CLA-2 CO:R:C:G 088084 CRS

Assistant Area Director
Commercial Operations Division
Six World Trade Center
New York, NY 10048

RE: Request for Internal Advice 63/90. Baseball card collector sets. Paper and paperboard. Other printed matter printed on paper in whole or in part by a lithographic process. GRI 3(a).

Dear Madam:

This is in reply to your memorandum dated September 12, 1990, concerning Internal Advice request 63/90, submitted on August 20, 1990, by Siegel, Mandell & Davidson, on behalf of their client, The Topps Company, Inc., pursuant to section 177.11, Customs Regulations (19 CFR 177.11), on the importation of baseball card collectors' sets under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA).


The merchandise in question, Topps' 1989 Baseball "Traded" series, consists of a set of 132 baseball trading cards which are lithographically printed and packaged in boxes in the Republic of Ireland. Each 132 card set is packaged in an individual box. The cards resemble those of Topps' regular season series; each one measures 3 inches by 2 inches and are 0.015 inches thick, and has on one side a photograph of a major league player who was traded during the 1989 season, and on the reverse, the player's statistics and personal data.

The "Traded" series is intended to update Topps' regular season series by depicting traded players in their new team's uniform. The cards are sold either directly to collector houses or to retail establishments which carry this type of commodity. Unlike the regular season cards, however, the "Traded" series is sold in complete boxed sets rather than in packs of five or ten cards. In all other respects the "Traded" series is identical to the regular season cards.


Whether subheading 4911.99.6000, HTSUSA, includes articles of paperboard as well as of paper such that baseball trading cards with a thickness of 0.015 inches are classifiable as other printed matter printed on paper in whole or in part by a lithographic process.


Heading 4911, HTSUSA, provides for other printed matter, including pictures and photographs, a residual provision which according to Explanatory Note 49.11, covers all printed matter of Chapter 49 other than that which is more specifically described by other headings of the Chapter. As there are no more specific headings, however, the trading cards in question are classifiable in heading 4911.

Subheading 4911.99.6000, HTSUSA, provides for other printed matter, printed on paper in whole or in part by a lithographic process. The term "paper" is not defined in Chapter 49, HTSUSA, nor is it defined elsewhere in the Nomenclature. The same is true of the term "paperboard."

The Dictionary of Paper (4th ed. 1980), 296, defines "paper" in relevant part as follows:

(1)(General term). The name for all kinds of matted or felted sheets of fiber (usually vegetable, but sometimes mineral, animal or synthetic) formed on a fine screen from a water suspension.... (2)(Specific term). One of the two broad subdivisions of paper (general term), the other being Paperboard (q.v.).

Paperboard, in contrast is defined at 296-297 as:

One of the two broad subdivisions of paper (general term), the other being Paper (specific term) (q.v.). The distinction between paperboard and paper is not sharp but broadly speaking, paperboard is heavier in weight, thicker, and more rigid than paper. In general, all sheets 12 points (0.012 inch) or more in thickness are classified as paperboard. There are a number of exceptions based upon traditional nomenclature.

Consequently, if the term "paper" were limited, based on the above definition, to sheets 12 points or more in thickness, the baseball cards at issue would be excluded from subheading 4911.99.6000, HTSUSA, and would instead be classifiable in subheading 4911.99.8000, HTSUSA, which provides for other printed matter...other, other, other, other.

However, in Customs' opinion, the raison d'etre of subheading 4911.99.6000 was to differentiate between printed matter produced by a lithographic process, and printed matter manufactured using other processes, and therefore to exclude paperboard from the subheading would arguably defeat the intent behind the provision.

Under the HTSUSA, articles are classified in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1 provides that the classification of articles is determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes and, provided the headings or notes do not otherwise require, according to the remaining GRIs taken in order. GRI 6 extends the rules of interpretation to the subheading level.

When, as here, goods are prima facie classifiable under two or more [sub]headings, GRI 3(a) states that the [sub]heading which provides the most specific description is to be preferred to [sub]headings that are more general in nature. Balancing the lack of a definition in Chapter 49 of paper and paperboard against the clear distinction between printed matter printed in whole or in part by a lithographic process (subheading 4911.00.6000) and other printed matter (subheading 4911.00.8000), Customs considers the former to be the more specific provision and, consequently, the appropriate subheading classification for the baseball cards in question.


The baseball card collector sets are classifiable in subheading 4911.99.6000, HTSUSA, under the provision for other printed matter, including printed pictures and photographs, other, other, other, printed on paper in whole or in part by a lithographic process and are dutiable at the rate of 0.4 percent ad valorem.

Due to the changeable nature of the statistical annotation (the ninth and tenth digits of the classification) and the restraint (quota/visa) categories, you should contact your local Customs office prior to importation of this merchandise to determine the current status of any import restraints or requirements.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division