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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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ANTIQUE 19TH C AMERICAN NAVAL SCRIMSHAW ENGRAVING
Apr 27, 10:00 AM EDT
ANTIQUE 19TH C AMERICAN NAVAL SCRIMSHAW ENGRAVING
by Antique Arena Inc
Est: $100- $150
$55014 Bids
A SCRIMSHAW WHALES TOOTH
Apr 23, 9:00 AM CDT
A SCRIMSHAW WHALES TOOTH
by Jackson's International
Est: $50- $100
$30010 Bids
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* LARGE SEMI-POLISHED WHALE'S TOOTH Length 6.75".
Apr 25, 9:30 AM EDT
* LARGE SEMI-POLISHED WHALE'S TOOTH Length 6.75".
by Eldred's
Est: $400- $600
$5508 Bids
Whale Tooth Scrimshaw Carving
Apr 25, 10:00 AM EDT
Whale Tooth Scrimshaw Carving
by Berner's Auction Gallery
Est: $10- $1,000
$457 Bids
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* FRANK BARCELOS ENGRAVED WHALE'S TOOTH 20th Century Length 6".
Apr 25, 9:30 AM EDT
* FRANK BARCELOS ENGRAVED WHALE'S TOOTH 20th Century Length 6".
by Eldred's
Est: $300- $500
$4255 Bids
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* THREE SEMI-POLISHED WHALE'S TEETH Lengths from 3.5" to 5.5".
Apr 25, 9:30 AM EDT
* THREE SEMI-POLISHED WHALE'S TEETH Lengths from 3.5" to 5.5".
by Eldred's
Est: $200- $300
$2004 Bids
TWO DECORATED SCRIMSHAW WHALE TEETH.
Apr 27, 10:00 AM EDT
TWO DECORATED SCRIMSHAW WHALE TEETH.
by Amelia Jeffers
Est: $100- $200
$504 Bids
WHALE TOOTH ANTIQUE SCRIMSHAW SIGNED & DATED 1837
May 01, 9:00 AM EDT
WHALE TOOTH ANTIQUE SCRIMSHAW SIGNED & DATED 1837
by Affiliated Auctions & Realty LLC
Est: $400- $600
$1604 Bids
Scrimshaw Whales Tooth Fiji Mermaid Scholar SIGNED
Apr 24, 12:00 PM EDT
Scrimshaw Whales Tooth Fiji Mermaid Scholar SIGNED
by Hill Auction Gallery
Est: $500- $1,500
$3754 Bids
(4pc) Portugal Islands Tourist Scrimshaw
Apr 27, 10:00 AM MST
(4pc) Portugal Islands Tourist Scrimshaw
by EJ'S Auction & Appraisal
Est: $0- $0
$454 Bids
2PC Whaling Ships Scrimshaw Whale Teeth
Apr 24, 10:00 AM EDT
2PC Whaling Ships Scrimshaw Whale Teeth
by Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers
Est: $100- $300
$754 Bids
WHALE TOOTH ANTIQUE SCRIMSHAW DATED 1860
May 01, 9:00 AM EDT
WHALE TOOTH ANTIQUE SCRIMSHAW DATED 1860
by Affiliated Auctions & Realty LLC
Est: $400- $600
$1203 Bids
FRANK BARCELOS CARVED SCRIMSHAW WHALE TOOTH.
Apr 27, 10:00 AM EDT
FRANK BARCELOS CARVED SCRIMSHAW WHALE TOOTH.
by Amelia Jeffers
Est: $250- $450
$2253 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
$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
WHALE TOOTH WITH SCRIMSHAW DECORATION
Apr 27, 10:00 AM EDT
WHALE TOOTH WITH SCRIMSHAW DECORATION
by Amelia Jeffers
Est: $100- $300
$102 Bids
2 WHALE TOOTH SCRIMSHAW SHIP ENGRAVED ORNAMENTS
May 01, 9:00 AM EDT
2 WHALE TOOTH SCRIMSHAW SHIP ENGRAVED ORNAMENTS
by Affiliated Auctions & Realty LLC
Est: $300- $500
$802 Bids
Nautical Scrimshaw Sailing Ship on Stand Signed H H C
Apr 27, 9:30 AM EDT
Nautical Scrimshaw Sailing Ship on Stand Signed H H C
by Luban Antique
Est: $50- $200
$101 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 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
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* NINE PIECES OF CONTEMPORARY SCRIMSHAW 20th Century Tooth length 5".
Apr 25, 9:30 AM EDT
* NINE PIECES OF CONTEMPORARY SCRIMSHAW 20th Century Tooth length 5".
by Eldred's
Est: $300- $500
$1501 Bid

Sellers Who Sell Scrimshaw


Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer

Col. Christie Hatman, Auctioneer

Amelia Jeffers

Amelia Jeffers

Affiliated Auctions & Realty LLC

Affiliated Auctions & Realty LLC

Eldred's

Eldred's