Steve Clayton Blog

Guitar Pick News – Illegal Guitar Pick Case

Woman Pleads Guilty for Selling Illegal Sea Turtle Guitar Picks

Associated Press
May 8, 2009

“A 54-year-old Sonoma County woman has pleaded guilty to charges of illegally importing guitar picks made from endangered sea turtle shells.The U.S. atlantichawksbillseaturtle2attorney’s office says Qing Song pleaded guilty to one felony Wednesday. She was sentenced to 10 months of home confinement and a $2,000 fine. Song admitted to importing picks or raw shells of the hawksbill sea turtle from China and selling them in the United States. Some musicians covet the turtle shells instead of ordinary plastic picks because they believe they produce a superior tone. It is illegal to trade endangered wildlife without a valid permit for scientific research or other approved, noncommercial use.”

Hmmm…. I guess she has never heard of Clayton Ultems. 🙂

To read more about Ultem vs. Tortoishell, Click Here.

Ultem vs. Tortoiseshell

A loyal customer e-mailed us today asking about the difference between our Ultem pick and authentic Tortoiseshell picks. What a great question for today’s post. Most of you have probably never played with real tortoiseshell before. This is because it became illegal to produce/import tortoiseshell into the United States in 1947, which was before even I was born! A lot of guitar picks are made to have the appearance of tortoiseshell such as our cork-grip picks. However these are actually made of celluloid. Some people bring me some pretty convincing celluloid and tell me they have a true tortoiseshell pick, when almost always they don’t. Not sure if you have a real one or fake? Quickly rub the pick in-between cloth several times to create mild heat, if the picks starts to smell like camphor or vicks vabor rub, that is a celluloid plastic pick. They smell strong! Cow horn is also often passed off as tortoiseshell. If the pick is made out of cow horn then it will have a milky white appearance in parts of the pick.tort

People allude to the authentic tortoiseshell as the holy grail of picks… and are sought after. Well I have played many in my life-time and here are my thoughts on them. They sound nice, with a nice tone, but they break and sometimes even explode in your hand which is useless during a performance. Also the edges get rough. In my personal opinion, Ultem creates a much brighter, cleaner sound with better overtones, plus is much more durable. In the end when it comes to authentic tortoiseshell, I recommend saving your money and the turtles.