Costly guitars bound for Hong Kong land at Alaska schools

Anchorage School District receives a donation of high-end guitars that had been bound for Hong Kong before their confiscation by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

10 guitars donated have an estimated combined value of nearly $54,500 US

Anchorage School District band instructors hold the donated guitars and pose for a picture. The 10 guitars are designed by Paul Reed Smith, which produces handmade guitars for celebrated performers. (Robert Deberry/Anchorage School District)

The Anchorage School District received a donation of high-end guitars that were bound for Hong Kong before they were confiscated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, officials said.

The district estimated the 10 guitars have a combined value of nearly $54,500 US, The Anchorage Daily News reported Monday.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said it intercepted the instruments in Anchorage in July 2018. The electric guitars were commercially shipped from the East Coast and declared as clothing, said Chris Andrews, an agency supervisory inspector.

The guitars feature Brazilian rosewood, which is protected by an international treaty and cannot be exported without permits.

Chugiak high School band instructor Kody Trombley holds up one of the donated guitars. (Robert Deberry/Anchorage School District)

It is rare for inspectors to intercept illegally transported Brazilian rosewood products in Anchorage, Alaska's air cargo hub. More often they find products made from crocodile skin that do not have proper permits, Andrews said.

Fish and Wildlife officials began a civil forfeiture proceeding and the guitar dealer who shipped them eventually gave up the instruments, which range in value from $4,360 to $8,400 US.

"Who knows how many times they've been passed around by the time the dealer got hold of them," said Andrews, who declined to name the dealer.

'Some fortunate students,' says arts director

The Anchorage School District accepted the donation last week to cheers and applause. Bruce Wood, the district's fine arts director, hoisted one of the guitars over his head to show the room.

I had the best time opening box after box, each one unique and beautiful.- Bruce Wood, Anchorage School District fine arts director

"I really didn't know what we were getting, and we take donations from our community frequently," said Wood in an email to CBC News. "I opened one of the boxes and was astonished."

"And for the next 45 minutes, my administrative assistant and I had the best time opening box after box, each one unique and beautiful," said Wood. "My goodness, there are going to be some fortunate students at [Anchorage School District]."

The guitars were designed by Paul Reed Smith. It's an instrument designer who produces handmade guitars for celebrated performers including Carlos Santana, Wood said.

"I mean, he makes the best in the world," Wood said, "and we now have 10 of them in our district."

With files from Priscilla Hwang


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