Item two was also a walking stick, but one with a great deal more monetary value and a fascinating back story. Establishing its origin took some extra research and at first we couldn’t quite believe the item was supposed to be 200 years old as it appeared to be in excellent condition. Indeed the exquisite decoration and presentation of the walking stick led us to fear it was a fake.
We were unable to give an accurate valuation there and then, so we asked its owner to leave it with us and when valuation day closed, were able to examine it more closely. After some initial research we concluded that it was an item known as a Scrimshaw; it was made of whalebone with exquisite inlay and it was made by a worker aboard a whaling ship between 1780 and 1840. This information helped a lot, but we needed to know more to pinpoint a value and give a more accurate description.
Further research established that the beautiful inlay was shell of Giant Turtle, the head was Walrus Tusk and as we thought, the body of the cane was Whalebone. We were able to place its origins as aboard an American whale ship and date it at 1825, assisted by the inlays, which depicted an Eagle and Stars as well as early Boston steam boats.
By this point we were happy to give the owner an estimated valuation of £2500 – £4500 and were delighted when they asked us to sell it for them in the upcoming Perry and Phillips auction. Then we carried on with our research which included getting in touch with American Whaling Museums to find out about their Scrimshaws and looking for similar items in other auctions to see how they had performed.
At this point we realised that our Scrimshaw was far superior to any other we could find in the sales records and we began to think that we might even make the £15,000 mark. The reaction when the auction catalogue went online on Wednesday was amazing and by Friday we knew we would need more staff to man the phones, as we had expressions of interest from all over the world. The Scrimshaw lot opened at £2000 and closed 8 minutes later with a winning bid of £46,000.
I think these two stories demonstrate how vital valuation days are and why it’s always worth bringing anything you aren’t sure about along for experts to see.