To understand why scrimshaw is both valuable and collectible, we must first and foremost recognize that scrimshaw is art, and art has value for its own sake. Also, unlike painting, scrimshaw has often been done on a unique canvas of ivory, a canvas far more valuable than any foundation of stretched cloth or linen. But even on a canvas of bone or horn, finely executed scrimshaw is valued and collected for the delicate precision of its shading and etching techniques. Also, the handcrafting of scrimshaw is part of American heritage. It is the oldest of all North American art forms. Examples of etchings with a reflection of what scrimshaw would become have been found that date as early as 100 A.D. No other art form in America has a longer history. No other expression of art has such significance or influence on the American spirit. When we ask why is scrimshaw valuable and collectible, we find both the beauty and historical significance of the art form.
Modern scrimshaw artists (scrimshanders) work on many different natural and man-made materials. But no matter the canvas, the quality of modern scrimshaw techniques has lifted the craft to the level of fine art, continuing its rising value among collectors. Modern scrimshanders amaze the eye with detail so fine it rivals the finest engravings and etchings ever made. The very best of modern scrimshaw commands prices in the thousands for some works that are no larger than a water bottle.