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Thread: Advice needed on shipping Gibson A-Jr to UK

  1. #1

    Default Advice needed on shipping Gibson A-Jr to UK

    I live in US and am selling my 1920s Gibson A-Jr and have a very interested buyer in UK. He wants me to check shipping costs - neither one of us (seller or buyer) have any idea. I am concerned he is going to get slapped with high customs and VAT costs and as some woods like rosewood were/are prohibited the mando may get be seized and destroyed at the border.

    I believe the Gibson A-Jrs of this period were made from spruce tops, maple back and sides and ebonized Brazilian rosewood headplates and fingerboards.

    Would I have to get a CITES certification [which would be a non-starter for me]?
    How much to ship to UK from Southeast USA?
    My gut tells me no way it will work economically or easily.

    Does anybody have any experience and/or insight on this.



  2. #2
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
    40.1646° N, 74.2083° W

    Default Re: Advice needed on shipping Gibson A-Jr to UK

    Take a look through these threads. Note the dates. We have been discussing this for a long long time.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Advice needed on shipping Gibson A-Jr to UK

    My 2 cents: It's gonna be tough.

    Beyond, the concerns of prohibited woods and all that, the Covid-19 restrictions have caused the shippers to limit services and raise prices of the services they offer, especially when it comes to international mail. It seems they have eliminated most of the low cost options for sending an instrument internationally.

    Here's an example from my eBay sale about a month ago. I was selling an 80's Ibanez electric guitar and just to keep things simple, I listed it as USA sales only. Well, a nice man from Peru emailed and said he was looking for one and asked if he could bid. I told him the shipping costs would be somewhere between $120 and 175 (USPS First Class International rates) He agreed and I gave him permission to bid. Basically, I was getting a lot of interest in the guitar, so I figured even if he didn't win the auction, he would at least cause a little excitement among the bidders.

    Well, guess what, he won. OK, no biggee, I've sent hundreds of instruments internationally and basically just requires a little more paperwork. Keep in mind, this is an electric guitar with a maple neck and an ash body -- no restricted woods, FWIW. Should be smooth sailing, or so I thought. Well, I took it to the post office and the postal worker tells me it can only be sent by Global Express to Peru and the cost is $327.50 !!!! Having done this a bunch, I politely suggested she check the rate for First Class International and see what that says.......she says that service is not being offered. I said what about Priority International? Again, NOT being offered. Not to be mean, but I live in a part of the country with some of the laziest postal workers in America, often I've been told incorrect information simply because they didn't want to spend 20 minutes typing Spanish words on the computer, so (knowing this) I said OK, thanks, and left, drove 15 miles to the next town up and believe it or not, got the same answer......$327.50 by Global Express was the only service being offered. She suggested I try UPS, just down the street. Sure, why not? Would you believe, their quote was $667.00???? TALK ABOUT PRICE GOUGING !! Anyway, I didn't check with FedEx because USPS said their service to Peru was coordinated with FedEx, whatever that means......

    So, I relayed this info to my customer (which, by this time, I've already regretted giving him permission to bid -- and the bids didn't go that high, anyway.....jeesh!) This is beginning to resemble WORK, something I was trying to avoid in my quest for eBay millions........but I digress.....

    I said, I can refund your order. I can send it to your address by USPS Global Express for $327.50 or if you have a friend or relative in the US, I can send it to them and you can pick it up when you visit. He explained he really wanted the guitar and his sister lived outside of Washington DC, so I sent it to her. She received it. My customer was happy, under the circumstances.

    Anyway, that's my story. If you add the wood restriction into the picture, I'd say it is going to be a nightmare under the best case scenario......

    Good luck!

    I should add, yes, even if everything goes right, your customer will STILL have to pay Customs/VAT fees and they can be a dealbreaker. Many international buyers will ask you to declare it as a gift, so they won't have to pay taxes, but in the same breath they would like it insured for its full value -- well, guess it what? It doesn't work that way. You can only insure it for the declared value and if you do any regular business with USPS, you can't declare things as gifts without raising red flags that will later bite you on the butt. OTOH, many people send instruments internationally with extremely low declared value $50 or $100 bucks, just to avoid these issues, but make sure the buyer is willing to accept the risk, which in all likelihood is small, based on my experience. YMMV.

  4. #4
    Registered User slimt's Avatar
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    Nov 2015

    Default Re: Advice needed on shipping Gibson A-Jr to UK

    Interesting to know what happens here.

  5. #5
    Registered User Vernon Hughes's Avatar
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    Dec 2006

    Default Re: Advice needed on shipping Gibson A-Jr to UK

    First class intl. shipping is only good on packages 4 lbs. or less FWIW.
    Hughes F-5 #1
    Hughes A model #1
    1922 Gibson A-2
    1958 Gibson A-5

  6. #6

    Default Re: Advice needed on shipping Gibson A-Jr to UK

    I have bought a number of instruments from the USA and imported them into the UK. My personal experience is that when the instrument arrives in the UK- and in most cases, the carrier has been USPS, the UK firm Royal Mail/Parcelforce acts as agent for the customs people. The parcel will have a value marked on it and that is down to you and the buyer. I did buy an old Harmony guitar and the seller unknown to me, stated the value as practically nothing- I had paid more than nothing for it and it arrived with no charges being owed.
    Basically, and this is from memory, you get £15- everything above that is liable to duty- about 3% of the value which is not a big deal. However, the killer is the sales tax- VAT which is 20%- levied on the remainder of the value over the £15. This is also levied on the shipping cost which is unconscionable- and on top of that, there will be a Parcelforce handling charge which is a sliding scale and on items just above £15 makes up virtually all of the charge that is levied- the charges coming to more than the cost of the item in some cases.
    Parcelforce, will send you a card stating the charges and you can pay this at the depot, or online, or by speaking to an employee at the local depot- the number will be on the card and then you are given options- which includes speaking to the local depot and then it will be delivered once you have paid. Obviously, if you pay at the depot- which is currently subject to very restricted hours due to Covid19, you take the package away with you.
    Now, we know, that some instruments have rosewood on them and this "has to be declared"- but let's suggest that the seller- especially on eBay, has no idea what the instrument is made of. Parcelforce is at the vast airfreight hub raising all the charges and then expediting the delivery. I assume there are sniffer dogs looking for certain stuff- but as far as I am aware, I don't think they are trained to pick up rosewood or ivory. The parcel is checked and charges raised- and possibly, some are examined but out of countless purchases, this has never happened to me- they are processing thousands of packages.
    Using the Global Shipping Program with eBay is a different story- what I have related here is pretty much my experience over seven years of buying instruments, accessories, bridges, tailpieces, tuning units etc.
    You should not take my experiences as a definitive 100% guaranteed reality but what I have described is what I have found and I have no qualms buying from the USA- although I am tired of being ripped off for the VAT- something that would end if the UK does a trade deal with the USA. Parcelforce employees have told me- when I am paying the charges that they think the VAT on the shipping is outrageous but it is permissible- and so it is done.
    In conclusion, items being damaged is of concern and proper packaging- and in a hard case are important. I believe that an instrument arriving but not in a case will not be considered for an insurance claim. I did buy a very cheap Kay mandolin for its tailpiece- it cost no more than the tailpiece, and it had a very low shipping cost. When it arrived, the packaging it would be an exaggeration to say was "minimal." How it was not smashed to pieces- is a complete mystery after a 5,000 mile journey. Sadly, it did get a crack in its top due to the deficient packing but amazingly, it turned out to be a player after a bit of attention- so it still has its tailpiece- the reason for buying it and it's a nice instrument which needs its top repaired, which I may attempt myself!
    A Gibson EM150- with a Geib chipboard case is on eBay right now, and the USPS shipping is quoted as $79.50 to the UK. This is ballpark- a heavier case will increase the cost- the cost being down to volume and weight factors. I would estimate that the shipping would be at least $120 with a good hard case which weighs so much more.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Advice needed on shipping Gibson A-Jr to UK

    Thanks for everyone’s insight. Yes the potential buyer and I decided that logistically it was too difficult and prohibitive. Thanks so much.


  8. #8

    Default Re: Advice needed on shipping Gibson A-Jr to UK

    As far as the buyer is concerned, if he waited till next year it would be over 100 years old and therefore be classed as eligible for Antique relief which means he would not have 20% VAT to pay. That is a major issue. If you go into this and try and find out from the FON etc when it was actually made, you may find it was made in 1918 or 1919. I assumeyou are saing it is a 1920 or do you mean 1920s which is different. I've been through all this with DHL. David Harvey of Gibson kindly assisted confirming an old F4 was made over 100 years ago.

    Another issue is postage. If you open an account with Transglobal, they do so much business with DHL that they get up to 75% discount so that could greatly reduce shipping cost. The big issue is INSURANCE. To get ot covered can be very costly. May have to ' take a chance'.

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