CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 952372 ch
M. Bowers & Co., Inc.
521 Ala Moana Boulevard
Honolulu, HI 96813
RE: Classification of unused newly printed postage stamps from
the Republic of China (Taiwan); 4907.00.0000; 9704.00.0000.
Dear Mr. Okada:
This is in regard to your letter dated July 17, 1992,
requesting tariff classification under the Harmonized Tariff
Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA), for unused
printed postage stamps from Taiwan. Samples were provided to
this office and will be returned under separate cover.
The subject merchandise are unused printed Chinese postage
stamps from Taiwan. These items are invalid for use as postage
in the United States. The stamps will be imported for sale in
What is the proper classification for unused Chinese postage
stamps imported into the United States?
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
Classification of goods under the HTSUSA is governed by the
General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides that
classification is determined first in accordance with the terms
of the headings of the tariff and any relative section or chapter
notes. Where goods cannot be classified on the basis of GRI 1,
the remaining GRI will be applied in order.
Heading 4907, HTSUSA, provides, inter alia, for "unused
postage, revenue or similar stamps of current or new issue in the
country to which they are destined."
Chapter 49, note 1(d), states:
This chapter does not cover...postage or revenue
stamps...of heading 9704.
Heading 9704 appears in section XXI, HTSUSA, which covers
"Works of Art, Collectors' Pieces and Antiques." It provides,
inter alia, for "postage or revenue stamps...if unused not of
current or new issue in the country to which they are destined."
Chapter 97, note 1(a), states:
This chapter does not cover unused postage or revenue
stamps...of current or new issue in the country to
which they are destined.
The above quoted provisions make it clear that headings 4907
and 9704 are mutually exclusive. Heading 4907 is appropriate for
unused postage of "current or new issue in the country to which
they are destined." On the other hand, heading 9704 covers
unused postage not of "current or new issue in the country to
which they are destined."
The meaning of the phrase "current or new issue in the
country to which they are destined" hinges upon the definition of
the term "destined." In Webster's II New Riverside University
Dictionary (1984), the word "destination" is defined as follows:
1. The place or point to which one is going or
something is directed.
When unused stamps are imported into this country, they are
"destined," or directed to, the United States. Hence, we may
substitute the "United States" for the words "country to which
they are destined." This substitution transforms the phrase
"current or new issue in the country to which they are destined,"
to "current or new issue" in the United States.
The term "current or new issue" indicates that the unused
stamps must be currently valid as postage "in the country to
which they are destined"; ie., the United States. It follows
that when stamps are imported into this country they are
classifiable under heading 4907 if they are unused United States
stamps valid as postage in the United States. On the other hand,
heading 9704 is applicable for unused stamps that are not valid
as postage in the United States; i.e. unused foreign postage or
unused United States stamps that are not of "current or new
issue" in the United States.
This conclusion creates a rational classification system
under the HTSUSA. Only United States stamps of current or new
issue are valid as postage for any correspondence originating in
the United States. These stamps are classified under heading
On the other hand, unused foreign postage is invalid for
payment of postage in the United States, as are unused United
States stamps not of current issue. As a practical matter, they
are of value only to stamp collectors, and are properly
classified under heading 9704, which falls in the section of the
HTSUSA encompassing collectors' pieces.
It has been suggested that the words "country to which they
are destined," used in headings 4907 and 9704, should be
construed in a different fashion; i.e. that the "destiny" of an
unused stamp of new or current issue is the country in which they
can be used as valid postage. Under this construction all unused
current or new postage would be classifiable under heading 4907.
For example, unused French, German and United States stamps would
be classified under heading 4907. The only unused postage
classifiable under 9704 would be those that are not new or
current issue; i.e. invalid unused stamps. We disagree for
First, the suggested interpretation contradicts the plain
language of headings 4907 and 9704. If the authors of the
subject headings had intended the alternative construction, they
would have drafted heading 4907 to encompass all unused postage
of current or new issue, and drafted heading 9704 to cover all
unused stamps not of current or new issue. Instead, they added
the words "in the country to which they [the unused stamps] are
destined" in both headings. As explicated above, the term
"destination" has an accepted meaning different from the
Second, the suggested interpretation is at odds with the
terms of Section XXI, which purports to encompass collectors'
pieces. As noted above, unused foreign postage imported into the
United States is of primary interest to stamp collectors, as it
has no practical use as postage. The effect of the proposed
construction would be to remove these collectibles out of the
appropriate section of the tariff schedule and place them in
Finally, we recognize that it may be rare for heading 4907
to be of use in the United States, as most stamps in this country
are manufactured domestically. However, the Harmonized System is
an international agreement and its terms are binding among the
contracting parties. In those countries where stamps are not
manufactured internally they must be imported from other nations.
In this situation the use of heading 4907 will be extensive.
Although the distinctions drawn in this ruling between headings
4907 and 9704 may not be administratively convenient in the
United States, we are of the opinion that they reflect the intent
of the authors of the Harmonized System. In this case,
administrative convenience must yield to uniformity of
interpretation between member nations of the HTS.
Based on the foregoing, we conclude that only unused United
States stamps of current or new issue are classifiable under
heading 4907. Unused foreign postage, or unused United States
postage not of current or new issue, will be classified under
The subject merchandise is classifiable under subheading
9704.00.0000, HTSUSA, which provides for postage stamps, unused,
not of current or new issue in the country to which they are
destined. This classification is free of duty at this time.
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 the local
Customs office prior to importing the merchandise to determine
the current status of any import restraints or requirements.
John Durant, Director