Alaskan Ivory Cribbage Boards, ca. 1890

Value (2013) | $10,500 Retail$15,500 Retail
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GUEST:
My great-grandfather was born around 1856. He was a merchant seaman and he brought these back to the family. But we're not sure from where. My grandmother was his only child, so she got them. She gave them to me about 25 years ago. My dad kept them in his house for a while and then I got them back again, and I have them in a curio cabinet and always wondered what they're made out of and where they're from.

APPRAISER:
So he would have been a merchant seaman from about 1870 to 1910 maybe?

GUEST:
Yes, that's about right. Or about 1906. My guess is they're about 110 to 120 years old, so...

APPRAISER:
Okay, all right, let me tell you what I know. First of all, we'll talk about material. These are actually walrus ivory. Okay. So they are the tusks. We had the Gold Rush up in that part of the world, which would be Alaska. And along the Canadian coast in the latter part of the 19th century. So I believe that these two pieces date to that time period of 1890. The Eskimos were so clever up there in Alaska that they understood what people wanted to buy. And so they made objects. And cribbage boards was certainly one of them, and it was a game that merchant marine people played onboard ships, so it was a perfect thing for them to make. Now, these are a little bit different. The first thing that we look at is the surface. Both of these objects have sort of a honey color to them. That's really absorbing the oils from your skin. That really only happens with ones that have been around a long time. We also look at the iconography. You've got the wonderful walruses here, which I'll just turn up slightly. Walruses and then down there... This is a relatively simple one. Now, I can tell you this is a tour de force. This is about as good as any cribbage board I've ever seen. These multiple animals on top and then they're along the border and then I'm going to try to do this. I want to look at the back, and you can see more beautiful hatch working here and these carved animals. This is really fabulous. We have two masks right up here. Now, the masks actually helped identify it. It's from King Island, and that's off the coast of Alaska. This is fabulous. I've never seen masks; we've got two of them on here. And I should point out here on the end is the little cubby hole where all the pegs go.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
One of the things that we have to address is everyone's concerned about selling ivory.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
Your objects are absolutely documented as being at least 100 years old. So they qualify as an antique. There's not an issue. But we're very sensitive about CITES and the various laws governing the sale and possession of ivory and other endangered species objects. Extraordinary pieces, well documented with the collection history. I bet you'd like to know what they're worth.

GUEST:
Yes, I would.

APPRAISER:
You want to take a shot?

GUEST:
I can't even begin to guess. I've had people, friends that have seen it go, "Oh, they're worth $200 or $300." And then some say $25,000.

APPRAISER:
Well, let me see if I can help you here. This plain one is still beautiful. This is $2,500 to $3,500 in a retail setting. Okay, in a gallery. This one is extraordinary, and I want to be conservative. This piece, in a gallery, would be $8,000 to $12,000.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
You made my day.

GUEST:
You made mine. I'm excited. I can't believe this thing is worth so much.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Dallas, TX
Appraised value (2013)
$10,500 Retail$15,500 Retail
Event
Baton Rouge, LA (July 27, 2013)
Period
19th Century
Form
Game
Material
Ivory

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