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Frequently Asked Questions:

How do I know if my scrimshaw is authentic?

Plastic reproductions of scrimshaw teeth and tusks have been standard merchandise at many maritime museum gift shops over the past several years. Often it is difficult to tell the fakes from the real thing upon first glance. One way to test your piece for authenticity is to put it under a black light. Ivory will fluoresce, plastic will not. Another test is to heat a pin and stick it into the tooth or tusk (in an inconspicuous spot). Plastic will melt from the heat, ivory will not.

The Nantucket Historical Association encourages you to research any piece of scrimshaw before you buy it. The following books are excellent sources of information:


· Dictionary of Scrimshaw Artists and More Scrimshaw Artists by Dr. Stuart M. Frank, both published by Mystic Seaport Museum, Inc. (1991 and 1998, respectively).

· Graven by the fishermen themselves: Scrimshaw in Mystic Seaport Museum by Richard C. Malley, Mystic, CT: Mystic Seaport Museum, Inc., 1983.

· A Treasury of American Scrimshaw by Michael McManus, New York: Penguin Studio, 1997.

· Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders: Whales and Whalemen by E. Norman Flayderman, New Milford, CT: N. Flayderman, 1972.

· Fakeshaw: A Checklist of Plastic Scrimshaw by Dr. Stuart M. Frank, Sharon, MA: Kendall Whaling Museum, 1988 (updated in 1993 and 1996).

One of the NHA's primary activities is collecting artifact and manuscript material to improve the collection. The curatorial staff is always interested in learning about Nantucket-related material, in both private and public collections, either for sale, donation, or loan.