What’s ith worth? Appraisal for scrimshaw

scrimshaw whales tooth

 Deb asks:

 I would be interested to know the approximate value of this unusual piece of scrimshaw that’s been in my family for decades. I don’t know who the previous owner was.

AW says:
That’s quite a piece of history you have there. If it’s real, and I’ve no reason to doubt that it is, I’d put it at about $1200 to $1500. But if there were attribution to a significant carver it would be considerably more than that.
To sell this, you’d need to consign it to a reputable auction house. I don’t believe you can sell it on eBay as they prohibit the sale of whales teeth.
By the way, one good way to tell if this is a real whales tooth or a plasic resin copy is to take a red hot pin that’s been in a fire until it glows and jab the underside of the tooth, if it goes in at all it’s a fake. An organic won’t melt and allow the pin to make a hole.
Unfortunately a great many fake Scrimshaw pieces came on the market in the late 1970s to middle 80s, but none I’ve evern seen had Abalone embedded, nor have I ever seen this subject on a fake. The fakes usually had a ship carved into the face as the main theme.
Let’s assume for now it’s real. The great thing about this is the verses of JGW’s poem and the very good likeness of him.
A lot of work and patience went into carving the stanzas of that poem. But of course, as it was most likely carved at sea, the sailor had a lot of time on his hands.
It was evidently carved for a sweetheart named Sarah which as indicated in the small print next to your picture, is in the Abalone star above the whaling scene.
A genuine piece like this WITH the sweetheart’s name highlighted in a
n obvious place really epitomizes what Scrimshaw was all about, sailors and seamen pinning for distant loves. This is a great example.
If you were to sell it, you or the auction house should do more extensive research.
Thanks for checking in.

3 thoughts on “What’s ith worth? Appraisal for scrimshaw

  1. AuctionWally

    Hey Eric,
    Thanks for your interest, if you think I have the tooth, it is actually an appraisal post I did for a woman online.
    I’ll look to see if I have her email and will pass it along.

    If she didn’t opt in, I’ll leave your comment in the post, in hope that maybe she’ll visit the site again & see your remark.

    Good Luck let me know if anything works out, I’d be happy to hear.


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