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Scrimshaw whale tooth that JFK displayed on his Oval Office desk is up for sale for $30,000

Scrimshaw whale tooth that JFK displayed on his Oval Office desk and Jackie Kennedy later gifted to a US general is up for sale for $30,000

  • The 6.5ins rarity depicts a Yankee whaler boat with sails scanning the horizon
  • Kennedy was a passionate scrimshaw collector and placed the tooth on his desk
  • Jackie Kennedy engraved and gifted it to a US general a year after JFK’s death 


A prized scrimshaw whale tooth which was displayed on John F. Kennedy’s desk at the Oval Office has emerged for sale for $30,000.

The 6.5ins rarity depicts a bark-rigged Yankee whaler boat with sails scanning the horizon for spouting whales. 

Kennedy was a passionate scrimshaw collector and this example took pride of place in the White House until his assassination in 1963.

A prized scrimshaw whale tooth which was displayed on John F. Kennedy’s desk at the Oval Office has emerged for sale for $30,000

Kennedy was a passionate scrimshaw collector and this example (right) took pride of place in the White House until his assassination in 1963

Kennedy was a passionate scrimshaw collector and this example (right) took pride of place in the White House until his assassination in 1963

Jackie Kennedy gifted it to an admired US general as a token of appreciation for his 'devotion to country and President Kennedy'

Jackie Kennedy gifted it to an admired US general as a token of appreciation for his ‘devotion to country and President Kennedy’

A year later, his widow Jackie Kennedy gave it to an admired US general as a token of appreciation for his ‘devotion to country and President Kennedy’.

She had the rim of the tooth engraved: ‘For General Maxwell Taylor, who served his Country and President Kennedy with such devotion, With love from J.B.K.’

The inscription adds: ‘Scrimshaw from the desk of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.’

The tooth comes with a letter from Jackie penned in 1964 to General Taylor which reads: ‘Please accept this piece of scrimshaw which used to be on Jack’s desk. It comes with my love and his.’

The sperm whale tooth, which is 4.25ins in diameter, is being offered the sale for the first time with RR Auction, of Boston, US.

The tooth comes with a letter from Jackie penned in 1964 to General Taylor, a year after JFK's assassination

The tooth comes with a letter from Jackie penned in 1964 to General Taylor, a year after JFK’s assassination

Bobby Livingston, executive vice president at RR Auction, said: ‘This is an incredibly personal gift that Jackie Kennedy presented to General Tayler for his dedicated service to his country and President Kennedy.’

JFK had an affinity for the sea from childhood and his time in the Navy.

He began collecting scrimshaws after entering politics and is said to have amassed over 30 by the time of his death.

It is believed that Jackie slipped a treasured piece into the late president’s coffin.

The timed sale ends on Saturday.

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