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Collection of scrimshaw canes steps into winner's circle at Sworders March 12 auction
Collection of antique scrimshaw walking canes auctioned on March 12 by the British auction house Sworders for a total of £34,000 ($45,110)


STANSTED MOUNTFITCHET.- A collection of scrimshaw walking canes assembled by a local gentleman sold for a total of £34,000 ($45,110) at Sworders in Stansted Mountfitchet, England, on March 12.

Antique marine ivory and baleen canes such as the ones offered by Sworders typically were worked by American and European sailors as gifts for loved ones, or to be sold to natural history-curious Victorians in the port cities. They have long been popular, particularly in the UK and in North America, and many now hold appeal beyond the cane collecting community and into the folk art world.

While some scrimshaw canes are relatively simple, the best examples reflected many hours of work: carving to the shaft with spiraling and crosshatching, tortoiseshell inlay and careful carving of a marine ivory pommel or handle. The most sophisticated example in the collection – which was apportioned into nine lots – had a Turk's knot pommel and a shaft with a series of carved octagonal and square sections, some inlaid with both tortoiseshell and white metal pieces. Estimated at £5,000-£6,000 ($6,635-$7,960), the hammer price was £7,000 ($9,290).

A similar cane with a Turk's-head knot over a baleen disc above fluted, crosshatched and spiral-turned sections sold for £1,100 ($1,460); while another with colored line inlay, a spiral-turned shaft with baleen stringing and a silver plaque engraved with a crowned “H” reached £2,000 ($2,650). The canes formed part of Day One of Sworders’ two-day sale of Fine Interiors.





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