Old objects of great value are rare. That is why it is so important to assure antiques are imported with care when being shipped from overseas. If the proper permits or duty documents do not accompany an imported antique, the item can become the temporary possession of another party until the matter is cleared up, which could become both timely and costly.
This guide is a brief overview on the procedure and duty, or lack thereof, for imported antiques and what the owner of the age-old item can expect when it is being transferred via air or water.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Regulations
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection has strict rules on the Harmonized Tariff Schedule, HTS. The schedule, part of a coding and classification system, is governed by the World Custom's Organization based out of Brussels, Belgium. The HTS has 22 sections and 99 subsequent chapters that detail the laws on importing antiques.
Under 97.06, any antique older than 100 years old can be imported free of customs duty, however there must be an age declaration written and signed by the new owner of the antique. Some items exempt from duty under the 97.06 provision are pearls, natural or cultured, or precious or semi-precious stones; original lithographs, engravings and prints; coins and collectors pieces; and revenue stamps, unused postage or postal stationery.
Shipper and Customs Broker
Though an antique may be shipped by air or sea cargo or post delivery, no matter the method certain duty and documents are needed to import the age-old item. That is where the shipper and customs broker comes into the picture, acting as a go between the customer and the merchant. However if the shipper has a custom broker license than can process procedural paperwork. While the shipper picks up the antique from the respective merchant and packs the delicate item for travel, he or she will also deal with the customs agent if they are not acting as one themselves.
The customs broker will handle all stateside paperwork needed to import the antique. They are the ones to declare the antique shipment to U.S. Customs and then have it brought from the port to the customer's door. In some cases, the U.S. Customs will want to break the seal on the package and inspect the antique, which they have a every right to do.
Antique Packing for Import Shipping
Though the customer has no control of packing artwork and antiques they purchased since they cannot be present at the time of their shipment, they do have control over calling the shipper to assure their prized possession was handled with kid gloves.
It is always a good idea to have the merchant take a picture of the antique so that when it is received by the customer they can compare it to the photograph. If indeed there is any damage, then the shipper who handled the item may be held responsible for reimbursing the customer or the customer can receive compensation from the insurance company they hired to cover the item.