Before you read on – In the UK it is illegal to advertise, buy or sell a guitar containing Brazilian Rosewood without the instrument having an Article 10 certificate. Therefore most pre- 1967 Fenders & Gibsons, among others. Do not believe anything else – the guitar does not have to be imported or exported. It applies to the UK home market, business, commission or private sale. E-bay, Reverb, Facebook & dealers generally choose to ignore this fact. This all kicked off in 1992.
Good news, the law was amended in 2019 and exempted Indian Rosewood (Appendix II species). The amendment is a confusing read but does not exempt Appendix I species, including Brazilian Rosewood. Most website articles do not distinguish between Indian & Brazilian Rosewood (Appendix II / Appendix I woods) and often imply Brazilian Rosewood is now exempt – this is not true.
Our personal view is that CITES should not be applied to vintage instruments already manufactured. It is nonsense, but Law. It was probably a mistake but the decision will not be reversed. Indian Rosewood rules were amended due to lobbying from major manufacturers with serious money & contacts. Unfortunately there is no such lobbying in the vintage or second hand market – which also compete with new instruments, so don’t expect the likes of Gibson to step up to the plate.
You may have heard of CITES, (also known as the Washington Convention), seen stuffed turtles in the airport and wondered what it was about. Possibly you chose to ignore it or were given incorrect advice, often blatantly misleading. We hear all sorts of bullshit every month from businesses that know better. This is not intended to give chapter and verse on International Law regarding protection of endangered species, but hopefully make you aware of the pitfalls regarding guitars.
The Law is applied Internationally but administered differently between countries. In the UK, administration is by the Animal and Plant Health Agency APHA, Bristol.
Most issues are with Brazilian Rosewood. The Latin name is Dalbergia Nigra. Other timber species are included in listings, but occur less commonly in guitar manufacture. Unfortunately there is no specific go-to section within Government guidelines for guitars. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/cites-controls-import-and-export-of-protected-species covers the lot: parrots, crocodile handbags, ivory, elephants feet, birds of prey… try getting a tune out of them.
This applies to dealers, retailers and private sales, eBay, Reverb, Facebook – basically anyone having a commercial interest or gain, every base is covered. The A10 certificate number must be published in any advertisment. An offender can be fined or have the instrument seized, this includes commission sellers. It is worth noting that most auction houses will no longer deal with guitars that do not have an A10. Curiously you need no paperwork to own an instrument.
Article 10 Certificates are available from APHA at a cost of £31. These are transaction-specific, with owner’s name. To obtain an A10 you must prove you purchased the guitar before 1992 and the instrument’s age. If you imported a vintage instrument after 1992 you have very little chance of obtaining an A10. If you bought the guitar within the UK or EU after 1992 you should not have done so without the guitar already having an Article 10 Certificate – which obviously for historic transactions it would not have had, as nobody was even aware of legislation, ridiculous but it’s the Law…
There is a much published on the web regarding identification. Brazilian Rosewood can look similar to Indian and lesser Rosewood species. You can have your guitar chopped up and analysed at Kew Gardens. Alternatively you can usually rely on manufacturers published specifications, if you can track them down. Otherwise, if you don’t know, you must assume worst case scenario – Appendix I. All of this will probably only become relevant when you are trying to fight your case. Try not to arrive at this point.
Brazilian Rosewood was often used by the major players – Fender, Gibson, Martin etc. – until around 1967 / 68 or later, for finger boards and bridges. Brazilian Rosewood falls within the most restricted CITES category, Appendix I. This has been Law since 1992 but nobody was aware, or bothered, until late 2016. The legislation covers any instrument made between approximately 1947 and 1992. See Knock on Wood blog. There is also, of course, ivory, but we’ll not go there today.
If the guitar was made pre-1947 you fall out side the scope of CITES – good news, do nothing!
If a guitar was made after 1992 with Brazilian Rosewood it is deemed illegal, unless it can be proved the timber used was legally held certified stock – now virtually impossible for the end-user / buyer.
It seems the impact on guitars and musical instruments was unintended or at best misunderstood by whoever drafted the legislation. APHA do enforce and Customs most definitely do. APHA are helpful and you can talk to them but they must uphold the Law.
Don’t bury your head in the sand or invest a large sum of money without the correct paperwork. It’s up to you but remember, it is not an investment if you cannot sell it. Buy to play, but never forget you or your heirs may need to liquidate your asset one day.
In the UK if you buy without an Article 10 you are deemed to have broken the Law, along with the vendor, so you will gain very little sympathy from the Powers-that-Be. It’s a ridiculous scenario but rules will not be relaxed – it took about 25 years to get this far.
Beware the numerous web posts on CITES, unless they are specifically applicable to procedure in the United Kingdom. Many are written from a US perspective, where there is no A10, or confuse Indian & Brazilian Rosewood. We will apply for certificates on your behalf for a small fee.