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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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SCRIMSHAWED WHALE'S TOOTH.
Dec 13, 9:00 AM EST
SCRIMSHAWED WHALE'S TOOTH.
by Morphy Auctions
Est: $1,000- $2,000
$3,20012 Bids
Scrimshaw Whale Tooth
Dec 11, 11:00 AM EST
Scrimshaw Whale Tooth
by Seminole Estate Auction & Liq. LLC
Est: $350- $650
$1605 Bids
Fossilized Scrimshaw Walrus
Dec 11, 11:00 AM EST
Fossilized Scrimshaw Walrus
by Seminole Estate Auction & Liq. LLC
Est: $225- $350
$1304 Bids
SCRIMSHAW WHALE HUNT WHALES TOOTH
Dec 18, 10:00 AM EST
SCRIMSHAW WHALE HUNT WHALES TOOTH
by White's Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$2754 Bids
Scrimshaw Decorated Swordfish Bill, Keith Henry
Dec 10, 10:00 AM CST
Scrimshaw Decorated Swordfish Bill, Keith Henry
by Link Auction Galleries
Est: $150- $200
$1253 Bids
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COMPOSITION DECORATOR SCRIMSHAW, OF A SAILING SHIP + 1 OTHER OF VINCENT STENROFJORD ETCHED
Dec 08, 9:00 AM AEST
COMPOSITION DECORATOR SCRIMSHAW, OF A SAILING SHIP + 1 OTHER OF VINCENT STENROFJORD ETCHED
by Albion Antique Auction Centre
Est: AUD10- AUD40
AUD353 Bids
Small Basket With Scrimshaw Design Lid
Dec 08, 10:00 AM EST
Small Basket With Scrimshaw Design Lid
by Berner's Auction Gallery
Est: $10- $1,000
$113 Bids
PAIR OF ATTRACTIVE SCRIMSHAW TEETH
Dec 14, 9:00 AM CST
PAIR OF ATTRACTIVE SCRIMSHAW TEETH
by Jackson's International
Est: $50- $100
$802 Bids
Russian icon of the Twelve Great Feasts - 19th century
Dec 07, 3:00 PM CET
Russian icon of the Twelve Great Feasts - 19th century
by Bertolami Fine Art
Est: €700- €900
€4801 Bid
Contemporary Scrimshaw On LargeWhale's Tooth Mounted On Cane
Dec 17, 7:00 PM EST
Contemporary Scrimshaw On LargeWhale's Tooth Mounted On Cane
by Tunicks Auction Gallery
Est: $200- $300
$1001 Bid
RAW ANTIQUE WHALE TOOTH FOR SCRIMSHAW
Dec 20, 9:00 AM EST
RAW ANTIQUE WHALE TOOTH FOR SCRIMSHAW
by Affiliated Auctions & Realty LLC
Est: $200- $300
$501 Bid
JAY JACKSON SCRIMSHAW SNUFF BOTTLES
Dec 07, 9:00 AM EST
JAY JACKSON SCRIMSHAW SNUFF BOTTLES
by Affiliated Auctions & Realty LLC
Est: $50- $100
$101 Bid
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2pc Antique Carved Scrimshaw Tea Caddy & Dominoes Set
Dec 11, 10:00 AM EST
2pc Antique Carved Scrimshaw Tea Caddy & Dominoes Set
by Lion and Unicorn
Est: $10- $200
$101 Bid
James Cumberland Brown
Dec 06, 6:00 PM AWST
James Cumberland Brown
by McKenzies Auctioneers
Est: AUD400- AUD800
AUD3001 Bid
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VINTAGE COMPOSITION DECORATOR SCRIMSHAW, VICKSBURG MISSISSIPPI ETCHED
Dec 08, 9:00 AM AEST
VINTAGE COMPOSITION DECORATOR SCRIMSHAW, VICKSBURG MISSISSIPPI ETCHED
by Albion Antique Auction Centre
Est: AUD10- AUD40
AUD101 Bid
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COMPOSITION DECORATOR SCRIMSHAW, HMS VICTORY ETCHED
Dec 08, 9:00 AM AEST
COMPOSITION DECORATOR SCRIMSHAW, HMS VICTORY ETCHED
by Albion Antique Auction Centre
Est: AUD10- AUD40
AUD101 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
$1000 Bids
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
Feb 03, 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
Feb 03, 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
Feb 03, 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
Feb 03, 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 03, 1:00 PM CST
SCRIMSHAW CABOCHON ROCK STONE LAPIDARY SPECIMEN
by Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer
Est: $0- $0
$1000 Bids
Antique Example of Natural Scrimshaw
Dec 17, 9:30 AM EST
Antique Example of Natural Scrimshaw
by Luban Antique
Est: $50- $200
$100 Bids
A VERY FINE RESIN SCRIMSHAW HORN
Dec 10, 12:00 PM EST
A VERY FINE RESIN SCRIMSHAW HORN
by RB Fine Arts
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Scrimshaw


Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer

Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer

Albion Antique Auction Centre

Albion Antique Auction Centre

Bertolami Fine Art

Bertolami Fine Art

Designer Homes of Central Florida

Designer Homes of Central Florida