19th century scrimshaw cane could exceed $6,500 in UK auction

A rare 19th century scrimshaw cane is expected to exceed its estimate considerably in a UK auction later today (August 7).

Scrimshaw Cane Turtle Shell
The cane features whale tusk and turtle shell from the Galapagos Islands

The cane has an estimate of £2,500-4,000 ($3,905-6,246) although the auction house believes it could far exceed this, possibly reaching as high as £10,000, according to the BBC.

The spectacular cane dates from 1815 and was likely made by a whaler on a boat based in New Bedford, a former whaling port near Cape Cod, US. It features carved whale tusk at the handle, inlaid with turtle shell from the Galapagos Islands, with the cane crafted from whale bone, offset with yet more segments of turtle shell.

Auctioneer Dennis Ridgway told the BBC that it was the best quality scrimshaw he had ever seen in his 30 years in the auction business: "It's the quality of this one that makes it so outstanding, normally they're relatively plain or carved to look like a piece of rope," he said.

The spectacular piece was consigned to auction by a Wolverhampton woman, who had kept it on top of a cupboard in her house for around 60 years before realising its worth.

It is currently illegal to bring turtle shell into the UK, although genuine antiques are accepted with the correct papers. This is similar to the current booming trade in rhinoceros horn, which has been stimulated by the Chinese market. Learn more here.

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