Originally Posted by vilhelmsson
In my discussion with the agency official inspecting my package whom UPS connected me with, I forget whether it was US FDA or F&W, they said that both agencies randomly inspect antiques shipments valued at over $1,000 and it can take a while once they get their mitts on it.
OK, so now we have to deal with CITES on top of shippers who fear that our little community of antiques buffs might be feeding arms to terrorists...
In the US, incoming shipments are subject to random inspections regardless of whether by post or commercial carrier. Officials with the Fish and Wildlife administration are in charge of it; they operate under the bureaucratic umbrella of the US Dept. of Agriculture, and they work hand in glove with Border Control and Customs.
You are correct in that customs declarations are flagged, via contents description and value, for these inspections. "Antiques" and any verbiage pertaining to the decorative arts will trigger an occasional look-see; it's ironic for the recipient because "antique" designation is pretty much a free pass as re: import duty exemption if the thing is over a century old.
In my experience, some dealers who regularly ship to the US might be "flagged" for regular monitoring, likewise for recipients in the US who have been tagged with a "problem" shipment issue before. It's happened with guys I know in the UK and here in the States. And some overseas dealers have led a charmed life, having shipped ivory hilted daggers to the US repeatedly over the last umpteen years til recently.
So it can be a crapshoot... But do you want to take a chance? I have two colleagues in the trade who had problems over FAUX tortoise shell veneered sword hilts, both confiscated by officials who insisted that they were the real thing. One dealer, Europe based, got his merch out of hock after several months of sending in documentation explaining why his hilt veneer was ersatz (it doesn't take a great deal of art expertise to tell the difference). The other fellow, based in the US, had a similar type of sword confiscated en route to an overseas buyer, seized before it left our shores and that case is still unresolved.
The inspections are conducted in varying degrees. Often a simple X-ray scan is enough to clear a shipment, I sometimes receive a parcel with the F&W inspection sticker or tape on the outside, but with the original sealing undisturbed. A few times, the box looked opened and resealed. No problems with undue delays resulting from this, however. I have had far greater issues with carriers erroneously routing the parcel through their hub to another state, and it falling off the tracking net for awhile. Or for postal shipments of all kinds (not just antique weapons) held up for weeks at the USPS' New York international processing center for reasons unrelated to CITES.