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HQ 087602

Feb 13 1991

CLA-2 CO:R:C:F 087602 JGH



Area Director of Customs
New York Seaport
6 World Trade Center
New York, New York 10048

RE: Classification of Porcelain Spice Jars - Internal Advice 46/90

Dear Sir:

The decision concerns the classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedules of the United States (HTSUS) of "The Lenox Spice Village", a product of Taiwan.


"The Lenox Spice Village" consists of set of 24 porcelain jars, measuring about 3 inches in height and 2 inches wide, each in the shape of a different miniature house, and designed to hold spices. The jars have removable tops (roofs) with plastic gaskets for a tight seal. Also included is a spice rack to hold the jars. The advertising literature invites the purchaser to "Take a pinch of ginger from a Georgian townhouse. Parsley from a Queen Anne villa and pepper from your Swiss Chalet." Each jar is said to be an original work of art in the tradition of miniature houses prized by collectors, sculptured with decorative details, with the name of the herb or spice over the door,an airtight seal, fully washable, and bearing the Lenox trademark in 24 karat gold. The purchaser subscribes to the series of 24 jars, receiving one a month, at a cost of $14.50 per jar.


Whether ornamental spice jars are classifiable under the provision for other ornamental articles of porcelain in subheading 6913.10.50, HTSUS, or the provision for other household articles of porcelain in subheading 6911.90.00, HTSUS.


The importer's claim is that the "houses" are purchased mainly for their ornamental character and used for decorative purposes, and not for use in food preparation; that collectibles like Spice Village houses are ornamental articles chosen for display (as reflected in their decorative design, fragility and small size and cost), and any usefulness is clearly subordinate to their ornamental character.

It is further asserted that classification in heading 6913, HTSUS, is supported by a Customs ruling (NYRL 834533, January 17, 1989) in which a miniature ceramic farm building was classified in subheading 6913.90.50, HTSUS. However, that ruling concerned a ceramic replica that had no utilitarian function whatever. In addition, it is alleged that the principal use should control the classification. This view is said to be supported by G. Heileman Brewing Co. Inc. v. United States, Slip Op. 90-87 (Sept. 6, 1990), which concerned the classification of decorated beer steins or mugs under the prior tariff law, the Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS). Under the TSUS one of the competing provisions was one for articles used chiefly for preparing or serving food. The court noted that although one could drink out of the steins, because of their size, composition and decoration they were ornamental articles, rather than articles chiefly intended for regular use.

Under HTSUS, the test is different. Explanatory Notes to heading 6913, HTSUS, state that the heading covers articles which have no utility value and are wholly ornamental, where the usefulness of the articles is clearly subordinate. The notes point out, however, that if the decorated articles serve a useful purpose no less efficiently than their plainer counterparts, they are classifiable in heading 6911 or 6912, rather than 6913. Therefore, since an examination of a sample spice jar shows that they are intended to be utilized, even though they are designed to be considered collectibles, they remain decorated articles which serve a useful purpose no less efficiently than their
plainer counterparts. In fact, as indicated, the advertising proclaims that they are porcelain spice jars with a "decorative touch... a joy to collect, to cook with, to display.." seal airtight and are fully washable. Their functional qualities being emphasized as much as their esthetic.

In the alternative, it is suggested that the spice jars are classifiable as household articles in heading 6911, HTSUS. The Explanatory Notes for heading 6911, HTSUS, distinguish between kitchenware and other household articles, of porcelain; whereas the latter category might include such sundries as ash trays, hot water bottles and the like, heading 6911 also covers kitchenware such as preserving jars, storage jars and bins (tea caddies, bread bins, etc).

Since the decorative porcelain spice jars are designed to serve a utilitarian purpose, they would be considered under the Explanatory Notes as kitchenware in heading 6911, rather than household articles.


The subject decorated porcelain spice jars are classifiable in the provision for other tableware and kitchenware of porcelain, in subheading 6911.10.80, HTSUS.


John Durant, Director

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