Walrus tusks have long been sought after for their ivory. Fully grown walruses can have tusks up to 39 inches long, which they mostly use for mating or protection. Tusks also come in handy for scraping up food or helping to pull the animals up onto land or ice. True ivory walrus tusks can be hard to come by; and as of July 2011, those that are legally sold can be worth as little as $100 or in some forms as much as $50,000.
It is legal for people who live along the Alaskan coast to hunt and kill walrus without a permit, if they are doing so for their own livelihood, however they cannot sell the tusks outside Alaska. This has been the case since the Marine Mammal Protection Act was enacted in 1972. Boone Trading Company explains that ivory walrus tusks that predate the law, or that have special registration tags are legal to buy, possess and sell. Those who wish to ship walrus ivory out of the United States must obtain a $100 export permit.
According to The Boston Globe, police recently busted a marine mammal peddling ring they say was illegally selling more than 200 pounds of walrus tusks worth nearly $22,00. As of July 2011, the Chichester Group, based in Canada, has a wide variety of ivory walrus tusks for sale on its website, ranging in price from $185 to $375 each. The company says the value of the tusks is dependent on the size, weight and condition of the ivory.
Boone Trading Company, based in Washington State, specializes in buying and selling ivory, including ivory walrus tusks. The most expensive ivory tusks they sell are those that are still attached to the walrus' face. Called a "mask," the attached tusks can be up to 30 inches in length and worth up to $6,000. The Chichester Group receives five or six masks from Northern Canada each year that typically are priced at $2,000 to $3,500 each.
Scrimshaw is a kind of art that originated in the 1800's, when whalers used to carve the teeth of whales and other marine mammals to help pass the time. Genuine scrimshaw or authentic ivory walrus tusks that have such carvings on them, can be worth thousands of dollars. Ronald Bourgeault, owner, appraiser and chief auctioneer for Northeast Auctions, once valued a 19th century piece of scrimshaw ivory walrus tusk at $35,000 to $50,000.
- www.athropolis.com; Long in the Tooth; 2005
- www.boonetrading.com; Walrus Ivory; June 19, 2011
- articles.boston.com; Ring traded tusks, hides, police say; Associated Press; July 25, 2011
- www.boonetrading.com; The Laws;
- www.chichestercanada.com; WalrusTusks;
- www.pbs.org; Scrimshaw Walrus Tusk, ca. 1850; July 16, 2005
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