Warwickshire saleroom Bigwood of Teddington, Stratford-on-Avon sold this mid 19th century whalebone cane for an extraordinary £27,000 at their latest sale.
Canes of this type, typically worked by American and European
sailors for sale to natural history-curious Victorians in the port
cities, come in many different guises.
This example was a particularly developed example, carved in
five distinct sections with 'architectural' barley sugar twist
columns, inlaid in tortoiseshell and baleen and set to the top with
a Victorian silver coin.
The decoration covered a full three-quarters of the cane's 3ft
1in (94cm) length and it was pleasingly straight - not always the
case in canes worked from the jawbone of a whale.
Dominic Strickland of Kensington Church Street cane specialists
Michael German Antiques was among its many admirers - he described
it as "a belt and braces design including all the elements you like
to see" - but conceded the market for such things appeals far
beyond the cane collecting community into the folk art world.
The auctioneers, who estimated this local find at £1500-2500 for
the sale on May 30, took bids from five phone bidders, numerous
commission bids and buyers in the saleroom before it sold to a
dealer thought to be bidding for a collector from the Midlands
The price reflected the sustained popularity of whaling canes
both in the UK and in North America but is by no means a record for
a mariner's cane sold in the UK.
In August 2012, Perry and Phillips, auctioneers in Bridgnorth,
Shropshire, sold a cane richly inlaid (perhaps by a whaler from New
Bedford, Massachusetts) with tortoiseshell pictorial scenes
including an eagle, stars, whales and a whaleboat for £46,000.
The buyer's premium at Bigwood was 18%.