A collection of scrimshaw walking canes sold for a total of $45,110 at a British auction in the last few weeks. 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.
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 . . . 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. It sold for £7,000 ($9,290) (Above: bottom row, middle cane) .