Identification and Price guides for Antiques & Collectibles

Members Log-In
Forgot Password?

A Timeless Art Form

Join the most updated and complete collectibles research online - Learn more...

SCRIMSHAW DECORATED WHALE TOOTHScrimshaw is a traditional American art form that involves engraving or carving designs onto the surface of ivory or bone. It was a popular pastime among sailors in the 18th and 19th centuries who would pass the time by creating intricate designs on whale teeth and bones during their long voyages at sea. These carvings were often done using needles or knives and were typically filled in with ink or pigment to bring out the designs. Today, scrimshaw collectibles are highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts around the world for their beauty, historical significance, and cultural value.

Scrimshaw art has a rich history that is intertwined with the maritime world, and its popularity has only grown over the years. While the art form originated in America, it has become popular around the world, with collectors and enthusiasts admiring the skill and artistry of these intricate designs.

Despite being created on ivory and bone, materials that are now highly regulated and restricted due to animal welfare and conservation concerns, scrimshaw continues to thrive through the use of synthetic materials and vintage ivory and bone. Scrimshaw art pieces are highly sought after by collectors, and their value is often determined by their rarity, quality, and historical significance.

In this article, we will explore the fascinating world of scrimshaw collectibles, their history, value, and the importance of proper care and maintenance. We will delve into the artistry of scrimshaw and highlight some of the most notable artists in the field. Whether you are an avid collector or just a curious admirer of art, this article will provide you with a comprehensive guide to scrimshaw collectibles.

The Art of Scrimshaw

Scrimshaw is a delicate art form that requires patience, skill, and attention to detail. The process involves using a sharp instrument, such as a needle or knife, to scratch designs into the surface of ivory or bone. The designs can range from simple geometric patterns to intricate images of ships, sea creatures, and landscapes. Once the design is complete, ink or pigment is rubbed into the scratches to create contrast and bring the design to life.

Scrimshaw artists often used whale teeth and bones as their medium of choice, as they were readily available on whaling ships. However, the use of these materials is now highly regulated due to concerns about animal welfare and conservation. Today, many scrimshaw artists use synthetic materials or vintage ivory and bone to create their works.

The History of Scrimshaw Collectibles

Scrimshaw was first practiced by sailors on whaling ships in the 18th century. The term "scrimshaw" is thought to have originated from the Dutch word "scheren," which means to shave, and the English word "shaw," which means a grove or thicket. The practice of scrimshaw became more widespread in the 19th century as whaling ships traveled further afield, and sailors had more time on their hands.

Scrimshaw collectibles were popular among sailors as souvenirs of their travels and as gifts for loved ones back home. They were also used as currency among sailors, who would trade them for other goods and services.

Today, scrimshaw collectibles are highly valued for their historical significance and cultural value. They provide a window into the lives of sailors in the 18th and 19th centuries and offer a glimpse into the art and craftsmanship of the time.

The Value of Scrimshaw Collectibles

Scrimshaw collectibles are highly prized by collectors and enthusiasts around the world. Their value is determined by a variety of factors, including the quality of the workmanship, the rarity of the material, and the historical significance of the piece.

Some of the most valuable scrimshaw collectibles include those created by well-known artists, such as Edward Burdett and Frederick Myrick, and those with intricate designs or depictions of rare or exotic animals. Scrimshaw collectibles that have been well-preserved and maintained over time are also highly valued.

Collecting Scrimshaw

Collecting scrimshaw can be a rewarding hobby for those interested in maritime history and art. There are many different types of scrimshaw collectibles available, including whale teeth, walrus tusks, and bone carvings.

When collecting scrimshaw, it is important to ensure that the piece is authentic and has not been altered or reproduced. This can be challenging, as scrimshaw reproductions are common and can be difficult to distinguish from genuine pieces.

One way to ensure the authenticity of a scrimshaw collectible is to purchase it from a reputable dealer who specializes in maritime antiques. These dealers can provide information about the history and provenance of the piece and can help collectors identify reproductions and forgeries.

Caring for Scrimshaw Collectibles

Scrimshaw collectibles require proper care and maintenance to ensure that they remain in good condition over time. The following are some tips for caring for scrimshaw collectibles:
  • Keep scrimshaw collectibles out of direct sunlight, as exposure to UV rays can cause the ivory or bone to yellow or crack.
  • Avoid exposing scrimshaw collectibles to extreme temperatures or humidity, as this can cause the material to expand or contract and can damage the surface of the piece.
  • Handle scrimshaw collectibles with clean, dry hands to avoid transferring oils and dirt onto the surface of the piece.
  • Store scrimshaw collectibles in a dry, cool place, away from sources of moisture and heat.
  • Clean scrimshaw collectibles with a soft, dry cloth, taking care not to rub the surface too hard or use abrasive materials.


Scrimshaw collectibles are a beautiful and valuable art form that offer a unique glimpse into the history and culture of the maritime world. Whether you are a collector or an enthusiast, scrimshaw pieces are a wonderful addition to any collection or home decor. By understanding the history and value of scrimshaw collectibles and taking proper care of them, you can ensure that these treasured pieces will be enjoyed for generations to come.

Unlock the true value of your collection with our comprehensive research guides from identifying makers' marks to appraising all kinds of antiques and collectibles, including items featured in this article.

Our up-to-date information will give you an accurate understanding of your items' worth. Don't miss out on this valuable resource - visit our research tools today!

In addition to some examples shown below on this page, you can also search our price guide for your own treasures.

Examples of related items from our Price Guides

There are many more auction results available to our members...

Explore more items from our
Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide

This list is limited to only a few results.
Many more items are available to our members through our Price Guides!

Ideal research tools for Collectors, Personal Property Appraisers, Antiques & Collectibles Dealers, Auction Houses, Museums, eBayers or other online sellers (Rubylane, Etsy, etc) and curious minds interested in appraising & identifying collectibles

Sign Up

Privacy, Terms and Conditions
Copyrighted Material - All rights reserved.