Lava lamps are considered an American icon and part of our cultural history, but the lava lamp was actually invented in Great Britain by Edward Craven Walker in the early 1960’s. The rights to produce and sell the lamps in the USA were sold to some businessmen who then sold it to Larry Haggerty who formed Haggerty Enterprises. This agreement stated that Mathmos could not sell Lava Lamps in the USA. Unfortunately many years later this is still in place. Fortunately for those Americans who want a Mathmos lava lamp there is a way around this. There is nothing that says individuals cant ship Mathmos lamps to an address in the UK and then forward it to the USA after purchase. This fulfills Mathmos’s legal requirements to not sell to US customer’s while also fueling our lava lamp obsession. Here is how you do it.
Before buying be aware that once the lamps leave the UK their warranty is voided. If you have any problems with your lamps Mathmos will not help you no matter the cause of the defect. Helping you would again be in violation of their legal requirements. This is not the fault of Mathmos.
You will need a shipping forwarder and an understanding of currency conversion. First you need to set up your forwarder. In this example Forward2Me will be used. You should get a shipping address that is tied to your account. For example if you sign up for Forward2Me you will get an address with your name and a generated number. You will need this later.
Now create your account on the Mathmos site or update your account with your forwarding address. Buy your lamps and wait for your forwarder to receive them. Note that a lot of bank accounts have restrictions on international payments. Sometimes it is easier to pay with PayPal, but be aware they charge a small fee and hide it in the currency exchange. Another thing to note is you may be able to avoid the VAT if you use the UK Tax Free warehouse offered by Forward2Me. I didn’t use that in this case, but it might work.
Here is where things get painful. £231 may not seem like a lot, but the exchange rate has historically not been in our favor. That means this order is costing me $331. This does not include international shipping.
*2023 note: exchange rates have become much better for us. It dropped to $1.06 not too long ago and recently went back up to 1.20. It helps to be aware of the current exchange rate and how it is trending if you want to make a big purchase.
Once you put in your order your forwarder should notify you once the order has been received by them. Once they are ready to ship your lamps to you they will provide you with a shipping rate. In this case it was £116 or $162 bringing me up to a combined total cost of $493 for 1 lamp and 5 extra globes. You will definitely want to purchase Forward2Me’s Protect+ insurance. This will help fill the gap left from Mathmos not being able to provide customer support should your precious lamps get broken during shipping.
It took 5 business days from the time of the order to the lamps being delivered when DHL was chosen for the international carrier. Breaking that down I will provide estimated costs for those interested in going through with the hassle.
$140 for an Astro with globe.
$31 for an Astro globe with the “accessory discount”.
$41 for an Astro globe without the “accessory discount”.
$100+ for shipping. ($100 seems to be minimum)
After your lamps arrive if you don’t know how to make them work in the USA you can check out the conversion guide here. https://lava-library.com/adapting-foreign-lamps/