Skip to main content

Fresh-to-market scrimshaw foundation of Oct. 15 sale

A collection of scrimshaw pieces, collected over the course of three decades, will headline Eldred's 540-lot Marine Art auction, Oct. 15.
Buttersworth painting

"The Mohawk and Dauntless off Sandy Hook" painting, depicting the 1875 race at the New York Yacht Club, by James Edward Buttersworth, mid-19th century, carries a pre-sale estimate of $250,000 to $300,000 into the sale. (All photos courtesy of Eldred's)

EAST DENNIS, Mass. – The Robert C. Eldred Co., Inc. opens its fall auction season Oct. 15 with the 540-lot Marine Art Auction, highlighted by a James Edward Buttersworth yacht racing scene and 60 lots of scrimshaw from the Thomas Mittler Scrimshaw Collection, widely regarded as the best scrimshaw collection to come on the market in 30 years.

The auction will take place at the company’s headquarters, located at 1483 Route 6A, in East Dennis, Massachusetts, beginning at 10 a.m. EST. In addition to in-person bidding, phone and absentee bidding will be accepted, and internet bidding will be facilitated by

Sights Set on Scrimshaw

Thomas Mittler, who owned a large welding supply company in the Midwest, began his scrimshaw collection in 1969 after attending an antiques show. Mittler died suddenly in 2010 at age 67. This is the first time items from his scrimshaw collection will be up for sale.

The 60 lots offered in the auction include scrimshaw whale’s teeth and panbone pieces as well as whaleman-made utilitarian items like pie crimpers, watch towers and busks.

Highlights include an extremely rare whalebone birdcage, purportedly Mittler’s favorite item from his collection, a large pair of scrimshaw walrus tusks by J.A. Tuthill, a cased whaleman-made swift, and a scrimshaw whale’s tooth by the Lady Wellington engraver featuring a fish face on the tip and whaling scenes on the obverse and reverse. Estimates range from $300 to $500 and $50,000 to $100,000.

The sale also includes a recently discovered James Edward Buttersworth painting depicting an Oct. 26, 1875 New York Yacht Club race between the Dauntless and the Mohawk off Sandy Hook. The painting descended in the same family for more than 100 years and has never before been offered for sale. The painting has a presale estimate of $250,000 to $350,000.

19th Century Maritime Art On Offer

whalebone birdcage

Scarce whalebone-made birdcage, mid-19th century, with an estimate of $15,000 to $25,000.

The Buttersworth is one of nearly 150 paintings included in the sale. Other significant 19th Century works include a sunset coastal scene by Francis Augustus Silva, estimated at $20,000 to $30,000, a portrait of the Cunard steamship S.S. Servia by Antonio Jacobsen, also estimated at $20,000 to $30,000, a fishing scene by Edward Moran, estimated at $10,000 to $15,000, and six works by Massachusetts artist Charles Henry Gifford, which have estimates ranging from $1,200 to $1,800 to
$18,000 to $22,000. The sale also features a private Connecticut collection of paintings by contemporary maritime artists including Anthony D. Blake, Maarten Platje and Roy Cross.

Also featured in the sale are 100 lots of yachting memorabilia including paintings, ship models, nautical instruments and apparatus, Rosenfeld photographs, and period tableware from 19th and early 20th century yachts.

“From top to bottom this is a very diverse and very strong sale,” said William Bourne, company vice president and the head of Eldred's Marine Art department. “From the Mittler Collection, through the pieces from Bob Tiedemann’s estate and other fine consignments, this is the best auction of maritime collectibles we have put together in years. There is something that will appeal to everyone from the novice to the very experienced collector.”

For more information, visit, email or call 505-385-3116.

Weekly Showcase



Over 100 YEARS of Chinese History - Our pristine Jade Collection is extensive and beautiful!  Please visit our web site to get an idea of how beautiful this collection is.