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Scrimshaw

Scrimshaw refers to any engraved or carved piece of ivory or bone. It is an artistic tradition that dates back several centuries and comprises a remarkably diverse field of examples that are still attainable at auction today.

The tradition of scrimshaw carving dates back to the late years of the 18th century, when whalers and seamen began taking advantage of the plentiful ivory and bone at sea to render incredibly artful designs. Moving beyond the creation of utilitarian tools, these craftsmen rendered everything from simple relief carvings to inset pigments and fully sculpted forms on both walrus tusks and whale bones. As a result, scrimshaw pieces became a means to commemorate life at sea as well as important cultural events.

The decimation of ivory-bearing animal species over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries led to increasingly stringent regulations on ivory consumption, which, combined with black market and illegal offerings, severely limited any continued tradition of scrimshaw carving. Antique scrimshaw pieces are a fantastic reflection of the past as much as they are reflection of a rarified art form.


Quick Facts

  • Scrimshaw examples are included in some of the world's most prestigious museum collections, including the Smithsonian Museum of Art in Washington, D.C.
  • A pair of scrimshaw whale teeth sold at a Christie's New York auction in 2008 for $49,000
  • The origin of the name "scrimshaw" is unknown, but it did first appear in print in the early 19th century in an alternate spelling of "scrimshonting"

Recommended Items at Auction

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SCRIMSHAW CABOCHONS ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
Jan 16, 1:00 PM CST
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHONS ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
by Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer
Est: $0- $0
$202 Bids
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHONS ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
Jan 16, 1:00 PM CST
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHONS ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
by Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer
Est: $0- $0
$142 Bids
Ancient Alaskan Inuit Eskimo Found Whale Tooth
Mar 03, 9:00 AM MST
Ancient Alaskan Inuit Eskimo Found Whale Tooth
by Davis Brothers Auction
Est: $50- $75
$152 Bids
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHONS ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
Jan 16, 1:00 PM CST
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHONS ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
by Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer
Est: $0- $0
$241 Bid
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHONS ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
Jan 16, 1:00 PM CST
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHONS ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
by Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer
Est: $0- $0
$241 Bid
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
Jan 16, 1:00 PM CST
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
by Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer
Est: $0- $0
$51 Bid
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
Jan 16, 1:00 PM CST
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
by Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer
Est: $0- $0
$51 Bid
TWO VINTAGE NATIVE ALASKAN CARVED WALRUS TUSKS.
Mar 06, 10:00 AM EST
TWO VINTAGE NATIVE ALASKAN CARVED WALRUS TUSKS.
by William Smith Auctions
Est: $1,000- $1,500
$5001 Bid
Vintage Scrimshaw Whale's Tooth
Mar 07, 6:00 PM EST
Vintage Scrimshaw Whale's Tooth
by Orion Antiques
Est: $100- $300
$501 Bid
TWO VINTAGE C. YANEH SIGNED WALRUS TUSKS.
Mar 06, 10:00 AM EST
TWO VINTAGE C. YANEH SIGNED WALRUS TUSKS.
by William Smith Auctions
Est: $500- $1,000
$2501 Bid
ANTIQUE STYLED 19TH CENTURY WHALTE TOOTH SCRIMSHAW
Mar 06, 9:00 AM EST
ANTIQUE STYLED 19TH CENTURY WHALTE TOOTH SCRIMSHAW
by Affiliated Auctions & Realty LLC
Est: $80- $150
$201 Bid
ANTIQUE STYLED 19TH CENTURY WHALTE TOOTH SCRIMSHAW
Mar 06, 9:00 AM EST
ANTIQUE STYLED 19TH CENTURY WHALTE TOOTH SCRIMSHAW
by Affiliated Auctions & Realty LLC
Est: $80- $150
$201 Bid
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
Jan 20, 1:00 PM CST
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
by Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer
Est: $0- $0
$1000 Bids
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
Jan 15, 1:00 PM CST
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
by Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer
Est: $0- $0
$1000 Bids
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
Jan 15, 1:00 PM CST
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
by Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer
Est: $0- $0
$1000 Bids
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
Jan 15, 1:00 PM CST
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
by Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer
Est: $0- $0
$1000 Bids
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
Jan 15, 1:00 PM CST
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
by Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer
Est: $0- $0
$1000 Bids
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
Jan 15, 1:00 PM CST
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
by Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer
Est: $0- $0
$1000 Bids
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
Jan 15, 1:00 PM CST
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
by Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer
Est: $0- $0
$1000 Bids
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
Jan 15, 1:00 PM CST
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
by Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer
Est: $0- $0
$1000 Bids
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
Jan 15, 1:00 PM CST
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
by Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer
Est: $0- $0
$1000 Bids
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
Jan 21, 1:00 PM CST
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
by Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer
Est: $0- $0
$1000 Bids
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
Jan 21, 1:00 PM CST
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
by Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer
Est: $0- $0
$1000 Bids
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
Jan 21, 1:00 PM CST
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
by Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer
Est: $0- $0
$1000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Scrimshaw


Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer

Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer

Affiliated Auctions & Realty LLC

Affiliated Auctions & Realty LLC

William Smith Auctions

William Smith Auctions

Lawsons

Lawsons