The following is a podcast  transcription.

Hi, everyone, this is Martin Wills and welcome to the Antique Auction Forum for episode number 111 with John Rinaldi on whaling scrimshaw.

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Martin:  This podcast is sponsored by WorthPoint.  Find out what your antiques are worth at  This is Martin Willis and I’m in Kennebunkport, ME with John Rinaldi.  How are you doing, John?

John:  Good, how are you doing?

Martin:  Good.  Thanks for meeting with me.  We met I think it was in the ‘90s sometime and I saw right away you had a lot of knowledge in scrimshaw and things like that.  You’ve been at it for how long?

John:  I started in 1972, so quite a while.

Martin:  Wow, so you were pretty young then.  So how’d you get started in that?

John:  When I started living in Kennebunkport I got quite interested in the history of – it’s such a shipbuilding history here in town that I kind of got interested in that.  And with that came interest in all the different artifacts that were related to ships and shipping and what not.  And it just became something I got very involved with and then I started to buy and sell things and started putting out little catalogs, and I’m still at it.

Martin:  Wow.  Where did you come from originally?

John:  I grew up in Connecticut in a very industrial city in Connecticut called Waterbury.

Martin:  How long would you say…you started collecting and selling scrimshaw teeth I think you said?

John:  Yeah, I got involved with it right away.  It was right about the time Norm Flayderman wrote his book.  It was, Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders.  And so there was a lot…it really kindled up an interest in scrimshaw and I got interested as a result.  And the book was kind of the Bible, and it still kind of is the Bible of the business, although a new one was just produced by the New Bedford Whaling Museum which is wonderful.

And so I just really liked it and loved the history of whaling and what an important industry it was in 19th century America and I got involved and interested not just in the scrimshaw aspect of it, but the implements and tools and items that they used:  harpoons and whale guns and just all the different aspects of whaling I found very fascinating.

Martin:  I was at an auction I would say 10 or 15 years ago and I believe one of those books went at the auction for quite a bit of money.

John:  Oh, that’s – Norm did a very limited edition of, I think it was going to be 150 – he never did them all – I think he only did about 50 or 60 of them.  But it was a very special bound edition that had a whalebone plaque with a raised sperm whale on it that was scrimshawed with the name of the book so it was a real high end book and that’s why it brought the money.  But the regular edition of it is around $300, still.  It’s been out of print a long time but you can find copies around $300.

Martin:  Now when did – we’re going to talk about other subjects besides scrimshaw but when did the first known scrimshander start making scrimshaw?

John:  I guess the first one we really know would be the American scrimshander, a whaler named Edward Burdett, and he dates back into the 1820’s.  And then there was Frederick Myrick who did the famous Susan’s Teeth and those all date from a voyage around 1828-1829 in that range, so those are about two of the earliest known artisans of scrimshaw and both were Americans.

Martin:  Now the Susan’s Teeth are the record holder for scrimshaw, aren’t they?

John:  No.  There is a record I think for a tooth, it was at Northeast Auctions about four or five years ago and it wasn’t a Susan’s Tooth, it was another large tooth by a – I think they refer to him as the “Albatross Artisan” or something like that.  It was just a fabulous big tooth with wonderful scenes on it and what not.  I mean that was the go-go days back then, and it ended up I think with a premium being over $300,000.

Susan’s Teeth, I mean, there’s a lot of them actually, there is well into the 20’s of them that are documented and…but they still command, good ones command probably around upwards of around $200,000 now.

Martin:  For the novice or someone that doesn’t really know what we’re talking about, can you kind of explain what the process was, what the sailor did and all that from beginning to end?

John:  I think, you know, the funny thing is, no one ever really wrote down the process.

Martin:  Oh, really.

John:   So to speak, so there’s just references to it – but apparently, somehow they bartered for parts of the whale…the teeth or bones or whatever, and different artisans, after it was captured, and during their leisure time which there was lots of — these voyages were three and four years long, they would make objects.  Absolutely wonderful objects out of it — you know walking sticks and elaborately carved inlaid boxes or engraved teeth.

We suspect obviously a guy like Myrick of the Susan’s Teeth probably was good at what he did and so other people on the vessel gave him their tooth and said do one for me, or whatever, because he was good at it.  We don’t know, but that’s speculation.  Why would one guy do 29 or 30 teeth, you know, just for himself, so you kind of gotta think he was maybe executing the work for other people on board because he was good, which is typical because you don’t put a painting in your house – you don’t take out a canvas and start painting it yourself – you go buy one from somebody that’s good, and hang it up.

The process, you know, they smooth the teeth.  When they come out of the jaw they are rough and they were nice and smooth and prepared for engraving.

Martin:  Do you know how they would do that?

John:  They probably took some of the heavy stuff off with a knife and then the final part was probably sanded with shark skin or something rough – material – and then polished in some way.

Probably everybody had their own little technique or something to do it.  And then they went through the process of engraving the tooth with a scene – a lot of times they copied stuff out of books and publications at the time, like Harper’s and different things like that.

There were books called the Naval Monument with scenes of battles in them…different, War of 1812 battles and a lot of teeth have those scenes directly copied onto them.  But there is a lot of research being done on connecting these.  You know they copied scenes off of sheet music and whatever they could; things that they could copy.  And then they had different processes.  Nobody is exactly sure how they inked or colored the engraved lines but some combination of some sort of ship-board materials and some of them did them with polychrome coloring.  Those were inks that they had or paint or something you know, but I don’t think anybody really knows the exact formula.

Again, it was something that never really was written down.

Martin:  It’s hard to imagine exactly – it was done with a needle or some sharp object.

John:  Yeah, a knife or needle or something.

Martin:  And then you couldn’t really see what you engraved until it was colored so that must have been really…

John:  Yeah, I often thought perhaps they colored the surface, so the tooth was black when they started and then engraved and you saw the white.  But I’ve talked to modern day scrimshanders and they say they don’t.  They say they can see it just fine as they engrave their way through, so they do work with the tooth in the white form.

Martin:  So are there any modern day scrimshanders that are noted for their work?

John:  I’m sure there are.  I don’t really follow that market very much.  I’m strictly really only involved in 19th century work, so I’m sure there’s some very good ones.  There were a few that were talked about at the last scrimshaw symposium, a couple of guys from Massachusetts that are apparently good, but again, I don’t follow that market.  It’s nothing I handle.

Martin:  Right.  And I have seen this myself, and of course I always like to talk about fakes, but I’ve seen myself where someone has taken a period tooth and scrimshawed it recently.  I don’t know if you consider that a fake or not.  But you can tell it’s very fresh.

John:  Well, it absolutely is a fake if it’s done to look like it’s19th century work.  Now, if someone takes an old tooth and puts work on it that’s clearly modern and acknowledges it, than it’ fine, then it’s contemporary scrimshaw.  But one of the trickiest parts of the business is when someone finds a tooth that was polished in the 19th century…which they show up once in a while…they’re not really common, but I think sometimes people polished them and just kept the tooth as a curiosity and never engraved it.  Well, if someone gets ahold of one of those it has all the natural patina and age color on it and if someone is clever enough to put work on it that really looks like in the 19th century feel, that’s a tricky one, even for the best eyes.

But that doesn’t happen very often.  It’s seldom, because it’s number one, hard to find the teeth, and number two, it’s hard to put the work on these to look the way it would have looked through the eyes of a 19th century person or whoever was engraving it.  But it is an area of concern.

Martin:  Yeah, I’ve seen that with, more with powder horns, you know, because there are a lot of blank powder horns.

John:  It’s easier to find blank powder horns, absolutely – they’re by the dozens out there.

Martin:  Yeah, there are a lot of people doing great work.  I saw one and I had to have people look at it to make sure it was, you know, I had a feeling about it but I had to confirm that feeling, to have someone else that knew what they were doing.  Because it was 1748, you know, it had a lot going on.

John:  Would have been…by and large the person who’s really trained their eye and had a lot of experience and stuff like that is almost never going to get fooled.  I don’t say never going to get fooled, you have to say almost never gets fooled.  But it takes a lot of experience, a lot of exposure to be in that position.

Martin:  Now I’ve had, because of a blog I wrote about a year or so ago, I’ve had a lot of people contact me through emails and stuff that want to show me their scrimshaw and I think only out of about five of them, only one was a real tooth.  The rest were resin.  So many people think they’ll inherit them.  I had a woman drive up from New York – she was driving toward the area anyway, but she brought the scrimshaw teeth – showed me every single one of them and they were resin.  But if they were real they’d be valuable because the scenes on them were historical scenes.

John:  Yeah, those show up and anybody who’s had any exposure at all to a real scrimshaw tooth or a real tooth would never be fooled by that.

Martin:  Almost a mile away you could see it.

John:  Yeah, but if someone just picked one up and has never been exposed to a real tooth they get all excited.  I get emails on a daily basis and probably of people thinking they have scrimshaw and they want to sell it or get a value on it and probably 90% of what comes through my emails are those plastic pieces.

Martin:  They’re probably still making them too, are they?

John:  I’m not sure.

Martin:  They were in the ‘70s.

John:   Yeah, they’ve been around quite a while and of course that’s one of the problems because people say, “oh, my grandmother, she had it” and I’m like, “your grandmother was alive in the 1970s when this all started so she might have bought it or someone gave it to her as a gift.”  You’re just trying to explain to people…some people are just very difficult to get the point across to – they just battle with you.  You try to explain, it has no value, it just doesn’t, and the look at you like you’re shady and I go,, “listen, if you told me you wanted to give it to me for free, I wouldn’t take it.”

Martin:  That’s a good way out of it!

John:  That should tell you that it has no value.  I’m not trying to cheat you; I don’t even want it for free.  But that’s just the way it goes.  Most people are very gracious about it – most of them actually suspect that they’re just out there, wishful thinking type situations.

Martin:  Yeah, I was just in Chicago recently and someone – it was a dealer I was working at an appraisal clinic and a dealer behind everyone raised up a resin piece and I just shook my head, “no” and he said, “What do you mean, no?” and I said, “It’s resin.  I can tell.”  And he said, “I got it from another dealer,” and I said, “Is the dealer still here?  Get a refund if you paid a lot.”  He said, “Well, I paid $150,” and I said, “If it was a real tooth, then you wouldn’t be paying $150 for it.”

John:  He paid $150 for something that’s worth $5.00.  It happens every day.

Martin:  Sure.

John:  That’s part of the problem.

Martin:  Now has it, in any type of way, these things effect the value of the real stuff, or not?

John:  No, not at all.

Martin:  Apples and oranges.

John:  Yeah.  To the real scrimshaw collectors, that stuff is just totally a joke.  It’s not even close to being something that can fool you.

Martin:  Right.  I want to talk a little bit about the prisoner of war items.  Can you explain what those are?

John:  Those are, I guess in a sense, they really aren’t scrimshaw at all.  They were made, most of that stuff, became famous for being known to be made during Napoleonic wars when France and Brittan were at war.  In the 1790 era, and the French were very great ivory workers in the 18th century and Napoleon’s army was really an inscription army.  He took the best of everybody – you could have been the best ivory carver or the finest anything and you went.  So when these guys got captured, they were in these prison camps, they would start taking a lot of the bones and what not from the food and creating objects.  And since it was a craft that really didn’t compete with anything like lace making, or something like that, that the English did, they actually allowed these guys to have a market day or whatever, that was outside the prison walls, but inside the outer walls of the prison.

They would allow them to have a market where the British people would actually go buy these elaborate bone and ivory objects.  Some of the officers, the higher ranking people that were captured, weren’t always in prison camps.  They were called parole prisoners, where they actually were just left in a small town where they actually could wander around and they could barter for better product like tortoise shell or baleen, or what you find a lot of these wonderful ship models that they made.  And they were just very highly skilled people, and made an amazing array of items

Martin:  You cataloged the Lloyd collection many years ago – can you tell us a little bit about that collection?

John:  I actually owned the collection.  I bought it from a man named Clive Lloyd, who was from Gomshall, Surrey, in England which is a beautiful area south of London.  He was a lifelong collector of prisoner of war work.  He started buying probably in the 1940’s or something and had amassed a pretty large collection of I think it was about 230 pieces, and there were probably about 30 of the big bone models in there.

And I had gone to see him when I was over there and we talked about it and he was at a point in his life where he was getting older and he was writing a book on it which ultimately did get published.

It took until after his death to get it published.  He was like a log of people who want to write a book.  He was always afraid that someone was going to find something wrong or a mistake he made, or he didn’t get to the end of where he wanted to get and I used to always say to him, “You just have to move on and write the book and someone’s going to correct it and change it but that’s what books are.”  Nobody says you have to be perfect with it, because it’s going to change.

Information is going to come to light and what not.  But ultimately, when he was done with what he needed for the book and all the writings and things, he decided to sell and we negotiated a price.  I bought the entire collection and brought it over here and then displayed it in a little maritime museum that I had here in Kennebunkport for two years, and then ultimately it was sold at auction.

Martin:  That made quite a splash when it came up for auction – I remember.

John:  Well, it was a pretty impressive grouping of stuff.  There was nothing else like it.  I mean, some of the items were absolutely the ultimate in prisoner of war work.  There were fabulous clock towers and big spinning jennies, and just really, really terrific items, not to mention the ship models – and one of them was almost four feet long, so it was a terrific collection.  And there was a fair amount of interest in prisoner of war work back then.

You don’t see it around so much anymore and as a result, I don’t see as much interest in it.

Martin:  Really.

John:  So it’s almost…I think with the models, still people just cherish because they’re just such gorgeous items, but you don’t see it around as much.  It’s pretty well spread into collections, I guess, sitting there.

Martin:  Now, do you think that if you sold them at auction in England or Europe they would have done any better than they did here?  I know you brought them here for your museum initially, but —

John:  No, I don’t think so.  I think the market was what it was and I don’t think they would have done any better there.

Martin:  Yeah.  Today with the internet they may, though, you never know.

John:   Yeah, I don’t know.  It’s hard to speculate.  You know, like I say, there’s so little of it out around there that it really doesn’t seem to generate new collectors.  You know, back then, stuff was always re-surfacing, new items, and things like that and it seems to have just dried up, you don’t see it at auction much anymore, you just don’t see it around.  So apparently, it’s sitting in collections.

Martin:  I guess so.  Now let’s talk about some other things that the sailors made while they had all those many hours to fill…let’s talk about ivory specifically.  You said boxes…not just the scrimshaw, but other things they made – pie crimpers, there’s cane heads…

John:  Well, but those are all considered scrimshaw.

Martin:  The pie crimpers?  Even though there’s no artwork?

John:  No, scrimshaw really falls into the category of anything made using the product of the whale – the bones, the teeth, the whatnot.

Martin:  You know I just learned something?  I always thought scrimshaw was the work of the ink work.

John:   No.  No, it’s a much broader category.  It’s all the little items and the newest book calls them contrivances that the whalemen made – and like I said, they could be wood boxes with inlaid shell and ivory and what not.

Martin:  And you would call that scrimshaw?

John:  Absolutely.  So pie crimpers, walking sticks, clock towers, swift yarn winders up, ditty boxes, sewing baskets, on and on and on.  It’s just an endless list of fids, tools, just an endless amount of items that they made.  And that’s all considered scrimshaw.

Martin:  And the swifts you’re talking about – some of them are really beautiful.

John:  Oh, they’re just absolutely intricate objects that had to take…and, I will say…they are probably some of the most undervalued scrimshaw items there are.  I mean, you can still buy a swift for under $3,000.  I mean the workmanship in them, to make all those little slats and the way it opens up like an umbrella, you open it up and the clamps and the way they clamped and the little cups at the top.  They’re magnificent objects, they really are.

I mean, some of them were crude and simple, made by people who were less skilled, but by and large, it was a very skilled item to make.

Martin:  Now those are basically for yarn winding?

John:  Yeah.  They clamped on a table and when someone was knitting it was spooling around.

Martin:  And what are those little cups on the top?

John:  Just, they called them an accessory cup.  You might have a pin cushion in it or something of that nature.

Martin:  Yeah – wow – the hours – but they had the hours to kill.

John:   Yeah.  I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of time it would take to make one of those.

Martin:  Yeah.  Now I see a Narwhal tusk, I believe, hanging – now those are pretty rare themselves, aren’t they?

John:  Yeah, I mean I think they were cherished things, especially by the, more so by the British because of the unicorn kind of effect of them, so they were saved as souvenirs or curiosities.  There’ve odd, different things made by them – like bed posts and things like that.

Martin:  Walking sticks?

John: …But I think they kind of cherished them in a different way; and kind of left them.  But the shafts of walking sticks do show up.  They’re kind of rare, made out of a Narwhal tusk.

Martin:  You mentioned earlier that there was a symposium at the – is it the Bedford —

John:  New Bedford Whaling Museum, yes.

Martin:  So there was a symposium there and is that open to the public?

John:  Well, it’s an annual thing that they do and it’s called The Scrimshaw Collectors Weekend and it’s a symposium and it is open to the public.  You know, you have to pay a fee but you know there’s a lot of lectures and things going on.  It’s where collectors get to meet and talk and whatnot.

They do dinner – there’s food and things like that.  It’s probably about $300 to go to it for the weekend, but that includes a lot of meals and things like that, and you know all these talks and different things that went on.  So they have it every year in May.

Martin:  That’s great – that’s great for anyone listening who has an interest, or a collector.  And let’s talk a little bit about the recent goings on in California, because it’s really making waves over there.  Well, first of all, what do you know about that…about them cracking down on the laws out there?

John:  Only what I’ve heard.  There was a little discussion at the symposium about it but apparently, the fish and wildlife there decided, or somebody decided to have fish and wildlife implement strictly a law as it’s written on the books that you can’t sell any animal parts.  You can own them, I guess, but you can’t sell them.

Martin:  And this has tortoise shells right across the line.

John:  Right across the board.  Yeah, I mean from what I understood, they even went into flea market type things and people that were selling like just a simple deer mount or something, took those away.

Martin:  Wow.

John:   Even though they’re not endangered or anything.  Now this is all information that I heard and was discussed but apparently they went into an auction house who had a bunch of different antique ivory items that they were about to auction and took those and they’re issuing pretty stiff fines and whatnot like that.    And it just kind of took everybody by surprise, you know, and it’s kind of shaken up the whole thing because you know, no one’s been bothering about it.

On the Federal level it’s OK to have these things as long as they’re 100 years old or documented to be pre 1970’s when this whole thing went into play – this whole endangered species thing went into play.  So it’s confusing; a lot of people are confused, they’re nervous, you know, edgy.  You know, nobody really knows.  I mean, there are people out there who are working on trying to change it because it has a huge effect on a lot of…

Martin: …Sure, like piano keys.

John:   The simple act of Steinway selling an old antique, beautiful piano, legitimately, that could be confiscated by Fish and Wildlife and taken away.  So, you know, it’s over-reaching.

You could go into a million different things – you could have a sword handle from a sword form the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812 and that’s illegal under this new law.  It could be the handle of Buffalo Bill’s revolver and that could be taken.

So it has far reaching consequences and so people are going to try to make sense of it and try to get them to re-think it but it’s always a big process to change laws.  So there’s a lot of edginess out there and worry as a result.  People are wondering, gee, maybe this could happen where I live and people have put together nice collections of scrimshaw that are quite valuable and it would be devastating to not only lose something that’s a passion that you have, but to lose the value of them as well, you know, it’s…people are a little on edge.

Martin:  Now, the auction company that I followed in California, actually called California Auctioneers or something like that, they had about four or five scrimshaw teeth that they had and even already advertised before all this came down, and they actually pulled them from the auction.

John:  Yeah, well, that’s what I mean – everybody’s on edge; anyone who’s dealing in antique scrimshaw or ivory objects or objects with ivory.

Martin:  Lots of Asian ivory in California.

John:  Yeah, I’m sure there is – and you know, just anybody who has anything with ivory on it, regardless of its age, you know, anybody that’s dealing in it I’m sure has just taken it off the shelves because they don’t want to lose it.

So you know, I don’t know what’s going to happen.  But it’s…people are working on it.  But it’s never easy to change things once they get entrenched in law.

Martin:  I look at scrimshaw teeth, for instance, getting back to that, as like a finite number of them out there and they’ve been collectible for so long.  It must be really difficult to really get them in any type of quantity at all these days.

John:  Well, it’s like anything you know, things keep coming back on the market for an endless array of reasons…you know…people pass away, divorce settlement issues, change of interests, collecting interests, people just getting older, whatever.  You know, so it keeps re-circulating.

Martin:  Who are your buyers?

John:  Who do I sell to?  Just…it could be anybody but mostly people, obviously, who have a true and genuine interest in whaling and antique scrimshaw.

Martin:  Is it mostly people that — let me say this, do you get new people into the market?

John:  Yeah, new people come in and people leave, but yeah.  I mean it’s – you don’t see a lot of young people but you’re not seeing that anywhere in the antique trade.  It’s of concern…

Martin:  Another subject people bring up all the time.

John:  Yeah, who we’re going to…it seems very different than when I first started.  Being a baby boomer when I first started there were so many people that were very interested in antiquities and they furnished their houses or their apartments.  They’d go buy an old chest of drawers and stuff.  But tastes have changed and it just doesn’t seem that a lot of younger people are interested.

Martin:  Yeah, we’re seeing that across the board, basically.  Now, you spend half of the time here and half the time in Delray Beach?

John:  Yeah, I live down in Florida about seven months a year, and I’m up here about five.

Martin:  Now are there other collectors in Florida as well?

John:  I’m sure there are.  I mean there’s, I mean they’re everywhere.  They just kind of pop up.

Martin:  But do you do a lot of business online? Your catalog, let’s talk about that.

John:  I put a catalog out periodically and I mail a hard copy but I also simultaneously put a copy on my website.

Martin:  And your website address?  Why don’t we just throw that out there?


Martin:  And we’ll put a link below this podcast.  So, you just mentioned a few minutes ago that there are less young people getting involved.  Do you feel as though there will always be a market for what you do?

John:  I think there will be, yeah.  I mean, I think it’s part of history and there will be people, especially people that live in these coastal areas that get fascinated with the history of the sea and the shipbuilding and whaling.  You’ll always have a contingent of people from Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod where all this whaling was a way of life back then in the 19th century.  And I think there’s always going to be people there that keep it going.

So I think it will always perpetuate itself, and the other part of it is, it’s scarce stuff.  I mean, there’s not a lot of it.  All aspects of quality grade antiques, whether it be figureheads or ship paintings or any of these types of things, really, instruments – it’s scarce.  It’s very hard to find and so it doesn’t need a huge audience to perpetuate itself.

I’m not talking about what I call the more decorative items like World War II binnacles and ship lights and stuff like that – I call them decorative or restaurant items, you know.  They’re fine – they’re quality, they’re real, but they don’t really fall into the collectible aspect of those things, so that market probably changes, especially since restaurants don’t seem to decorate that way anymore.  That kind of came and went in the ‘70’s and 80’s.

But you know, I think the fine collectible aspect of it, I think the market will always manage to perpetuate itself.  I just don’t think people start younger now.  I think instead of starting in their 20’s, they tend to seem to start in their late 40’s.  But…I think one of the other problems, too, is that a lot of times people get overwhelmed by price tags, and what happens is, what do you read in the publications, the antique papers talk about the records all the time and people go, “well, how the heck am I ever going to collect scrimshaw if they go for $150,000?”

Well, you can buy really nice scrimshaw, too, for $1,500 or $1,200 if you shop hard enough, or $2,000.  There’s plenty of stuff under $5,000, some really nice ones.  But, yeah, you’re not going to get the ultimate prize, but you don’t really have to, to have a good collection.  There are so many other wonderful little objects that were made that are very affordable.  They’re not cheap, but they’re affordable.  So I think, you know, a lot of times the reporting is doing more harm than good because it’s just scaring people away.

Martin:  Right — and I really appreciate that you’re bringing that up because one of the final questions I was going to ask is along the lines of if someone was just starting to get interested, where would be a good place to start? 

John:  Well, I mean, it depends what you’re getting interested in.  If you want to, say you’re getting interested in scrimshaw I mean I think one of the first things you might want to do is get exposure, so what you might want to do is get to the museums, you know there’s the New Bedford Whaling Museum and they have a fabulous, they have an amazing exhibition going on right now where they’ve really got thousands of pieces out on exhibit of scrimshaw for the first time they’ve ever had that much out.

You know, the Mystic Seaport Museum, go to them and just see things.  Seeing is learning, and then get a few of the books, the new book that just came out by Stuart Frank, and get ahold of one of the Flayderman books and just look through them, you know?  Again, exposure, and then if you decide to start to buy, I’m not here self- promoting my business, but you’re much better to start with a good reputable, reliable person.  You’re not going to “steal” an item from that person, because they know what’s going on, but the other side of it is, the really good long standing dealers who’ve done it a long time tend to not overprice things, either.  So you’re going to pay what it’s basically worth.

But the best thing is, you’re going to get something that is what it’s meant to be, or what it’s sold as…a legitimate…I mean frankly I fully guarantee everything I sell, you know, 100% to be authentic, so you know, you really need to not try to beat the system until you get your exposure, learn, get things in your hands.  Eventually you’ll get good enough at it that you’ll be able to make the decisions on your own, but so many times I see people try to do it on their own and they end up with a horrible mess that they can’t get rid of and it’s just a bunch of money thrown away.

Martin:  If it’s too good to be true, it’s too good to be true.

John:  Yeah, you know, like they say eventually, you know, you’ll learn and you’ll be able to make decisions on your own but in the meantime it’s really best to kind of be around reputable people who have been around it a long time, have a lot of experience and go from there.  And I think you’ll find the best collections that are ever formed in any field are formed with the help and guidance of really good collectors and other good collectors or dealers involved with it.

Martin:  Now, the one last thing I wanted to ask you, I see sort of a movement where a lot of people are taking their money and putting it into the real best of every market, it seems, whether it’s paintings or just recently a stoneware jug went for $400,000, but it was the very, you know, it was a crazy piece, it was like the top of the line.

John:  Yeah, there’s no question that the very best is doing very, very well and the people that are buying strongly are people that have the resources to buy things and they really only want the very best.  But, you know, again, it’s not absolutely imperative that you have those kinds of items, that you have a nice scrimshaw collection.  There’s so many…as long as it’s quality stuff…of decent quality, in good condition, it’s fine to have other…because it’s rare stuff, it’s scarce, you know, and if you’re going to sit there and wait for the $80,000 or $90,000 piece, you know, you’re not going to have a scrimshaw collection, and I don’t recommend going that route.

I mean, yeah, when it comes up, those that can afford it can do it, but I think, I’m not saying go out and buy bunch of $20 bodkins and say you have a scrimshaw collection…

Martin:  (laughs) Those are $120 items.

John:  Yeah – if you hunt around you can find nice things and put together a nice diverse collection of scrimshaw that will be always worth, you know, having, as long as it’s chosen properly.

Martin:  One more thing – you buy collections as well, so if someone’s out there that…

John:  Oh, absolutely – one piece or a whole collection – it’s like the Lloyd collection that was over 200 pieces.  One time I bought a collection of 90 pie crimpers, all scrimshaw pie crimpers that had been in a bank vault since 1927 or something like that, so that was quite a find.

Martin:  Wow that was exciting.

John:  Yeah, so I’ve bought several large collections over the years, but mostly it’s onsies and twosies and a piece here and a piece there and trading this, trading that, you know that’s how you normally accumulate stuff.

Martin: Right, right.  Well it’s been great, thank you so much.

John:  You’re welcome.

Martin:  So this is Martin Willis, with John Rinaldi and we’re signing off.


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