Hi all, Andrew Thomson will have a nice time getting a piano with
ivory keys across the border. I was successful in such a project and
it did take some time, but if you are patient and persevere it can be
done. Ivoryton, Connecticut, was the main importing town for ivory
used in pianos during the player piano heyday. If you check the links
provided by the MMD, you should be able to find an official (town) web
site that says that African ivory was soft and used specifically for
piano keys. Copy that page. That should be direct proof that the
piano ivory is African.
You should check with both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife people and
the Canadian Customs people to find out what "specific criteria"
needs to be met for piano keys. If they stick to the 100 years old
criteria, you may have to wait seven years to sell the piano across
the border. But, on the other hand, the piano is going back to the
country of its original manufacture. Just in case, it may be a good
idea to take along a copy of the Pierce Piano Atlas to show the age of
the piano by its serial number and where it was manufactured. Back in
1921, there were no "Customs" antique ports for the ivory to enter.
To show that there were no repairs or modifications, you have to
explain that if some of the ivory had been changed there would be
changes in color, slight modifications at the edges of the keys
(different bevels at the back of the key by the sharps, curves at the
front, etc.), glue residue on the sides of the keys. It almost is
better to have the ivory keys out of the piano and in a paper bag or
box so that officials can see for themselves what you are talking
As a Canadian resident you will also have to fill out export forms
and supply appropriate documentation at the Canadian side to take the
keys across the border. On the American side there will probably be
a specific person who is in charge of such items. Make certain that he
will be available when you plan on crossing the border. When I got to
the border, that man was supposed to be on call, but he never answered
his page. I waited four hours and almost went through a shift change
before I was okay-ed to go across the border into Canada.
Another option that I have heard that has been successfully used is
if the piano is sold in Canada to an elderly lady and her heirs live
in the U.S., the piano can go across the border as part of the elderly
lady's estate without any problems (so I have been told). I would
certainly check with customs officials about this before trying it.
Hope this helps!