United States International Trade Commision Rulings And Harmonized Tariff Schedule
faqs.org  Rulings By Number  Rulings By Category  Tariff Numbers
faqs.org > Rulings and Tariffs Home > Rulings By Number > 1996 HQ Rulings > HQ 958512 - HQ 958635 > HQ 958591

Previous Ruling Next Ruling
HQ 958591

April 5, 1996

CLA-2 RR:TC:FC 958591K


TARIFF NO.: 9701.90.0000

Robert E. Daidone, Esq.
Attorney at Law
One Washington Mall
15th Floor
Boston, Massachusetts 02108

RE: Request For Reconsideration of New York Ruling Letter (NYRL)812050, Dated July 21, 1995; Lacquerware Art; Collages and Similar Decorative Plaques

Dear Sir:

In response to your request of June 26, 1995, on behalf of your client, Mr. Hung Tran, the Customs Service issued NYRL 812050, dated July 21, 1995, which held that certain seashell pictorial plaques from Vietnam, were classified in subheading 9601.90.2000, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) (1995), as worked shell and articles thereof, with duty at the Column 2 rate of 35 percent ad valorem. In your letter of September 20, 1995, you requested reconsideration of NYRL 812050 and suggested that the merchandise is classified as collages and similar decorative plaques, in subheading 9701.90.0000, HTSUS, with a Column 2 free rate of duty. Photographs of representative examples of the lacquerware art were submitted and are returned as requested. The sample submitted to our New York office was retained by that office and should be returned by that office as requested. This letter is to inform you that NYRL 812050 no longer reflects the views of the Customs Service.

Pursuant to section 625, Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1625), as amended by section 623 of Title VI (Customs Modernization) of the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, Pub. L. 103-182, 107 Stat. 2057, 2186 (1993), hereinafter, section 625), notice of the proposed modification of NYRL 812050 was published on February 28, 1996, in the Customs Bulletin, Volume 30, No. 9. The following represents our position.

The backing for the lacquerware art is composed of a piece of plywood approximately « inch thick which portrays an image taken from a scene or photograph. It is stated that the image, and all else, is completely made by hand. A painting or drawing is first made of the scene. Seashells are broken into pieces and flattened and then are pasted or glued to form certain parts of the scenes, such as the birds, the fish, and the buildings. The artist then paints around the parts of the scene, usually the part of the scene that the artists desires to draw specific attention to. The whole scene is lacquered and each scene is signed by the artist. The process for each lacquerware art takes up to three months to produce.

Three photographs were submitted depicting three different scenes, birds on grass and in flight with mountains in the background, fish under sea, and a city in Vietnam with trees, a house, the sky and other landscaping. Each lacquerware art appears to contain four sections with one continuous scene. Each section appears to be about 15 x 20 inches. There is no indication that the lacquerware art articles are used as utilitarian screens or room dividers. There is no indication whether the articles contain hardware for wall hanging. The size of the articles as depicted in the photographs suggest that they are not screens or room dividers.


The issue is whether the lacquerware art articles as described above qualify for classification as collages or similar decorative plaques, in subheading 9701.90.0000, HTSUS.


Subheading 9701.90.0000, HTSUS, covers collages and similar decorative plaques, with a free rate of duty both at the general rate and the Column 2 rates of duties. The HTSUS does not define the term "collages".

The Explanatory Notes (EN) to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, which represent the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level, states that collages and similar decorative plaques provided for under subheading 9701.90.0000, HTSUS, consist of:

[B]its and pieces of various animal, vegetable or other materials, assembled so as to form a picture or decorative design or motif and glued or otherwise mounted on a backing, e.g., of wood, paper or textile material. The backing may be plain or it may be hand-painted or imprinted with decorative or pictorial elements which form part of the overall design. Collages range in quality from articles cheaply produced in quantity for sale as souvenirs up to products which require a high degree of craftsmanship and which may be genuine works of art.

For purposes of this group, the term "similar decorative plaques" does not include articles consisting of a single piece of material, even if mounted or glued on a backing, which are more specifically covered by other headings of the Nomenclature such as "ornaments" of plastics, of wood, of base metal, etc. Such articles are classified in their appropriate Headings (headings 44.20, 83.06, etc.). (Emphasis in original.)

Webster's New World Dictionary of American English (Third College Edition) 1988, at page 273, defines the term "collage" as an "art form in which bits of objects such as newspaper, cloth, pressed flowers, etc., are pasted together on a surface in incongruous relationship for their symbolic or suggestive effect."

The above sections of the EN and similar definitions for the term "collages" were cited in Customs Headquarters Ruling Letters (HRL) 952578, dated April 8, 1994, 957621, dated July 12, 1995, and 958360, dated October 13, 1995, and are useful guidelines for determining classification in subheading 9701.90.00, HTSUS.

In HRL 952578, it was determined that the articles did not consist of bits and pieces of various animal, vegetable or other materials, glued or otherwise mounted on a backing as stated by EN but rather consisted of either individual framed photographs (which may have been partially hand-painted) or a collection of individual framed photographs hanging by strings to a wall or ceiling or to a piece of wearing material and were not collages.

In HRL 957621, knotted nautical knots made of nylon on display on a mounted backing for wall hanging were neither collages or similar decorative plaques because the articles did not consist of a collection of bits of pieces put together to create a picture or decorative design or motif.

However, HRL 958360, held that a Skiing Memorabilia Shadow Box designed for wall hanging and consisting of bits of pieces of various materials glued on a backing of wood and paper to form a decorative skiing design, was a decorative plaque similar to a collage and classified in subheading 9701.90.0000, HTSUS.

In the current case, seashells are broken into pieces, flattened, and glued to a wooden backing to form a design or motif of various scenes of birds, fish, and a city, with a painted background and heavily lacquered. We note that collages and plaques are designed for wall hanging. Assuming that the lacquerware art articles as described and as shown in the photographs are designed for wall hanging and not used as screens or room dividers, then they are classified as collages or similar decorative plaques.


Lacquerware art articles as described above and as depicted in the submitted photographs, if designed for wall hanging, are classified as collages or similar decorative plaques, in subheading 9701.90.0000, HTSUS.

NYRL 812050, dated July 21, 1995, is modified in accordance with section 177.9(d) of the Customs Regulations (19 CFR

In accordance with 19 U.S.C. 1625, this ruling will become effective 60 days after its publication in the Customs Bulletin. Publication of rulings or decisions pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 1625 does not constitute a change of practice or position in accordance with section 177.10(c)(1), of the Customs Regulations


John Durant, Director

Previous Ruling Next Ruling

See also: