Sailor's Shellwork Valentine, ca. 1860

Value (2017) | $3,000 Auction$5,000 Auction

These are a pair of shell pictures that my great-grandmother had in her house. We were always told that these were sailors' valentines, and my great-grandmother had a real affinity for shell and shell pictures. She used to make her own art out of shells. And so, I just think that it was something that she liked and it was a really kind of good fit for what she enjoyed.

Sailors' valentines is how they're generally referred to in the antiques business. Originally, they were thought to be made by sailors themselves with found objects. There's no way sailors had the kind of time to find all of these shells and do that. These were made almost certainly in Barbados. We know that because sailors would go to Barbados as a waypoint during the sugar and rum trades in the mid-19th century. And in the late 19th century, after these got brought back, people would bring them to get fixed. Shells had come out, hinges had come loose, a lot like what's happened here, and there were scraps of Barbados newspaper found on the back. Turns out there was a cottage industry in Barbados that made these exclusively for sailors to purchase and bring back as mementos of their trip through the Caribbean. All of these shells are found in Barbados. These are probably made 1850, 1860. At auction, we would estimate them to bring between $3,000 and $5,000.

Oh, wow. (laughing) Oh, wow. Wow, that's incredible.

Appraisal Details

Skinner, Inc.
Boston, MA
Appraised value (2017)
$3,000 Auction$5,000 Auction
Harrisburg, PA (June 03, 2017)
Folk Art

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