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Freight and insurance for valuable electronic musical instruments

2019-12-19  Robin Whittle

This page concerns return freight for modified instruments for customers in Australia and overseas.  '~' means approximately.  Current mid-market exchange rates:

Devil Fish  TR-606  TR-808  TR-909

Packages with total value to AUD$5000

If the total value of the package we send is less than AUD$5000, we can send it via Australia Post, with "extra cover", which they insist is not insurance.  The maximum value for this service is AUD$5000.  The value is the replacement cost of the base machine, plus all the costs of repairs and modifications - and for packages sent to Australian destinations these must include 10% GST.

TR-606s fall into this category, since their replacement cost is probably AUD$1000 or so (not counting GST), based on purchasing one via eBay from overseas, with freight and the ~AUD$90 customs fee which is likely to apply.  Likewise, when we do them, Devil Fish modified TT-303s (Bass Bots), RE-303s and TD-3s.

In late 2019, I guess that it would cost at least AUD$4500 to purchase a halfway decent TB-303 on eBay, ~AUD$8000 for a TR-808 and I have no idea for a TR-909.

You can look up Australia Post's prices at

For packages to Australian customers we would use Parcel Post with signature and Extra Cover, which costs 2.5% of the value over AUD$100.

For packages to overseas customer we would use the "Express" international service, which is more properly known as EMS Courier, with Extra Cover, which is 4% of the total value above AUD$100.

Customs fees for machines being returned to customers overseas

Overseas customers: With the likely exception of the USA (I have never heard of import duties being applied to packages we send there), when the package arrives in your country, it will most likely be handled by your countries Customs, who will probably charge you tax, such as whatever your local sales tax rate is.

According to theory, they should tax the value of the modifications and repairs, not the insured value of the package, since that would involve taxing the value of the TR-606, or whatever machine it is, which is yours and which you sent from your country to Australia for the purposes of repair and modification.

In order to get your Customs to do this, you will need, at least a copy of the Real World Interfaces invoice, which will be enclosed in the package, and which I can email you a copy of.  I will attach a copy of this invoice in an envelope on the outside of the package, marked for the attention of Customs.  You will also probably need to establish that you sent this machine to us in Australia.  You should keep your receipts and copies of EMS paperwork etc.  I suggest you take a cell-phone photo of the EMS form, airway bill or whatever, on the package, before you send it.  I will generally include the paperwork with which your packaged arrived, in the outer envelope, with the copy of our invoice.

When packages come to us from overseas, if the insured value plus freight and insurance costs is less than AUD$1000, there are usually no customs fees.  Above AUD$1k, we typically pay a ~$90 customs handling fee plus 10% GST (Goods and Services Tax) on the the insured value plus freight and insurance costs.  We later claim back the GST.  

Most countries have tax rates higher than this 10%.  You should budget for customs fees when considering the total cost of a modification project.

Packages containing TB-303s, TR-808s and/or TR-909s - total value over AUD$5000

Since 1993 I have sent 250 or more packages overseas via the Australia Post EMS service.  None have ever been lost or damaged, but we recently had a scare when a Devil Fish was declared missing in Belgium, after the customer had a protracted dispute with the post office and customs there.  We were told the package was lost, but it was later found and delivered.

I have also sent dozens of machines within Australia, with Parcel Post, without any losses or damage.

The high replacement value of TB-303s, TR-808s and TR-909s makes it impossible for us to use Australia Post for packages containing one or more of these items.

We plan to use UPS in the future, for destinations inside and outside Australia.  DHL does not appear to offer suitable insurance, extra cover or whatever.  The last time I tried to book a package using FedEx's website, I had to give up after about an hour and a half since I was unable to meet all its exacting requirements.  When I last enquired, TNT does not insure second-hand items.

The freight and insurance costs will be several hundred dollars more than what we were spending on Australia Post in the past, in part because we rarely insured the package for its full worth. 

I will add some details here about likely costs once we have used the UPS local and overseas services.

For now, I suggest you think of freight and insurance costs such as ~AUD$500 for a TB-303 and ~$800 for a TR-808 or TR-808, for overseas destinations, and somewhat less for Australian destinations.  Multiple items in a package will raise the value further, and I will need to find out if there are any limits to the value of packages UPS will handle, with insurance.