ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Fakeshaw - is it a fake or a scrimshaw reproduction?

Updated on June 8, 2011

Fakeshaw: Fake Scrimshaw or Scrimshaw Reproduction?

Fakeshaw or Scrimshaw Reproduction? That really depends on your point of view. Let's look at the past and present of this hotly debated controversy, then you can decide (and vote!).

Fakeshaw is the name given to imitation scrimshaw, or scrimshaw created on materials other than ivory or bone. For some, anything not created by a whaleman on a ship sailing in the 19th century to early 20th century is not "true scrimshaw", but "modern scrimshaw" or is labelled something else entirely.

Real or Fake? The collector's point of view

Collectors of scrimshaw pay a lot of money for true scrimshaw. "True Scrimshaw" is often narrowly defined as scrimshaw on whalebone or ivory produced in the 19th to early 20th century by whaleman or sailors. For these discerning collectors, anything else is either "modern" scrimshaw or - if recreated on materials other than ivory "fakeshaw."

Authentic or Reproduction? The casual buyer's point of view

The casual buyer is more interested in a good price for a good looking piece of artwork. "Fakeshaw" is perfectly fine, as long as it's not being passed off as authentic scrimshaw, and it looks good. Others prefer scrimshaw on materials other than whale teeth or tusk, as no animals were harmed. Materials include plastics, ceramics and tagua nut (corozo), a vegetable ivory that is sustainably harvested.

Scrimshaw reproduction
Scrimshaw reproduction

Testing for Authenticity

To test for "fakeshaw", there are several visual clues, and there are a couple of "destructive" methods to test. Not to worry, if it's real and tested properly, it won't damage the piece. If it's fake, it will only make a small mark.


*The root cavity of most whale teeth are deep & conical. As a whale ages his teeth continue to grow, but gradually narrow, and the root cavities also narrow and fill-in until practically no cavity exists in very old whales.

*The tip of an authentic whale tooth is yellowish, with a definite sharp line separating tip from the whiter ivory. This is called the "golden crown". The tip may also display very sharp, thin, & short age lines, crossing from ivory to crown.


*The base cavity of most fakeshaw is shallow & rounded. The base is often dark, the color of the ink used to fill in the image of the scrimshaw.

*The tip of a fake tooth is the same color as the rest of the resin reproduction, though artificial tinting may be evident to simulate age or crown. Any "age" lines are mold impressed, and usually wide and shallow compared to true age cracks on whale tooth ivory.

Physical Tests:

Hot Pin Test - holding a pin in a pair of pliers and heating it red hot, poke the needle into the inner part of a whale tooth (the underside, in the cavity, so it won't ruin the scrimshaw on the surface. If it smells like the dentist's office when they drill your teeth, it's probably real ivory - if it smells like plastic, it is. Also, if you're testing a piece of jewelry, poke the back or the edge with the pin - if it smells like burned popcorn, it's tagua nut or another "vegetable ivory". NOTE: Many reproductions are now made of different resins and may not smell (or melt) with the hot pin test! If you're still in doubt, bring your scrimshaw to an expert (museum curator) and have them look it over.

See for a great article by Douglass Moody - a collector I have turned to from time to time!

Wooly mamoths on the move, courtesy wikipedia
Wooly mamoths on the move, courtesy wikipedia

It could be elephant ivory or mammoth ivory too...

Scrimshaw on the tip of an elephant or mammoth tusk could be passed off as "authentic" scrimshaw. If the base is solid and you've determined that it is ivory, it's probably the tip of a tusk. Collectors of whale ivory will know this immediately. You may still have a beautiful piece of scrimshaw, and it could be worth a lot, but collectors will want to see the bottom.

Scrimshaw Reproductions from Amazon

Fakeshaw or Reproduction?

What's your opinion on the fakeshaw/repro debate? Should it be called fakeshaw, or reproduction?

Is it

See results


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)