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Posted By: Karl Peterson Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 01/08/19 12:14 AM
Hello All,

First time poster here.

I joined hoping someone here might have experience with moving an old upright piano from Canada to the US, or might otherwise be able to point me to someone who could help.

This piano has been in my wife's family for many years, although none of them want it now. My wife loves it dearly, and I am trying to figure out how to get it here both as a present for her, and to preserve some of her families heritage.



Here is what I have done so far:

The piano has been professionally inspected by multiple CAPT technicians and is a 1913 Heintzman upright in very-good to excellent condition with no modifications or other work done on it.

I have had the piano technician write a formal report as to it's age, state, and the authenticity of its ivory.

I have a written/signed "gifting" document from my wife's mother to my wife - it lists the pianos serial number.

I have a written/signed known history document from my wife's mother, documenting the pianos life as best we know it from original manufacture.

The piano has been professionally moved from my wife's parents house to a Piano Technical/Dealers space in Edmonton, AB.

The piano has been professionally crated in anticipation of its shipment to our home in Atlanta, GA.

I have spent a few hours talking with the US FWS and the Canadian equivalent about the Ivory Keys - Everyone agrees that this should be able to move internationally as-is with a PRE-ACT/PRE-CONVENTION ANTIQUE CITES permit.



Here is where I am stuck:

I don't understand how I actually move the thing.

That is to say, I vaguely understand I need to get a CITES permit, but in so doing it seems like I need to tell them when and where the Piano is going to come across the border - I don't know how to know that.

I also don't understand how I hire someone to move this - from what I can find out it seems like the CITES permit dictates that the Antique (Piano) would need to come across the boarder in certain ports, none of which seem to be the normal places I would expect for freight to move across from Edmonton <-> Atlanta.

I have reached out to a variety of commercial movers and none some to have an affirmative answer for me.

I have reached out to some van line lines / house movers who have kinda acted like they might be willing to help me try and move it, but have thrown out guesses of over 10'000$ and even then wouldn't guarantee they'd actually get it done. I know that house movers are a different sort, but not only can I not begin to afford that, but I have shipped enough LTL around North America in my day job to know that price is at least double (if not triple) what is reasonable for this, even including the customs headaches.

Nonetheless - I know this is possible but I am just stuck right now.



I'm hoping someone here has maybe done this before, and or can point me towards a better resource.

I genuinely appreciate any and all help you might be able to offer me.

- Karl Peterson
Posted By: ebonykawai Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 01/08/19 12:46 AM
Well, this won't be very helpful for you in your situation, but I live close to the Canadian border, near Niagara Falls NY, and I have never succeeded in purchasing a piano in Canada because no one delivers pianos to the US. These are shops wanting to make money, and not one of them that I've seen or talked to in the last 5 years would attempt to deliver a purchased instrument to me. One told me they don't try it anymore because their driver would get hung up at the border for 6+ hours and not be allowed to deliver. I have no clue why this is so impossible, just giving you my past experience.
Posted By: JohnSprung Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 01/08/19 12:55 AM

Maybe get a U-Haul and some more stuff going south to make the trip worth doing...
Posted By: ebonykawai Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 01/08/19 01:05 AM
Originally Posted by JohnSprung

Maybe get a U-Haul and some more stuff going south to make the trip worth doing...



That's true, you can try it yourself and see how it goes! 👍 That's without a doubt your cheapest option, and customs may take pity on you because you're not a dealer, just a poor schmo trying to take your wife's piano home. Have her go with you and make a trip of it! If you have hang ups at the border, she can cry and make them feel bad, LOL. This seem s like a better idea than relying on other people in this instance, tbh.
Very confusing isn't it? I purchased a Bluthner in Canada and had my Dad go pick it up in my truck. This was a while back when i lived in Seattle. Don't be surprised if the ivories are yanked off no matter if you got permission or not. It seems to be up to the inspectors whim. Mine wasn't crated.
Good Luck!
I actually send a number of pianos the opposite way into Canada. I have never had a piano with ivory keys allowed over the border in that direction. However, I am a dealer and I always sent a number of pianos over the border, not just one that belonged to me.

Good Luck!
Posted By: oldMH Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 01/08/19 12:55 PM
Most commercial movers know nothing of ivory and will just move the piano goods in shipment. The packing list they show customs will just say "piano". Customs will not normally be curious since so few pianos have ivory plus they don't really care about pianos. So, there is a high chance this will work. The risk is that they do look at it, then you start the impound process for a long time because US FWS is difficult.

If you go with a CITES permit, which is the harder way but less risky (in theory), you can ship it by a piano mover (expensive if door-to-door) or just with a normal van line like United since it is already crated.

You will need a "designated port exception" approved from USFWS in advance since there are no CITES entry ports along the Canadian border.
Posted By: JohnSprung Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 01/08/19 04:22 PM

Another approach: Can you find a tech in Canada who can replace the ivory with plastic?
Posted By: Learux Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 01/08/19 05:27 PM
I would get a truck and try to get it across yourself.
Thank you all for the advice so far.

Driving there and back is almost a week for the round trip, which isn't very doable for me at this point. I do agree it may be the theoretical best option.

oldMH, A few specific questions since you seem to know more about this than I do (not hard, lol).

The permits all ask for what date you are expecting the shipment to move across. If I'm paying a van line or moving it some other commercial way where I have no control over the shipment, any idea how that works? Or is the date just a "best guess" type thing?

If I go through the effort of getting the Canadian CITES export permit, and the USFWS Designated Port Exception Permit, could I then, theoretically, just throw that paperwork on the shipment and move it as a standard cross-boarder shipment on an LTL load?

Thanks,

Karl P
Posted By: Rod Verhnjak Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 01/08/19 11:36 PM
Karl,

Even with the port exemption you still are required to have a Fish and Wild life inspector inspect the ivory. I deal with the Blaine Wa. crossing so I don't know what they have in Alberta. Before we show up with ivory we need to book an appointment with the F&W department. No transport carrier I know of will take a piano across with ivory even if you have the proper paper work. My suggestion is you have a piano tech take the keys out and you have the piano sent off without the keys. Get the Cities and mail the keys to a inspection center. Then have them sent to you and have them installed. I'm talking about the whole key with the tops not just the ivory. Very easy to remove and install. The other way is have a family member cross the border with the keys with an port exemption is there is a F&W inspector at the crossing in Alberta. Keep record of the piano being shipped without the keys for when you send the keys. Doing the piano separate from the keys makes it so you have no issues getting the most difficult part across, the piano.
Posted By: JohnSprung Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 01/09/19 12:28 AM

Check that the numbers are clearly readable on those key sticks first. Sending them separately sounds like the best idea so far. It's more versatile, there are more ways to do it.
Posted By: BDB Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 01/09/19 12:45 AM
There is a trick to make sure that you get keys back in the same order: Draw straight lines angled across them in back. If they get out of order, the lines will not line up.
Posted By: oldMH Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 01/09/19 03:36 AM
I think unless you use an agent of some sort, the normal shippers will not want to deal with FWS who want to hold the piano and inspect the keys. If you establish a port of entry where FWS will accept the piano, you can have a Canadian shipper take it there. Then you get a US shipper lined up to take it once FWS clears it.

The date is just a guess so put a large window if necessary and see if storage can be arranged at the port of entry via FWS and Customs.

You do realize it may be more cost and trouble than an upright piano is worth, right?
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 01/09/19 08:03 AM
Originally Posted by Karl Peterson
This piano has been in my wife's family for many years, although none of them want it now. My wife loves it dearly, and I am trying to figure out how to get it here both as a present for her, and to preserve some of her families heritage.
It is really nice of you that you want to preserve the piano for your wife. As I well know from personal experience, pianos can have enormous sentimental value. This is really difficult to overcome, as I also know. Two things helped me overcome my attachment to my father's beloved old battleship of an upright. The first was that it was holding back my playing--it just was not a good piano any more. I was fortunate to be able to get a better piano, which inspired me to take lessons again and to resume learning, mostly because I sounded so much better. (Does your wife actually play it? If so, perhaps a visit to a piano dealer to check out what newer pianos sound like might help.)

More recently, the inspiration for clearing out some of the sentimental stuff in my life was the realization that my children did not want it. You do your descendants a favor by reducing the amount of stuff they will have to face when you are gone. Of course, you can keep it all, and they will just throw it away. . . .

If it's a good piano and one that your family plays, the sentimental value may make it worth going through the necessary hoops to bring it here. Replacing the keys with plastic sounds like a good way to handle the problem, because doing so will eliminate the issue entirely.
Posted By: BDB Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 01/09/19 05:22 PM
Originally Posted by Rank Piano Amateur
If it's a good piano and one that your family plays, the sentimental value may make it worth going through the necessary hoops to bring it here. Replacing the keys with plastic sounds like a good way to handle the problem, because doing so will eliminate the issue entirely.



As well as the other problems with ivory. It is not unusual for ivory keytops that seem fine to start popping off when the piano is moved to a different climate.
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 01/10/19 09:39 AM
Originally Posted by BDB
Originally Posted by Rank Piano Amateur
If it's a good piano and one that your family plays, the sentimental value may make it worth going through the necessary hoops to bring it here. Replacing the keys with plastic sounds like a good way to handle the problem, because doing so will eliminate the issue entirely.



As well as the other problems with ivory. It is not unusual for ivory keytops that seem fine to start popping off when the piano is moved to a different climate.

True. Several keytops came off my piano after moving it, and one as recently as last Christmas ('17).
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 01/10/19 09:44 AM
I want to applaud the OP for doing this for his wife. Some of us know from experience that wives aren't always here forever. Doing something special for your spouse is commendable.
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 01/10/19 09:57 AM
The simplest, least risky way would probably be to have the storing dealer uncrate it, replace the keytops with plastic (no ivory, no need for extra documentation or inspections), and tow it home in a trailer yourself. I think you mentioned above that towing it yourself isn't likely to happen, so find a shipper (search for a "freight forwarder").

If you were there, and reasonably handy, you could take the key sticks out yourself, and send them to someone who replaces key tops (2 or 3 hundred dollars). But since yours a couple thousand miles away, you'll have to have the dealer do a lot for you.
Posted By: NobleHouse Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 01/10/19 12:52 PM
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
I want to applaud the OP for doing this for his wife. Some of us know from experience that wives aren't always here forever. Doing something special for your spouse is commendable.


That is so TRUE!
Thank you all for the replies.

I have a few options now, and it'll take me a little bit to sort through the relative pros/cons.

(a) - I could have it freighted within Canada to the East Coast, and drive up from ATL and try and bring it across myself. That would, conceivably, be a 3 day trip and I might could swing that.

(b) - I could have the keys removed, freight the Piano itself via normal means (easy to do) and then get a customs broker to handle moving the keys via a simple parcel, have them inspected, etc.

(c) - Being that this is a "household" item and seeing as the piano is >100 years old, I can technically just bring it in to the US however I want. There are benefits for doing it more formally, particularly if I later want to export it again, but setting those aside the US side is OK. That just leaves me with needing a CITES export permit from Canada - I could acquire such a permit but otherwise not make a big deal out of it. It likely won't be looked at on the export side, and even if it is worst case basis is that it gets impounded and I deal with whatever that process is. But better chance it just breezes through the Canadian side, and the US side I'm fine as it's technically a household move.

(d) - I could have the key tops replaced, throw it on a truck and move on with life.


I'm not 100% opposed to option (a) - but I honestly think it gives me a larger avenue for problems than if I have it move across the boarder in a truck or container in normal flow of traffic. Particularly if it is crated and otherwise looks good - I think the chance of an agent deciding to make a deal out of it is much lower.

I'm concerned that option (b) could be construed as a "modification" to the instrument, and thus while I like it's simplicity, I probably won't go that direction.

Option (c) is looking more promising the longer I think about it. No matter what I do I run some risk of an impounding, but it's likely less than I am making it out to be. I'm going to find a small customs broker and see what they think.

Option (d) is a last resort. The key tops have some lovely patina, we'd like to preserve it.

Again - Thanks for all the help. If anyone has a good contact for the customs broker let me know.

Thanks - K
Posted By: BruceD Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 01/10/19 06:57 PM
Originally Posted by Karl Peterson
[...]
This piano has been in my wife's family for many years, although none of them want it now. My wife loves it dearly, and I am trying to figure out how to get it here both as a present for her, and to preserve some of her families heritage.

[...]


Your admirable wish to do this primarily to please your wife notwithstanding, after considering the options and the difficulties they all incur, is this piano really worth all that time, effort (and money)?

Regards,
Posted By: Norbert Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 01/10/19 07:15 PM
Perhaps call "Tylor" from Richmond CDS, he's specializing in these types moves:
1-604-279-0960 # 393
I know you may find this piano valuable [sentimentally] but be advised that it will have otherwise no commercial value,
hope others have told you same..
Good luck
Norbert
Posted By: Keytone Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 12/04/19 10:56 AM
That's a really sweet thing to be doing. I've used a mover that handles pianos & organs called A-1 Auto Transport, Inc. and they were great. I know they move between Canada & the US as far as standard moving services and they had no problems with shipping across the country without any damage, problems, delays, etc. They might be worth feeling out. They're on the affordable side too.
Posted By: j&j Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 12/04/19 01:58 PM
I have no suggestions but did want to applaud the OP for the incredibly sweet gesture to keep his wife’s family piano and successfully move it to the US.
Posted By: S. Phillips Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 12/04/19 05:31 PM
Do not crate it and do not try to send the ivory keys separately. Just have the keys replaced with plastic and have a shipper bring across the border and deposit it with a dealer who receives pianos via Keyboard Carriage or Walter. No one is going to do this for cheap. The dealer will want money for receiving and shipping and there will be at least three moves involved. This will still save money because they can deliver it to an Atlanta dealer who may be willing to receive it and redeliver to your home. Be prepared to have three different moving invoices. Removing the ivory situation is really important. It does not matter what anyone tells you at Fish and Wildlife. The agent that looks at it at the border will have the last say on this. This has been a mess since 2014 and also you have to have it come in the right port even to get an inspection that counts.
Posted By: BruceD Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 12/04/19 06:31 PM
Originally Posted by S. Phillips
Do not crate it and do not try to send the ivory keys separately. Just have the keys replaced with plastic and have a shipper bring across the border and deposit it with a dealer who receives pianos via Keyboard Carriage or Walter. No one is going to do this for cheap. The dealer will want money for receiving and shipping and there will be at least three moves involved. This will still save money because they can deliver it to an Atlanta dealer who may be willing to receive it and redeliver to your home. Be prepared to have three different moving invoices. Removing the ivory situation is really important. It does not matter what anyone tells you at Fish and Wildlife. The agent that looks at it at the border will have the last say on this. This has been a mess since 2014 and also you have to have it come in the right port even to get an inspection that counts.


With this highly informed opinion, given the potential considerable expense with replacing the ivory keys and the multiple moves, is it really worth the trouble to move this piano to the US? Ms Phillips says not to crate the piano, but I believe that you reported that it has already been crated. You have no doubt researched this, but I thought I read that ivory that has been certified to be older than X years can be imported to the US. Do you know if this is true and if it applies to your wife's piano?

Quite a dilemma at this point, I would think.

Regards,
Posted By: ebonykawai Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 12/04/19 07:53 PM
The original post was from almost a year ago. I wonder what happened?
Posted By: Lady Bird Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 12/04/19 08:40 PM
It sounds like this 100 year old piano was still playable.
I wonder how long ago his wife played it ? If after this move
it would still be capable of being OK musically, would
be interesting to know.
If however the piano had been in his wife's family a long time
I can understand the importance for the move.,I hope it all
turned out well.
Posted By: BruceD Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 12/04/19 08:46 PM
Originally Posted by ebonykawai
The original post was from almost a year ago. I wonder what happened?


We probably will never know, since the OP stopped posting after his contributions to this thread.

Regards,
Posted By: oldMH Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 12/05/19 12:47 AM
We spent a year getting export and import paperwork in order to import our piano using the same shipper who moved our household goods (and who would have preferred to pack the piano with them and be done with it). In the end, FWS pondered a few weeks, asked a few questions about the piano (19c), then threw up their hands and said "get it out of our warehouse. We never saw it, we don't know anything about it, we are not giving you any paperwork, just come fetch it and leave us alone."
Never say that OP doesn't deliver smile

The tale is long - but the piano is on my dock in the USA

We did everything by the book, so much as it exists for this type of thing.

There was a combination of overlapping treaties and exemptions we cited. At one point the UN agreed with our interpretation, which simplified everything after that point.

No modifications have been done to the piano. It is still as it was built.

The actual move was accomplished by having the crated piano shipping LTL across the border with the correct paperwork.

It moved without incident with less than 20 minutes in customs, according to the customs broker.

Took almost 20 months, giving it attention every few weeks. The energy cost was substantial, but the monetary cost ended up being on the low end of my initial guesstimate.

Like any complex endeavor - endurance was the biggest obstacle.

Thanks for the initial thoughts - getting some overview ended up being useful in charting my course.

-K
Posted By: ShiroKuro Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 10/01/20 05:11 PM
Wow!
Posted By: MarkL Re: Moving Old Piano from Canada to USA - 10/01/20 07:06 PM
I love these stories about one man conquering the system, in this case the system in 2 countries. If your wife ever gets on you about forgetting to take out the garbage, you can use this as a get out of jail free card for a long time.
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