|How to Distinguish Authentic Whale Tooth Scrimshaw from Resin "Fakeshaw"|
|The 1970s saw the implementation of the U.S. Federal Marine Mammals Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA), and the U.S.Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 (FESA), each regulating the importation, the exportation, & the sale of marine animal products across State lines. Then, in 1975, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) went into effect, regulating international commerce ov whale & walrus products, as well as other species.
About this time, several plastic products companies mold-copied scores of authentic whale teeth, walrus tusks, and panbone antique scrimshaws. The original scrimshaws copied can still be found in whaling museums and private collections. A few modern artistic scrimshaws were also copied. These plaster molds were duplicated by the hundreds, and soon, thousands of mold-poured resin reproductions were being marketed. Most of these "repros" were artificially tinted to resemble the natural age patina of the originals, and the confusion began!
|Luckily, in 1988, Doctor Stuart M. Frank (now the Chief Curator of the Kendall Collection at the New Bedford Whaling Museum), published a "monograph" entitled Fakeshaw: A Checklist of Plastic "Scrimshaw". This is an alphabetical listing of more than 300 documented, machine-manufactured polymer copies. The current THIRD EDITION (pictured at left), was published in 2001.
This "Fakeshaw" monograph is quite helpful in identifying individual repros, but collectors should also know the differentiating characteristics between authentic scrimshaw, and all fakeshaw. These differences are known as "tells". Following are descriptions and illustrations of the most obvious tells.
|1.) The root cavity of most authentic whale teeth (right) are deep & conical. As a whale ages past prime, his teeth continue to grow, but gradually narrow, and the root cavities also narrow & fill-in until practically no cavity exists in very old whales.|
|By comparison, the root cavity of an authentic walrus tusk (left) is deep and flat-bottomed. Walrus tusks grow much faster than whale teeth, and this cavity is filled with hair-like tendrils, which thicken and solidify. A tusk usually grows several inches each year, and can be worn-down nearly as fast.|
|In contrast, the base cavity of most fakeshaw (right) is shallow & rounded. Note the discoloration of the cavity, which is from dye immersion to simulate patina on the outer surface.|
|2.) The "skirt" edge of a natural whale tooth is fairly sharp, thin, & can exhibit dry-out cracks due to age (see first example), while the lip of a trimmed tooth skirt (left) is usually finished smooth, generally follows the outside shape of the tooth, and is usually unstained.|
|3.) The tip of an authentic whale tooth is yellowish, with a definite line seperating tip from the whiter ivory (right). This characteristic is called the "golden crown". The tip may also display very sharp, thin, & short age lines, crossing from ivory to crown.|
|The tip of a fakeshaw tooth is the same color as the rest of the resin repro (left), although artificial tinting may be evident to simulate age &/or crown. Any "age" lines are mold impressed, and usualy wide & shallow, as compared to true age cracks on ivory.|
|4.) The "patina" (age color) of an authentic whale tooth is usually subtle but not uniform from tip to base, or side to side (right). True patina will not easily scratch-off. It is also a different color than ink of the scribed image. Usually, the older the tooth, the deeper the color: but patina is a result of both age and environment. A protected tooth may show very little patina.|
|The artificial age-color on fakeshaw is either quite uniform, or very blotchy, and scratches very easily, revealing white plastic (left).|
|Often the same ink is used to "age" fakeshaw as well as color the embossed image (right)
The vast majority of fakeshaw will exhibit nearly all of these comparative tells. While an expert may take just a second to correctly analyze a tooth, most buyers should find several tells before a decision is made. Remember that true scrimshaw is unique (truely one-of-a-kind), while fakeshaw has virtually thousands of copies of each mold-impressed design.
|ARTEK Creations, aka Artek Gifts, ArTeK or Artek, is a division of New Hampshire-based Riley Mountain Products. Artek resin repros (left) are much more realistic in appearance than Juratone, New Juratone, Groovesport, Historycraft, History Art USA, or NYE Overseas Trading Enterprise fakeshaw.|
|Artek molds were never sold overseas (Asian market) when replaced by new dyes, as was common among other manufacturers. This is why so many low-detail copies can be found (Asian example on right) of other manufacturers.|
|To prevent erroneous or fraudulent representation of their repros as authentic, Artek has placed an embossed (recessed) logo exterior on skirt (right), or inside “root cavity” (above). A more detailed article worth reading is entitled Scrimshaw - Real or Repro? by Bill Momsen. Another article by Rod Cardoza of West Sea Company is Scrimshaw: Is It Real? (Part II: Determining the Material)|
|Another type of “reproduction” is actually two machine-shaped sections of cow bone, clamshell-assembled, with a noticeable seam, skirt-to-skirt, across the tip. This seam is often camouflage by a star mosaic pattern & etched rope handle. On this example (below), both sides depict an Oriental-eyed mermaid: one with arms spread & tear shaped drops falling into the water from her open hands; the second is a 3/4 view sitting profile. Sometimes a fake root cavity is inserted in base opening. These Chinese mass-produced items are machine-etched with one of a dozen different scenes. Including variations of "Ship Spermo - California 1821"|
|Another type of fraudulent antique scrimshaw is actually a form of forgery. The 1975 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) ban on importing & exporting contemporary whale teeth, allows exporting & importing documented ANTIQUE scrimshaw. At that time in England, there was a glut of contemporary raw whale teeth, an abundance of talented artisans, and an opportunity not missed by a shady group, collectively known as the English School of Forgery (ESF). Basically, Victorian-era type scenes were scribed onto authentic whale teeth, which were then “aged” by immersion in tea or coffee, until the desired false “patina” shade was achieved. Individually, these teeth look quite convincing, but when two or more are side-by-side, the obvious “tell” of uniform false patina is revealed, even in the root cavity. Occasionally, one or two of these ESF scrimshaws show-up on eBay. Here are a few examples:|
|Only 5% of authentic antique scrimshaw has text, and only 2% of authentic antique scrimshaw are dated by scrimshander. Another "tell" about EFS scrimwork is the over-abundance of text & dates.|
|Note artificially dark, uniform tone of root cavity (above).|
|The following is a "Moby Dick Scrimshaw" plastic model whale tooth kit. A similar plastic walrus tusk kit exists. Each contain a "clamshell" type assembly, with a seperate, obviously fake cavity insert. The kit also contains a "scrimshaw" transfer decal, impressing tool & paint brush, dry plaster of paris (for weighting model), & patina tint. This item occasionally shows up on eBay, listed as authentic scrimshaw.|