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Buying a sword abroad.


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Based in the UK, it has been the norm for me to admire sales items offered out of this country. Indeed, there have been several items, I would have bought to own, but didn't.

Was it cash flow no, or difficulty with language no, distrust of seller again no! It was UK Customs, for some inexplicable reason, they refuse to acknowledge that they are not equipped to deal with, or handle specialist and valuable antiques, at point of entry

The sight of a label that states that a bladed item is enclosed, sends them into a fit of confusion, and at times declare that this weapon, cannot be allowed to enter the UK!

Now I am sure that there are those that say “I had no trouble at all” and good luck to you. But in the last two months I have listened to two stories that were a confirmation of my own worries.

One person had his sword turned out of the country, he was fined, the seller sent it back, and the buyer was fined again, while trying to prove its antique status as a non weapon.

The other, a sword was deemed for destruction at point of entry, again massive hassle for the buyer.

With the understanding of sword etiquette that we observe, my imagination conjures up the vision, of bored custom people at 3am somewhere, doing a Tom Cruise impression with my latest acquisition.

So unless someone can offer a 100% system, that is safe for person to person sales. I shall remain in my cocoon. Rant over. :rant:

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The last sword i bought, the seller taped an envelope to the side of the box marked "CUSTOMS", in large black letters, inside i presume was a full explanation in plain English. A good idea, seems they opened it and took note :)

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Denis

 

Not just swords, I have had problems with a Tanegashima, which the UK side said was a firearm?????

 

It took a while to point out that it would only kill a person if you clubbed them to death with it.

 

The people making the call on these items have no idea and do not really care, you can not post it out and can not buy it in.

 

I think that now is the time to move to France, good wine, great food , crap driving skills but at least you can buy and sell swords.

 

David N.

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Based in the UK, it has been the norm for me to admire sales items offered out of this country. Indeed, there have been several items, I would have bought to own, but didn't.

 

Having not bought from overseas for a few years until recently I share your anxiety but I was relieved to know my recent purchases from Japan went without any problem and cleared UK custom within minutes. I hadnt bought from the US of late so cannot verify importing swords other than from Japan. If you heard otherwise and there were indeed problems maybe I was lucky.

 

Since I don't consider myself a collector but merely to get hold of a particular sample, learn about it and move it on to real collectors you and other UK folks might have an opportunity to purchase what I acquired abroad.

 

 

Wah

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I shall offer my services to hand carry any antique sword from anywhere to anywhere. All I need is the ticket and expenses other than meals. John

 

John A

 

Is that all you want?, I would have expected much more than that, for a personally tailored service. :rotfl:

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Hi Dennis

I have experienced similar problems in the past. I was hoping that some years after the last governments ill judged legislation concerning "Samurai Swords" the much promised Home Office advisory document would have circulated the various customs officials but it would appear to have reached or at least had no impact on customs clearance in Coventry.

Having said that all of my current limited collection has come from overseas more specifically the USA or Japan. In the case of the USA FedEx have offered by far the best service. Their clearance hub is at Stansted and at least there they seem able to read documents which clearly state "Antique" and "do not touch the blade". The people responsible for Parcelforce clearance at Coventry appear to have yet to master these skills.

My two most recent purchases from the USA were sent over International economy. They were shipped processed and arrived within 4 days. Are FedEx more expensive? Yes a bit. Is it worth it? to date most certainly.

There is a link somewhere on the board offering advice on documentation for shipping swords around the world. I think originally written by Darcy. If you cant find it pm me with your email address and I will send you a copy. It would be a great shame to handicap your progress by only feeling happy buying locally There are just too many good swords around overseas to not buy internationally

Best Regards

Paul

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Hi how goes it Paul?

 

I think its a case of finding what works, and gaining confidence in that course of action. Also its a case of expenditure in the thousands, and trusting to luck that its not going to go tits up.

 

I will seek out that link and see how it goes, and yes it is a negative position not being confident in overseas purchases. But it has been 'trust no one, lose nothing'.

 

Any probs, I will be back to you Cheers.

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Paul, I have no problems lately with Parcel Force via UPS and customs over in Coventry. Process was smooth and fast including a purchase of a brand new shinsakuto. Only have to pay custom fees. Maybe Coventry custom official is discriminating?

 

Wah

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Wah,

well done you I am glad you have had a positive experience. I am sure they can and do get it right but most times one hears of hold ups and problems it comes from there. Of course they also handle a lot more than anyone else so one would expect a greater number of problems. Speaking personally the only imports I have had issues with are parcelforce and Coventry.

Perhaps you are right maybe they are discriminating and hate my bad taste in antiques, or maybe I am just paranoid :oops:

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Sometimes, it helps to know someone. A fellow Rotarian is in charge of Customs for Hawaii, so everything I have shipped in from overseas includes a note to "Please refer this article to Craig XXXX before opening." So far, not a single problem in over a dozen years.

 

But shipping things from Hawaii to the mainland is a whole other bag of snakes. I've had a beautiful tachi get removed from its packaging, thoroughly fingerprinted, & then jammed back into the saya in the wrong direction. Broke the blade tip & saya. Not happy with the U.S. postal "service," & now just use FedEx.

 

Ken

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You can, but, it can be tough. A tortious act by a government employee or agency by a criminal act has a much better chance than an accident of making it past the Attorney Generals Office. See, Federal Tort Claims Act. Another easy mistake to make is in deciding who to name as a defendant. A lawsuit naming the FBI or United States Department of Justice per se as defendants may fail because the agencies are likely to raise certain immunity defenses which have yet to be abolished. Even so there would be mediation or other methods of negotiation ordered before suit could proceed. John

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John is right, Jean. I used to be an upper-level manager for a U.S. federal agency, & was astonished at how little the normal laws applied to what I & my colleagues did. It would take almost literally an act of Congress to bring a lawsuit. Not a very positive thing. But my buddy Craig does a great job of running his large department, & the few times anything has gone wrong, he's been quick to try & make things right; I just wish that was the rule, rather than the exception.

 

My tachi wasn't ruined by Customs, but rather by the Post Office (shipping from Hawaii to Pennsylvania), by the way, & if I hadn't taken out a lot of insurance, the sword wouldn't have been the only thing that got screwed up!

 

Ken

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Dennis,

Is it easier to import a sword personally into the UK, ie actually carry it thru customs.

If this was the case prehaps you could purchase internationally and have the item shipped to a fellow board member in France and then cross the channel and pick up said item . As i understand France is a day trip from some area's of the UK .

Chris

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A few years ago when the UK government was still shaping the law on importing swords that put a chill on people buying from abroad, Clive mentioned that he had no problem with customs because they knew him and his involvement with sword legislation with the Home Office.

If the letter of the law is applied there should'nt be any problem with importing swords old or new as long as it is art swords into the UK. Unfortunately all it takes is an inexperience custom official and everything becomes a mess.

 

Wah

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Thanks for the very positive responses, there is a consensus of the opinion that risks are involved. Also added to the purchase abroad, is also the same scenario for sending a sword to Japan for polish. After seeking the best for my sword, and paying ALL the costs involved, I think I would be a nervous wreck until its return.

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Wah,

well done you I am glad you have had a positive experience. I am sure they can and do get it right but most times one hears of hold ups and problems it comes from there. Of course they also handle a lot more than anyone else so one would expect a greater number of problems. Speaking personally the only imports I have had issues with are parcelforce and Coventry.

Perhaps you are right maybe they are discriminating and hate my bad taste in antiques, or maybe I am just paranoid :oops:

 

A Japanese dealer told me a collector in the UK requested he declare the sword he sent as "sporting goods" as use for Iai practitioner. Apparenly it got in with no problem. Maybe custom official thought I was a 10th dan Iaido master :lol:

 

Wah

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Since first starting this post, I have been spoken to by someone who is in the know, and he made a very interesting statement.

 

Its basically the description of articles, as per the Customs good book. It transpires that the Customs have a descriptive term" Offensive weapons" now not for one moment, would you or I see our treasures as, 'offensive or a weapon' but get a look at the published pamphlet Offensive weapons: Import controls.

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I haven't read through the final legislation for some time but have a copy on my desktop. When it returns from repair I will happily forward it. However from memory the ban was on the importation and sale of swords with a curved blade over 50cm long

Exemptions included

1. Antiques over 100 years old

2. Modern blades made using traditional materials and methods and made by a registered artisan

3. non traditionally made swords made prior to 1953 (need to check actual date)

Also weapons used in sport, martial arts or re-enactment.

 

Based on the above it is legal to import Gunto, gendaito and shinsakuto. It was always legal to import antique blades.

 

As said above I need to double check again so I am not relying on my diminishing grey cells. However I think a full copy of the legislationis on the Home Office site and may even be archived on the board.

Regards

Paul

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Probably the best possible solution (in pretty much any country, see Ken's example with the tachi) is to attend sword shows, buy the swords you like, bring them home yourself.

 

Of course you can still have bad luck and have your luggage damaged at the airport, but if you put the swords in strong PVC pipes I'd say the chances to have them damaged by the airport personnel are slim to none.

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Paul the date for offences weapons act for offences with: is 1953. For importation, with the amended rules is 1954.

 

Adrian yes thats the ideal, with luggage in hold, and then present to customs in person.

But that won't work with sending items for polish, or you not being able to travel abroad, with fares and accommodation costs. Except for France the UK is a long way from any practical sword market.

 

Your reference to pvc pipes, they are a good standard packaging. But a tip I was given and has stood me in good stead, is, never, never package a sword for transit with the tsuba in place. It reduces the profile, and presents a greater cushioning area against rough handling.

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