The Value of Scrimshaw

"A Sailor's Life for Me" scrimshaw on whale's tooth

Color scrimshaw on whale's tooth "A Sailor's Life for Me""A Sailor's Life for Me" scrimshaw on whale's toothI’ve received a question regarding the value of a piece of scrimshaw done in the 20th century on a whale’s tooth, and I really don’t know the answer. I do scrimshaw, though I don’t collect it. A reader has a beautiful piece by P. Hayde, I believe, and wants to know how to figure its value so they may insure it. If there is a collector who could help them and similar collectors out with either a link or some good guidelines, I’ll be happy to post the information here, with or without your email as you see fit. It would be greatly appreciated.
Leave a reply in the box below to help your fellow collectors.

Thank you in advance,

Andrew Perkins – Where Passion Drives Creativity

Tiger scrimshaw on display stand
Tiger scrimshaw on display stand
Rod Lacey’s “Wet and Wild”

While the word “addiction” often conjures up negative images of a dependency on a substance, it is also defined as “enthusiastically devoted to a particular thing or activity.” It is in the latter definition that Rod Lacey has his addiction to scrimshaw.  His site, is not only an information site but also an illustrated diary of some of his beautiful work.  In his “Scrimshaw Walkthroughs” section, Rod shows you from start to finish not only his abilities as a scrimshaw artist, but as an innovative craftsman as well, showing his unique presentation stands from concept to finished piece.

Bluefin tuna scrimshaw on custom stand
Rod’s custom stands are unique and innovative.

Rod has plenty of tips and ideas for where to get ivory, how to scrimshaw, scrimshaw shortcuts and more.  His site is worth a morning coffee’s worth of relaxing and reading for both the scrimshander and the scrimshaw enthusiast.

He has also mastered the technique of acetone transfer – a time-saving way to transfer a stable image onto the surface of the ivory to begin the initial task of scribing the outline onto the material. Either due to impatience or improper technique, I have yet to do this with any consistency – but I’ll keep trying.

Partial sequence of "Bamboo Tiger" walkthrough
Just a couple of images from Walkthrough.

Rod and I had corresponded via email a couple of times, and he had shown interest in Galalith, the casein-based ivory alternative that is still one of my favorites.  He bought a special order 3″ x 4″ panel, I sent it off to him sure that he’d send me a picture or two of some of his finished work in due time.  After a little over one month, I got a small package from Queensland, Australia.  Inside was a note from Rod and a finished, full-color portrait of me from the back of my book “Scrimshaw? But I Can’t Draw!” completely covering the 3″ x 4″ panel. I was shocked and elated that he took the time and considerable effort to create the piece, as well as fascinated and impressed by his work (I was also grateful that he gave me a little more hair).  Rod’s abilities as a scrimshaw artist as well as a painter (inker?) shows an extreme attention to detail and a keen eye for color and shading.

While I have scrimshawed for over thirty years, my collection is truly meager, having only a few pieces from my original teacher and a couple of pieces of my own on various materials.

Scrimshaw Portrait of Andrew Perkins by Rod Lacey
Am I Narcissistic or is that a great likeness of me?

This piece is one of those few that I will be coveting.

Rod’s artwork can be seen at his site You can contact him via his contact page on the site.

Mystery Artist #22 – Pirate, bought in Paris France…

Pirate scrimshawed on a whale tooth
The stance as well as the angle of the guns creates a memorable pic. He seems to be compensating for the rolling waves or has just come from the tavern, but either way it’s time to duck!
Another shot of David Weir's Pirate on a whale tooth
Clicking on the image will bring it up full size.

Mystery Artist #22 was purchased in Paris France about ten years ago.  The signature appears to be “EC”, or perhaps “CC” in the lower left corner.  The stance along with the “toothpick” in his mouth shows him steadying himself either due to heavy seas or perhaps he just came out of the tavern?  Either way, it’s a memorable pic.  Anyone who knows the artist or their whereabouts and can let us know more about them it would be greatly appreciated. it’s a wonderful piece of scrimshaw!


UPDATE – Found the original illustrator: Howard Pyle

From the late 19th to the early 20th century, Howard Pyle wrote and illustrated during this time, being one of “the founders of present-day Illustration”.  A brief history can be found here:

The original illustration can also be found there.

Oso-Famoso – Scrimshaw from the Masters


Scrimshaw goldfish by Jesus Arich, shared by
Photo by Rob Johnson, shared by

Oso Famoso is a name many older “scrimshaw geeks” may remember, as he was one of the first to show and sell scrimshaw and fossil ivory online.  I especially remember the goldfish by Jesus Areck, and seeing the raw mammoth ivory so close yet financially out of reach for me at the time.  I’d frequent his site and pause for up to an hour just to look at the fine artwork he had there.  “I had started being a supplier of fossil ivories and scrimshaw artist’s representative in the early 1970’s. I would spend some weeks every summer on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska getting fossilized walrus ivory from the Yupik natives. I would provide material and money for various artists, mostly in Bellingham, Wa. and they would give me back what was generally excellent work.

Alaskan Native holding a ceremonial mask by Terry Nelson. Photo by Rod Johnson
Alaskan Native by Terry Nelson. Photo by Rod Johnson

“My mountings were mostly produced by Ken Fredericks of Bellingham, who is now deceased. I haven’t been active in commissioning scrimshaw in a number of years. …”

Oso: “Whatever is legally able to be sold is available for new ownership, and on the market. I am not seeking any business that violates existing law.” So – California, New York and New Jersey sales are definitely out, and you will need to check your local state laws to see if it’s legal to purchase any of these beautiful pieces.

“None of these pieces have been recently made. The artists include Chris Lehwalder, Gary Dorning, Heidi Robichaud, Jesus Arick, Kevin Pettelle, Kurt Sperry, Susan Ford, Scott Halligan, Scott Judge, Terry Nelson. The great majority of these pieces use mammoth ivory or fossil walrus ivory.”  Some of the pieces may not be available at the time of this publication since they will be sold, others may not be obtainable due to specific state restrictions.

I’ve got some small pics below the fold. Contact Oso for larger pics that really do the pieces justice

Anyone interested in acquiring any of these one-of-a-kind pieces may contact Oso at

Canadian Scrimshaw Artist Wanted

We just received an inquiry about an interesting project for a scrimshaw artist in or around Nova Scotia:

“… Hi,

I live in Nova Scotia (Canada) and am looking for a scrimshander who can do a traditional 19th century monogram on top of an old wooden pocket watch box. (There’s a small ivory plate in the middle of the top cover that was intended for just such a monogram.)

It’s a very small job, but I’d like it to be completely in keeping with the style of the pocket watch box, which was made in the mid-1800’s. I’d like to get it just right.

Can you recommend someone close by us? If there’s no one here in Eastern Canada, we do often travel down to Maine and Massachusetts.

Thanks for your help!


Interested scrimshanders should contact Catherine at catherine.mckinnon[at], replacing the [at] with the proper @ (writing it this way helps keep spam out of Catherine’s mailbox).