Buying for export

Buying antiques to take or ship abroad is relatively straightforward in the United Kingdom.

Export licences

Exports from the UK to other EU states

The main restriction you have to bear in mind is the export licence threshold, currently £65,000 for most objects over 50 years old destined for Europe.

Most items below this threshold may be exported without an individual licence under Open General Export Licence procedures, although some categories (paintings of historical British personages for example) have lower or higher thresholds ranging between £Nil and £180,000.

Exports from the UK to destinations outside the EU

A basic £39,219 threshold applies in respect of destinations outside Europe, although the threshold varies according to category.

A good dealer should be able to help you with this but, should you wish to make the application yourself, application forms for export licences and the full list of thresholds may be obtained from Arts Council London, Export Licensing Unit, 21 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3HF. Telephone: 020-7268 9606. Further assistance can be found on their website:

Guidance documents that give step by step advice about applying for an export licence, issued by the Arts Council, are available through the above link. The following is a link to the booklet Procedures and Guidance for Exporters of Works of Art and Other Cultural Goods (Word)

Endangered species

Items containing specimens of endangered species of flora or fauna such as carved elephant ivory or tortoiseshell usually require a permit to be legally exported from the United Kingdom to destinations outside the European Union. Likewise imports from countries outside the EU also require a permit.  

Furthermore, a separate licence may be required by other countries to import antiques containing such specimens. Provided the piece is a genuine antique that has not been worked (i.e. carved, made or repaired) since 1947 these certificates, known as C.I.T.E.S. import or re-export permits, are not generally difficult to obtain.

BADA dealers, who are elected for their specialist knowledge and experience, will know the age of the items purchased from them and will often be happy to apply for permits on your behalf as part of their service.

However, should you wish to deal with the application yourself forms can be obtained from C.I.T.E.S. Licensing, Animal and Plant Health Agency, Floor 1, Zone 17, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol BS1 6EB. Telephone +44 (0) 3000 200 301 or at

Antique firearms

Firearms more than 50 years old may require a cultural goods export licence (see above). In addition, a Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) export licence may also be required for firearms manufactured since 1897 and for some made before that date.

Again, your antique dealer should be able to advise you about a licence, but if you prefer you may wish to contact the Export Control Organisation, Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, 3rd floor, 1 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0ET. Telephone: 020-7215 0531.

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