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* How can one tell if the a piece of scrimshaw is not made of polymer plastic?

*Is there a list of known polymer reproductions?

*Where can I buy antique scrimshaw?

*Where can I see genuine scrimshaw pieces?

*Are there books on antique scrimshaw?

*How can one decide the age of a piece is antique?

Q: How can one tell if the a piece of scrimshaw is not made of polymer plastic?

A: Take a heavy duty needle and clamp it with a "vise-grip" wrench. This will protect you from the heat of the needle. Heat the tip of the needle over a flame (gas or electric stove) until the needle is red hot. Press the hot needle into the base of the piece (try and find an unimportant area) and study the results. Polymer plastic pieces will "melt" leaving a hole or depression. Examine the results with a magnifying glass to study the results. True ivory and bone will not melt but might leave a very small indentation. TOP

Q: Is there a list of known polymer reproductions?

A: Yes, go to my home page and scroll down the list on the left hand side until you find the link "FAKESHAW Search List". Click on it and it will take you to the New Bedford Whaling Museum's list "FAKESHAW". This list was compiled to help people determine whether or not their scrimshaw piece is a well known modern polyner reproduction. Use the search key and type in key words that appear on your scrimshaw piece. Unfortunately, so many of the pieces found at tag sales or flea markets are not what you think! The reproductions fool hundreds of people every year. They are worth less that $100 or so. BUYER BEWARE!

Q: Where can I buy antique scrimshaw?

A: I believe that reputable dealers are your best choice. Their years of knowledge and guarantees will help you build a solid collection. Auctions can be a good choice but remember to understand the terms of the sale - often no guarantees so you better look it over very well before the sale. Buyer beware!. Some dealers will act as your agent and buy at auction for you. This is often a good idea for they will lend you their expertise and their guiding eye. A small commission is charged and this is well worth it. We often act as agent for collectors and museums at auctions. TOP

Q: Where can I see genuine scrimshaw pieces?

A: As I stated - good dealers usually have many pieces for you to examine and their knowledge can guide you. The museums that I think are very good are The New Bedford Whaling Museum, Peabody Essex Museum, Mystic Seaport Museum, and The Nantucket Whaling Museum, to mention only a few. TOP

Q: Are there books on antique scrimshaw?

A: There are now numerous books on the antique scrimshaw subject. Unfortunately, there is not just one that will answer all your questions. The scrimshaw "bible" has not been written yet. If you check out my BOOK PAGE and you will see a fine selection.

Q: How can one decide the age of a piece is antique?

A: Lets say that the piece passed the first test and it is ivory or bone. You then have roughly two choices.

Choice #1 is that the bone or ivory is antique but the engraved work and carving is recent. When ivory or bone is harvested the surface is relatively soft and easier to engrave and when it dries out and it becomes very hard. Take a strong magnifying glass and checkout the natural wear areas - that is the areas where the tooth lies. The surface should show numerous amounts of fine scratches. Then examine the fine engraved lines. On pieces that have been recently engraved the lines often are often "fractured where they cross. This a sure sign of recent work. The ink and paints in the cracks of the engraved lines in antique pieces should appear dried out and "crackily". Old debris - dust. dirt, scratches etc. helps one also decide the age of the engraved work.

Choice #2 is that the ivory or bone is not antique and thus the engraved work is not old. Deciding if the ivory or bone is old takes a more experienced eye. Check the inside of the tooth. An old tooth show natural aging - dirt, spotted stains and a natural aged look. Pieces that have been artificially aged {stained} show a even dark look. Train your eye to observe natural aging. That leaves the last choice - old ivory or bone and old original carving or engraving. Go to museums that display antique pieces and spend time getting the feel of "what is right." Talk to reliable dealers - examine their inventory, and if you purchase a piece make sure you receive a written description and guarantee. TOP
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