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HQ 960518

May 30, 1997

CLA-2 RR:TC:FC 960618 JGB


TARIFF NO.: 9705.00.0090

Joel K. Simon, Esq.
Serko & Simon LLP
Counselors at Law
One World Trade Center
Suite 3371
New York, New York 10048

RE: Household Goods of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor

Dear Mr. Simon:

This is in response to your letter of May 12, 1997, concerning the classification of a collection of personal articles that once belonged to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Your letter is on behalf of your client, Mr. Mohamed Al-Fayed or his designee, the prospective importer.

The merchandise consists of what would appear to be the bulk of the personal possessions and household articles of the late Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The articles are summarily described on an inventory included with the ruling request as Attachment A, comprising some 1939 pages, with approximately 9 line entries per page. As a general description, the merchandise includes: books
and manuscripts; photographs; military insignia; regimental buttons, medallions, badges, brooches, ceremonial swords; jewelry; accessories to ceremonial costumes (e.g., Highland dress); rugs; personal stationery; paintings; ceramics and porcelain; phonograph records; household furnishings; musical instruments, and silver articles. If entered without authentication or information of their prior ownership, these articles would be classified in perhaps a hundred different headings of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTS). The importer claims that the merchandise should be classified as articles of historical interest under subheading 9705.00.0090, HTS. Articles so classified are entitled to duty-free entry.
The inventory of the merchandise at issue includes some articles containing ivory and other substances, the importation of which would be in violation of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the African Elephant Conservation Act of 1988. You have assured Customs, however, that these articles will not be imported.


Whether the subject articles are classified as a collection or collectors' pieces of historical interest under subheading 9705.00.0090, or in the headings applicable to the various articles.


The General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's) set forth the legal framework in which merchandise is to be classified under the HTS. GRI 1 requires that classification be determined first according to the terms of the headings of the tariff and any relative section or chapter notes and, unless otherwise required, according to the remaining GRI's taken in their appropriate order.

The competing provisions in this case are:

(a) 9705.00.0090, HTS, Collections and collectors' pieces of zoological, botanical, mineralogical, anatomical, historical, archeological, paleontological, ethnographic or numismatic interest, Other.

(b) all the other headings, too numerous to mention in full, if heading 9507 is inapplicable (e.g., heading 4817 for stationery, heading 4901 for printed books and brochures, heading 6203 for mens' woolen trousers, heading 7116 for jewelry).

Upon the examination of the nature and detail of the inventory, along with the attestations of authenticity, the items at issue can be classified by reference to GRI 1. It is our determination that the merchandise is properly classifiable as collections or collector's pieces of historical interest under subheading 9705.00.0090, HTS.
First, we note that if these items qualify as collectors' items of historical interest under chapter 97, HTS, Note 4(a) to Chapter 97, HTS, states that "Subject to notes 1 through 3 above, articles of this chapter are to be classified in this chapter and not in any other chapter of the tariff schedule."

Thus, the primary issue to be determined is whether these items are classifiable in Chapter 97, HTS. The Explanatory Notes (ENs), which constitute the official interpretation of the HTS at the international level, state in EN 97.05, in pertinent part, as follows: These articles are very often of little intrinsic value but derive their interest from their rarity, their grouping or their presentation. The heading includes:
(B) Collections and collectors' pieces of historical, ethnographic, paleontological or archaeological interest, for example:
(1) Articles being the material remains of human activity suitable for the activities of earlier generations, such as: mummies, sarcophagi, weapons, objects of worship, articles of apparel, articles which have belonged to famous persons.

The argument for inclusion of the articles in Chapter 97 focuses on the phrase "articles which have belonged to famous persons." In Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 088031, dated October 8, 1991, relied on here, the importer discussed at length the fame and historical significance of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and provided material to support this discussion. In addition, the importer described the close relationship of the jewelry of that ruling to the Duke and Duchess and touches upon the historical aspects of the jewelry, such as the inscriptions that appear on some of the items. Having previously permitted Chapter 97 classification of some of the jewelry belonging to the Duke and Duchess, we are obviously guided by that precedent to allow additional jewelry belonging to the same people to be likewise classified. The only remaining question is whether the balance of household articles and personal possessions can be properly classified along with the jewelry.

Articles that have "belonged to famous persons" is susceptible to a broad interpretation that would be impossible to administer. In attempting to define the scope of this provision, we have received no guidance from the relevant legislative history or the working draft and notes of the Customs Cooperation Council We must, therefore, look to the Explanatory Notes to see if they shed any light on the scope of the provision.

In examining Explanatory Note 97.05 (B), the first thing we notice is that it reads more like a set of guidelines rather than as a strict, all inclusive or exclusive rule as to what constitutes an item of historical interest. The phrase "for example" which directly precedes "Articles being the material remains of human activity suitable for the study of earlier generations" indicates that the drafters did not intend that only such items qualify. The phrase "such as" which precedes the list including "articles which have belonged to famous persons" indicates that this list is merely a list of examples, which may or may not qualify for Chapter 97. Thus, since there is no strict rule, items such as this must be examined on a case by case basis, considering all the factors involved. In this case, following HRL 088031, we have determined that there are many factors which favor inclusion of all the articles in Chapter 97:

1. The articles belonged to famous people. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were quite famous in the United States, England and around the world.
2. These individuals are not only famous, but are historically significant; their actions concerning abdication of the crown by the Duke and their involvement in the politics of the time was considered newsworthy, affected many lives and has had a long term effect on human affairs.
3. The items indicate a markedly increased value because of their historical significance. The affidavit provided by the importer from a Senior Vice President of Sotheby's, Inc., states that in his opinion "the prices likely to be achieved upon the sale at auction of these items will be significantly in excess of their intrinsic value" and that the "fact" of the goods' prior ownership makes them "unique collectors' items."
4. As noted in the prior ruling the jewelry was not just "owned" by the Duke and Duchess but was very closely associated with them. They were well known for their jewelry collection (articles have been published concerning this subject) and the Duke personally designed many of the pieces, some of which exhibit his personal taste. Jewelry design was a hobby of his. 5. The book collection is of historical interest by the fact of what titles would have been retained and presumably read by the Duke and Duchess, for example, most of the works of Winston Churchill.
6. The collection of papers and letters, likewise, are of historical significance. It might be of historical interest, for example, to know that Christmas greeting cards from a number of members of the current royal family have been retained, despite the well-publicized estrangement of the Duke and Duchess from the royal family.

Our determination that these articles should be classified as items of historical interest is arrived at by the combination of all of the above factors. In other cases, additional factors may be relevant in determining classification under heading 9705. In other words, the foregoing is not an exhaustive list. This decision is based on the unique items that are the subject of this ruling and thus must be considered to be relevant only to the particular facts presented herein. You have argued that this prospective importation must be considered as an entirety for classification purposes and that it should not be broken up, allowing Chapter 97 treatment for some articles, and "regular" classification for others. We do not accept this proposed importation as an entirety in the manner claimed. We have, instead, looked at the item descriptions in sufficient detail to consider them having been examined on an article by article basis. As such, they are eligible for tariff treatment under heading 9705.

The household and other articles described in Appendix A, not otherwise excepted here, which belonged to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor are properly classifiable under subheading 9705.00.0090, HTS, as Collections and collectors' pieces of zoological, botanical, mineralogical, anatomical, historical, archeological, paleontological, ethnographic or numismatic interest, other, and are entitled to duty-free entry.

John Durant,
Director, Tariff
Appeals Division

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