elephant ivory. But the League of American Orchestras, which has been lobbying for more flexible rules, has said that "serious concerns" remain in the permit process, and that "complicated enforcement procedures" remain a problem at U.S. ports of entry.

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  1. Think of it as US vig; it’s just that the gov’t gets to keep it instead of the guy at the customs booth.

  2. Whenever we hear these stories it’s in NYC. Do they ship the dumbest agents there or does the city destroy their brains?

    1. Probably that’s one of the busier airports, and also I imagine a lot of classical musicians would be coming through there from other countries to perform in NYC.

  3. So if the Fish and Wildlife Service officer demanded the money personally, that would be bribery.

    But because she put the money in the department’s coffers, it isn’t extortion?

    1. That money was made clean through the miracle of Transfinaciation, one of Fundamentalist Statism’s most holy rituals. It is beyond the ken of mere tax slaves like you or I. We can only bask, hands around our ankles, in it’s glory.

  4. When you create an unaccountable agency that basically has no real work to do, but keeps expanding and needs a bigger budget, they’re going to find something to do.

    Now get out there and find that damn ivory, whether it exists or not! Or else, budget cuts!!!

  5. This is an actual thing. My bagpipes (like a lot made up to the 80’s) had “pre-treaty” ivory. But they want a bill of sale. “Uhhhhh – I bought these in the 70’s. Paid cash. Bill of sale – long gone. Manufacturer [Grainger and Campbell, for those counting] is out of business.” “Well….you’d better get a CITES cert, or these might get confiscated.” Ih, no. Replacement cost for a similar silver and ivory set? Start at $6000 US, go up from there…

    So – Scotland – they don’t care. They’re just glad we go over there to compete and spend money. US – didn’t care until recently – esp if you’re a citizen. Canada – totally hassled me to the point I quit playing over there.

    Now I have to buy another set up pipes with just silver (or stainless) mounts, just to avoid the hassle, if I want to play with a Canadian pipe band again or compete there. Which I do. Full silver set of Gibsons – $5000. Stainless – $1400. Shit.

    Fuck governments, and thanks to the dead elephants that contributed their sweet, sweet tusks to make the ornamentation on my now-very-valuable pipes!


    1. PS Hot tip to really make the rings/striations stand out on the ivory? Rub it with a bit of mineral oil. I use that to help the also-rare African blackwood – found out by accident that it really peps up the old ivory, too!

    2. I’ve read about a lot of people that have similar problems. Old Martin guitars or whatever that are seized because they’re made out of Brazilian rosewood or that flute player guy who’s flutes got destroyed in NYC. It’s really a shitty situation for people with older instruments.

      1. Yeah – as you know, Gibson got fucked with for some bullshit deal on certain types of wood.

        Yeah, I have 6 guitars, too….fuck me.

        1. Right. And Martin didn’t, even though they have the same type of wood.

          Luckily I play the saxophone, which isn’t made from rare wood.

          1. Martin contributed to Obama’s campaign.

            Gibson didn’t.

            The math is simple.

    3. Why don’t you just forge papers? That’s what I’d do.

  6. CAPTION: “Dude, that’s, like, ten, twenty sets of full-ivory pipes. Kill the big one, take just the tusks – we’ll sell the little one to a circus.”

  7. Government Almighty DANG it, ye morons, the rules are VERY simple and easy to follow!!! Come ON, now, repeat after me: “If Government Almighty moves money or property around, it is GOOD!!! (Can you say “GOOD”?) If free will of individuals (read, “evil, greedy MARKETS!!!”) moves money around, it is EVIL!!! Can you say “Evil”?!?!. It is THAT simple!!! ? This session of Government-Almighty worship brought to you for FREE by the Church of Scienfoology. ? To learn more about Scienfoology, please see ?

  8. There’s a rumor floating around the gun community of a H&H double rifle worth $100k getting confiscated because of an ivory front sight. It was never seen again.

    Chances are it disappeared into the gun safe of some government thug.

  9. Sandusky says that aint gonna happen dude.

  10. I wish these people would grow balls and refuse to accept invitations to perform here in the USA until this shit stops.

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