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-Andy-

How do you ensure your legal fossils can pass the customs?

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-Andy-

I am sure many of you are buyers as well as collectors, and one issue we would hate to face would be to have your legal fossils impounded by the customs, whether it be during delivery from overseas, or when you travel aboard with fossils.

 

Personally, I've faced this situation twice. The first was when I imported a meg tooth from North Carolina. I was summoned to the customs office for smuggling in shark products. Thankfully, I managed to convince them that the megalodon was in fact extinct and not heavily endangered(glad the officer wasn't a living-meg conspiracist).

 

Two years later, I had a Judith River theropod tooth seized mid-delivery, and I had to go to the customs again. This time, I had the misfortune of facing a paranoid officer who was determined that dinosaur fossils did not belong in personal collections. I did not have official papers with me declaring that the fossil was legal, and the officer grilled me for an hour on why I was smuggling precious dinosaur fossils. I challenged him to prove my Judith River fossil was illegal. He couldn't. Finally, after his higher-up was involved, they admitted my dinosaur tooth wasn't illegal after all, and I was allowed to keep it.

 

It isn't always a happy ending however. My friend who was travelling overseas had bought common fossils like a Moroccan mosasaur jaw and some ammonites. In Paris, they seized his fossils, saying they had to check for the legality of the specimens. As he was in mid-travel, he had no choice but to leave his fossils behind. He never saw his fossils again, not even after negotiating with them for months. All this because he couldn't produce legal papers.
 

Buyers and diggers would understand - most of the time you wouldn't be getting documentation from museums for your fossils... unless they are important specimens, in which case you shouldn't be trading them at all. But if you lack the papers, the customs can seize your fossil at any time if you can't prove it is legal. Do you see the logical fallacy here?

Imagine say, you dug up your own tyrannosaur tooth in USA, stopped by Canada for a holiday, only to have the customs seize your fossil because you are unable to proof it isn't found in Canada. How would you feel?

 

So to everyone who buys fossils, or bring them across countries, how would you ensure that your legal fossils can get through the customs?

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Foozil

I feel horrible for your friend, thats just tragic :( 

Im very interested to see what others have to say. 

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oilshale

Well, exporting vertebrates from Morocco is illegal - even if they are quite common... customs in France just enforced the law.  

This might help a bit: https://www.fossilhunters.xyz/fossil-industry/appendix-how-to-check-if-that-fossil-is-legal.html

Quotation: "Morocco. Most fossils sold out of Morocco are quite legal. The Cheftaine des Phosphates issues licences for a certain number of registered fossil collectors, who are then responsible for managing the resources and selling the specimens. Within Morocco it is a different matter, as many individuals sell fossils but are probably not licensed to do so. Buying fossils from an unlicensed seller is illegal."

 

The Association of Applied Paleontological Sciences is offering a reference of International Fossil Laws for Academic and Independent Paleontologists, as well as students and fossil enthusiasts: http://www.aaps-journal.org/International-Fossil-Laws.html 
Hope it will be updated - right now it is of limited help. This list is so far only referring to the status for Brazil, China and South Africa .

 

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RJB

To get through customs I bring along my big army truck and a couple of 50 cal machine guns and bust my way through!!!   Just kidding :)   I once went to Canada for a vacation and brought along some fossils for trade with some other fossil hounds.  I was stopped at the border for about 4 hours.  They were convinced i was there to sell my fossils and there was no way around that.  Period!   I wasnt about to leave my fossils behind so came right back across to the US on the Ferry.  An intire day of going abslolutely nowhere and at a cost of about $120.     

 

RB

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Uncle Siphuncle

When traveling, I tend to ship gift fossils to my hosts before or after my trip, and ship finds home from the collecting location.  I only ship what is legally obtained, but my main concern is having my itinerary compromised by unnecessary border delays.  

 

I avoided a situation like Ron's debacle as follows.  Collect in WA.  Ship goodies home flat rate from a US post office found to be en route through prior research.  Take the ferry to Canada.  Take the ferry back.  Collect more in WA and carry remaining goodies home on the plane.  

 

I'm a logistics spaz, so I always research fossil laws before I travel, and plan for a way to get them home while circumventing govt types from throwing a monkey wrench into my plans.

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WhodamanHD

The the customs officer who thinks megalodon is still alive made me laugh! This is a problem I hope they fix, they should have more education people in the positions so that they know what's important and what I found behind an apartment building, hopefully someday....

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Uncle Siphuncle

Furthermore, and this is just my personal opinion, not meant to influence others, but in response to what I perceive to be an increase in collector-strangling laws abroad, my motivation to own fossils sourced overseas has diminished.  Since my collection is largely self-collected, I just don't see myself going through the customs hassle often going forward for anything I didn't find myself.  My travels outside of the US tend to focus on fossil friendly countries, and even this has begun to tighten up in recent years.  I've lost some expensive stuff in customs as well, and that has largely extinguished my motivation to buy or trade overseas.  But if I do make exceptions going forward, things will probably go smoothest if I focus on inverts.  My interests, once partially offshored, have recently experienced some amount of reshoring to take advantage of the vast and varied fossil resources available within the US, to the extent that I'm willing to travel.  Restrictions continue to encroach on collecting freedoms in the US as well, and I predict that my generation will still be able to collect somewhat as we know it for a few decades, but future generations may not be able to enjoy collecting with equal liberty.

13 minutes ago, WhodamanHD said:

The the customs officer who thinks megalodon is still alive made me laugh! This is a problem I hope they fix, they should have more education people in the positions so that they know what's important and what I found behind an apartment building, hopefully someday....

Shear size should tell the whole story.  Same goes for mammoth vs. elephant ivory.  But what do I know....

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jpc

knock ion wood... the only fossils I have had seized were confiscated because of their size... potential weapon on a plane.  

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Doctor Mud
2 hours ago, jpc said:

knock ion wood... the only fossils I have had seized were confiscated because of their size... potential weapon on a plane.  

I was lucky with this once. Coming out of New Zealand I had a concretion examined and I was warned. I hadn't thought about it before.....

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Nimravis
2 hours ago, jpc said:

knock ion wood... the only fossils I have had seized were confiscated because of their size... potential weapon on a plane.  

Lol- I had the same thing happen to me in California last year. I was doing some hiking and I always grab a random rock from places I hike, so I can write the name and date on them-(Remember the movie The Long, Long, Long Trailer ").

 

Well I had some in my carry on and they only let me keep one, stating that 3 could be used as a weapon. Little did they know I am a 1 rock weapon machine- lol.

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Doctor Mud

As others have said - knowledge and a little preparation is key. Do your homework on laws relating to the export or import of fossils. Look at the customs web-page and or call them and enquire - sometimes the calling could mean sons of waiting though.

Great points by @Uncle Siphuncle even if you are acting legally, you could still have unwanted delays while traveling, and posting might be an option.

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Nimravis

I always worry about Customs: During October, 2016- Sophie @fifbrindacier won an auction that I put up to benefit the Forum. Sophie lives in France and I was shipping overseas and since the majority of the items could not be duplicated, I told Sophie to hold off on making payment to the Forum until she received the package- I was worried that it might be lost or confiscated.

 

Luckily the package arrived safely and Sophie and the Forum were happy.

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RJB

@Nimravis,   Little did they know I am a 1 rock weapon machine- lol.

 

That was funny.   :rofl:

 

RB

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fifbrindacier
On 25/08/2017 at 2:12 AM, Nimravis said:

I always worry about Customs: During October, 2016- Sophie @fifbrindacier won an auction that I put up to benefit the Forum. Sophie lives in France and I was shipping overseas and since the majority of the items could not be duplicated, I told Sophie to hold off on making payment to the Forum until she received the package- I was worried that it might be lost or confiscated.

 

Luckily the package arrived safely and Sophie and the Forum were happy.

Very happy.:D

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taj

Well I guess it depends . I moved recently overseas from France . I packed everything and shipped it in a container . That included some fossils ( 90 % of them self collected though ).

I declared them as fossils on custom manifest , with a fair value . Customs didn't even bat an eye . And believe me , I had quite a lot , since I have still a lot of unprepared stuff in it .

I'm not sure you can be 100 % safe in these situations , you always have some risks involved ....

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Malcolmt

I only ever ship invertebrate material that I have legally found or that are invertebrate  fossils that I have prepped that are being returned to their owners (Can be all over the world but predominately USA ). At times some look like they could be worth quite a bit of money. Knock on wood but I have never had any issues other than slow shipping times. In one case 15 weeks to Germany. On occasion, perhaps one out of ten times it is apparent that the parcel has been opened by customs.I always label the goods as follows:

 

      Gift "Mineral specimens for Educational Purposes" and give them a value of $10 to $25 depending on what is in the package. I never use a value of $0

 

I never drop more than two packages together at the post office as I do not want to look like a business

 

I never buy insurance unless the receiver insists as that is a red flag for the customs. I believe the cheapest method here in Canada with tracking includes $100 insurance automatically. It is very difficult to ever make good an insurance claim on a fossil damaged or lost in shipping as proving the true value is very difficult. I know someone who had an expensive fossil go missing in transit to Europe and he fought unsuccessfully for years and never got anywhere.

 

I always send by the cheapest Canada Post method that has tracking. When I send to the US I find there is little time difference in the three tracked methods Canada Post has for shipping. I never require a signature. Unfortunately once I have shipped and have a tracking number then the onus is on the person receiving if anything goes wrong. 

 

I also take an overview  picture of what is going in the complete package. I generally have an individual picture of everything I have prepped.

 

I also generally only use Canada Post as UPs and Fedex are just too hard to deal with up here in Canada

 

Too be honest shipping overseas from Canada is a pain and is very expensive , especially if it goes over 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds)

 

 

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