Not Knowing Where Your Instrument Came From Could Cost You $17,000S

There's a war against musical instruments brewing in America. Not because of Rock-n-Roll's shadow affiliation with Satan, or the generations of delinquents they've bred. Rather, environmental agencies are not happy about the types of illegal materials they're made from.

The Wall Street Journal reports that everyone from Gibson Guitar to border-hopping musicians are encountering problems with government agencies over their instruments. If people can't prove where every part of the instrument originated from, they could have it seized and be slapped with a fine (whether the instrument is factory new or decades old doesn't matter).

If you are the lucky owner of a 1920s Martin guitar, it may well be made, in part, of Brazilian rosewood. Cross an international border with an instrument made of that now-restricted wood, and you better have correct and complete documentation proving the age of the instrument. Otherwise, you could lose it to a zealous customs agent-not to mention face fines and prosecution.

Gibson is being accused of sourcing wood from illegal vendors, and had to deal with a raid from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Gibson says the allegations are false. Meanwhile, an Atlanta importer who purchased an antique piano couldn't prove the date of origin for the piano when Customs agents came asking. Despite the fact that it was obviously old, he couldn't prove ivory keys it contained were also added before it became illegal to do so. He was forced to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and pay $17,500.

Know your history. When it comes to your instruments, at least. [WSJ]