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Hops' Scrimshaw
The Home of "Elephant Friendly Scrimshaw"

The Ivory Mess
as of Feb. 2016

The information below is MY OPINION on the current and proposed Laws governing
the legality of Elephant Ivory as well as Mammoth, Mastodon and other fossil Ivories
in the United States.

I have tried to be as accurate as possible in the information I've presented here,
however, in gathering the information I found several different viewpoints on the
I've pulled and presented what I believe to be accurate.

I hate to say it but I believe in the near future Scrimshanders in the US will no longer
be able to use Elephant Ivory to create their awesome works of art. Even if your
state doesn't adopt a ban on the use and sale of ivory, you won't be able to sell
your products to someone that lives in a state that does adopt a ban.
As of Feb. 2016 there are 30 states that have bills in their legislature
banning the use and sales of all types of Ivory, 4 of these states have already
adopted and implemented laws and are enforcing them by confiscating all Ivory
products. It's just a matter of time before other states jump on the band wagon.
I also think it's just a matter of time before the FED's enact their own law that
outlaws the use of Ivory Nation Wide.
This is no longer a matter of IF, it's a matter of WHEN.

Regardless of what others think and say, THIS IS JUST MY OPINION.

Click on these links to navigate this page.


This information is as of February 2016

Effective in Jan. of 1990 in the US, it became unlawful to import or export of elephant ivory, Since there were several hundred tons of Elephant Ivory already in the country before the ban, that law really didn't impact Scrimshanders, musical instrument manufacturers and other Ivory artisans here in the United States. For the most part the Ivory remained readily available from Ivory dealers and the Ivory was then referred to as PRE-BAN Ivory. At that time I believe Mammoth and other fossilized ivories had few restrictions, if any.

NO MORE IVORY. When President Obama signed the EXECUTIVE ORDER in February of 2014 banning ALL sales and transportation of ALL KINDS of IVORY, in one fail swoop of the pen Obama put thousands of artists and craftsmen out of work. As written, the law also put a halt to manufacturing musical instruments that used Elephant Ivory parts and trim. Shortly after the signing of this EXECUTIVE ORDER bills were presented in both the US House and Senate aimed at rewriting the Order and lifting some of restrictions. As the Order he signed was written the old Steinway pianos and other antique pianos with ivory keys were basically made worthless, other musical instruments such as Bagpipes, Guitars with ivory trim as well as other musical instruments were also rendered worthless. Knife makers have been using Ivory for handles for hundreds and hundreds of years. Gun manufacturers also use Ivory for gun grips and the list goes on. The EXECUTIVE ORDER also specifically includes ivory from the Mammoths and Mastodons that have been extinct for over 10,000 years, as well as other types of fossilized ivory, the sad thing is, IMPOSING THESE RESTRICTIONS ON THE SCRIMSHAW ARTISTS AND OTHER CRAFTSMEN THAT USE IVORY

Even before President Obama signed his EXECUTIVE ORDER, the Anti-Ivory people were on the move. On Nov. 14th of 2013 over 6 tons of confiscated Ivory was publicly crushed in Denver Colorado. I don't know where that Ivory came from, to my knowledge Colorado has never had a law outlawing Ivory, at this time they haven't even introduced a bill in their Legislature proposing a ban, however, it appears along with 3 other states they are considering jumping on the ANTI IVORY BAND WAGON soon. On June 19th of 2015 New York crushed over a ton of Ivory they confiscated after their Ivory ban went into place. How far are they going to go? Are some of the pieces they are crushing artifacts, or antique pieces done by a whaler done 200 years ago on the deck of a Whaling ship. Do they even know the difference? I view the crushing of these Ivory works of art similar to Hitler burning books.

New York's crushing
June 19th 2015

We at Hops’ Scrimshaw fully support any effort that is “effective” in saving wildlife that is “truly endangered,” unfortunately, many of the laws that are written to protect our wildlife are politically motivated and only address half of the problems, that is, if there were indeed problems to begin with, hence, any conservation effort is only half as effective as it could be and often times create
new and bigger problems. In our OUR OPINION the current proposed laws do nothing to protect elephants being illegally killed in Africa, These New Laws are poorly thought out, oppressive and possibly unconstitutional (time will tell), promoted by a powerful industry that collects millions of dollars to “save something” but does nothing to address the real problems in Africa. They only strip value and property rights of legally acquired ivory from owners. For years, like gold, many collectors have been buying Scrimshaw as well as other Ivory products as an investment, now what they thought would be a good investment is, or will be soon, ABSOLUTELY WORTHLESS.

I believe KENYA is one of only a couple countries in Africa that really have a serious poaching problem, well then DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, DON'T PENALIZE OTHER AFRICAN COUNTRIES THAT DO A GOOD JOB OF DEALING WITH POACHERS AS WELL AS MANAGING THEIR ELEPHANT HERDS. For Richard Leakey, Kenya's wildlife minister (or whatever he is called) to say, "WITHIN 10 YEARS THERE WILL BE NO MORE ELEPHANTS IN THE WILD" is irresponsible at the least, or a bald face lie and because of poaching problems in Kenya, artists and craftsmen around the world are made to suffer. I live in the United States, in the State of Iowa and I know out in the Rocky Mountains there is an abundance of Elk, Rocky Mountain Sheep, Antelope, Mule Deer and other critters I can hunt, you would think the Ding-a-ling in charge of Kenya's wildlife would know there are countries in the southern part of Africa where Elephant herds are flourishing, in fact they are doing so well that periodically they have to thin the herds to keep from overgrazing. When the Elephants are killed the ivory tusks are collected and put in a warehouse, the warehouse also contains ivory seized from poachers. Unlike when poachers kill an Elephant for its Ivory the meat just lays there and rots, when game management people kill an Elephant to thin a herd the meat is distributed to people who need it.

At the bottom of the page I have included links to some additional
reading on the subject which will help you form your own opinion
but first check out the information on these 3 African countries,
"Go To The Bottom"

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Are African Elephants really in danger of becoming extinct?
I would say they aren't even close to being endangered in some African
countries but that's JUST MY OPINION.

Check these African countries CLICK ON THEIR NAMES

BOTSWANA claims to have Elephant herds numbering up to 50,000.

ZIMBABWE claims to have as many as 88,100 Elephants.

SOUTH AFRICA Elephants are doing so well there many of their game reserves
are opting for contraception. Some are vasectomizing
elephant bulls. Others are using birth control on the females

These are just 3 small countries in the southern part of Africa, that I doubt make
up more than 10% of Africa's total land mass. According to the information presented
on their websites it would appear their Elephant populations are well and prospering, I'm sure, if you look, you will find other African countries with similar statistics. Some countries that are not opting for some form of contraception to control their herd populations are faced with
having to kill / harvest Elephants to reduce their numbers and guard against a problem
of over grazing. In my opinion when a country is forced to thin their herds, they should be allowed to sell the ivory on the open market to get the highest possible price, not to just a few Asian countries. When they sell their Ivory a good portion of the proceeds go to provide more equipment and manpower for their anti-poaching programs.
Well, from time to time, when the 3 countries above and others are allowed to sell their Ivory, they obtain a permit from CITES to do so, however, since the only countries that are still allowing Ivory imports are; China, Twain, Japan and a few other Asian countries they probably don't get what the Ivory would be worth on the open market.

The story of Elephant populations in the 3 countries above are in stark contrast to
that of the African country of Kenya, who say their Elephants will be gone from
the wild in the next 10 years if something isn't done to curb or eliminate
the poaching problem. Why don't they check with Botswana and Zimbabwe and
adopt their anti-poaching program, they sure seam to be working in these countries.

KENYA States their Elephant populations could be wiped out in 10 years if urgent
measures aren't taken to end the poaching crisis.


Prior to the 1990 ban on ivory imports, Kenya was crying about their
Elephants being killed at an alarming rate and pretty much
saying the same thing they are saying now. Prior to the ban public TV stations aired a program which told of the plight of Kenya's Elephant herds. Then just one year after
the ban was put in place, Richard Leakey, Kenya's wildlife minister (or whatever
his title is), was saying, if they didn't adopt some kind of contraception method
they would be facing an over population of Elephants within just a few short
years. Our public TV stations also aired a program outlining the potential
overpopulation. I wonder how Elephant populations can go from nearly extinct to
possible over population in just one year???
It seams to me Mr. Leakey is calling WOLF a second time.

I would like to see Mr. Leakey try to put a condom on a bull Elephant.

I do believe anywhere there are Elephants there will be some poaching but countries
with effective anti-poaching programs seem to have large Elephant herds, so large
in fact that they have to thin the herds from time to time to guard against over grazing.

Everything I read about ivory and the poaching problem, Asian Countries, such as,
China, Thailand, Taiwan and Japan in particular are pretty much the only countries
still allowing ivory imports, or at the very least if they do have bans on importation of
ivory, they are doing a very poor job of enforcing them. If the bulk of the illegal ivory is
going to China, Thailand, Taiwan and other Asian countries, then they are the ones supporting the poachers, make them pay for anti poaching efforts in ALL OF AFRICA and
I mean efforts that are truly effective in substantially reducing poaching.

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CITES, "Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species" an international organization with agreements between governments, to monitor animal and plant species to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals, their parts and plants does not threaten their survival.

In 1990 the United States and most other countries around the world signed a treaty banning the import of Elephant Ivory. Then In 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004 and as recent as 2008 CITES issued permits to Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe to sell their Ivory to China and Japan, I don't think other countries were offered the option of buying their Ivory.
It may just be me but it seems like the very organization that is supposed to eliminate or reduce the amount of poaching going on,
is fueling the FIRE of DEMAND.

To me the problem is clearly one of "Supply & Demand," the countries listed above have the supply and several Asian countries have created the demand with all of their intricate Ivory carvings, jewelry and more. The countries selling the Ivory are poor and need the money from the sale of their Ivory. Eliminating the supply of Ivory that would go to the Asian countries would be a good place to start.

In my opinion, an effective way to combat the problem is to totally eliminate the SUPPLY. When these African countries have Ivory they need to sell, countries around the world that have banned the import of Ivory could pool their money together and buy the Ivory, then CRUSH IT right there before it has a chance to leave the country. The Asian countries that would have normally purchased the Ivory would get the message we are not going to stand around and watch them kill off all of the Elephants just so someone can have a nice Ivory figurine sitting on a shelf. We would also have to ramp up our efforts to track down and eliminate the poachers using highly trained commando units, satellite surveillance, unmanned drones, etc. If we find out which countries are supporting the poachers, hit them with severe sanctions

I'm not so naive as to think some ivory isn't coming across our borders illegally,
heck, we can't keep illegal aliens out. The use of ivory in the US by Scrimshander
and other artisans isn't even a drop in a bucket compared to the
Asian countries, yet the propaganda people are saying the United States is the second largest user of Elephant Ivory. That's not even stretching the truth, it's just an
out and out LIE!!
! GO DO YOUR HOMEWORK PEOPLE. I don't understand
why we just can't enforce the laws in the US that we already have rather than make
new laws that are no more effective than the ones we already have. No matter what
we, the United States, and other countries around the world do to keep ivory from
crossing our borders, China and Thailand will still be importing as much ivory as
they can and therefore will be supporting poaching, leaving the problem unsolved.

Just a little food for thought.

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Since the Federal Government seams to be dragging their feet, individual states have picked up the gauntlet and lobbyist are running with it going from state to state lobbying to get the ivory ban laws passed in every state, currently California, New Jersey, New York, Washington State and Virginia have adopted laws banning all ivory sales, some states have even included the ivory Elk's teeth in their proposed bills. Thousands of Elk are harvested each year by law abiding hunters and every Elk has 2 teeth that are ivory and are considered part of the trophy for bagging an Elk. In addition to these 5 states that have passed laws banning ivory sales and transportation, there are 18 more on the list that currently have bills in their legislature banning ivory sales, 4 of the states that was recently added to the list, the State of Virginia being one of them who has already voted and passed their bill into law. Also, their are 4 additional states that are considering introducing bills to ban ivory sales in their states, they are Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, and Ohio.


While searching for the most current information on what the US government is doing with legislation on the proposed Ivory ban I found this website The Journal of Paleontological Sciences, They make reference to New York, New Jersey (New Jersey even includes "Elk Ivory") and now Washington State as well as California who is slated to catch the full brunt of there ivory law / laws on July 1st of 2016. As for the other states on the list, we'll just have to wait and see, however, while we're waiting we can write our Senators and state representatives both on the state level as well as the federal level. Don't leave out the Governor of your state. For more reading about the ivory bans and how they're affecting people go to Ammoland shooting sports news I think you'll find the information there interesting.

It's almost scary how the laws are written, they read like some of the drug laws, such as "poses with the intent to sell." With marijuana (just pulling a few figures out of my hat) if you have 1 ounce you can say it's for personal use but if you have a pound, it's more than likely you intend to distribute / sell. I'm just saying that could be the mind-set of the Ivory Gestapos if they ever show up at your door.

I'm sure that every Scrimshander has more than a few pieces of ivory laying around, The new laws say we have to prove we acquired the ivory before Jan.1990, if you're like me I traded for most of the ivory I currently have. Occasionally, at some of the Living History events we participate in, individuals will come in and want to sell or trade some ivory they have, I tell them what the ivory is worth to me and allow them to select some of our reproductions that add up to that amount. Being able to buy and sell ivory under the laws that were in place at that time, I wasn't to worried about paperwork.

Unlike drug dealers we all have websites openly advertising our ivory products, so if they want to, the Ivory Gestapos won't have any problem finding us.

I wish you all luck in finding a way of surviving this "IVORY MESS" Obama created for us

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Now would be a good time to ask "WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT SCRIMSHAW REPRODUCTIONS," or what some people refer to as FAKESHAW? I think it goes without saying that most collectors seek out "One of a Kind" original pieces of Scrimshaw done on some type of real ivory and that makes good sense, especially if you're collecting Scrimshaw as an investment. Although, having said that, I've sold a number of reproductions to long time collectors that "JUST LIKED MY WORK." I'm not going to try to pull the wool over anyones eyes, I started doing reproductions to make a little more money. I remember telling my wife, "I have to try to "make my work, work for me" and that was my motivation for seeking out a method of doing just that. I will tell you I'm not getting rich doing reproductions but it does help keep the wolves away from the door. Before even starting my quest to find a method that would work, I asked a few friends that were somewhat collectors as well as other people that would be potential buyers, what they thought about "reproductions." Of course, most of the potential buyer group said they would buy Scrimshaw, or Fakeshaw if it looked good and if the price was reasonable. I was actually surprised that a couple of the collectors as well as some well known Scrimshanders thought reproductions had a place in the Scrimshaw marketplace. On the other hand, there are the purists that think anything other than one of a kind custom pieces done on ivory are a disgrace and a slap in the face to the art form and anyone involved in making reproductions should be ran out of town on a rail. The photo at the right shows pouring the liquid polymer into the molds, when it cures it will be a nice ivory color, then with age it will take on a rich golden patina making it look even more like antique ivory.

Justified or not, here's the way I look at it. When I was doing only original engravings, it was real tough to make a living at it, now I'll admit I'm not the fastest kid on the block but I'm not the slowest either and if I hadn't found a way to make quality reproductions I probably wouldn't be as active in the Scrimshaw business today, other than dribbling out a couple of pieces here and there on nights and weekends upon returning home from my real job. Also, when we go to the "Living History Events" where we sold our products, there were so many people and many of them friends, who would say, "Oh I wish I could afford a piece of your work," my comeback was usually, "don't feel bad, I can't afford one either." Now, with our reproductions priced the way they are, almost anyone can afford a piece and you know what...... they don't care what material it's on, they want the artwork and they will treasure their piece of Hops' work just as much as the collector that waits a year and spends $1,000 for it. Now, for a few people that we see admiring our work for any length of time and we're pretty sure they really can't afford a piece, even at $15, we can make the piece they are admiring a gift to them, we actually do this very often, after all, it's not all about making money.

I think I am safe in saying "the majority of the general public have no clue as to what Scrimshaw is, so every time we go to an event we are educating people about Scrimshaw. Also, with our prices starting at $15 I think I would be safe in saying, for every one piece a Scrimshander sells, that only does "one of a kind original engravings," we may sell 50 to 100 pieces thus educating that many more people about what Scrimshaw is, who in turn will take their reproduction and show it off to who knows how many more people, educating them as well. Also, unlike the collector or just the buyer who only has the one original piece they spent hundreds of dollars on and only wears it on special occasions, our customers who only spent $15 to $30 wears their Scrimshaw everywhere they go without fear of damaging it, or worse, loosing it. Every year we hear stories of customers coming back to purchase another piece saying how many times they had been stopped in a mall or grocery store by perfect strangers admiring their Scrimshaw and asking "where did you get that, what is it, is the picture painted on there?" Another person educated on what Scrimshaw is.

Don't get me wrong, every year we do a few custom pieces and will continue to take on custom work, however, as far as educating the public on "What Scrimshaw is," we do a much better job with our economical line of reproductions than we do with our custom pieces.

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We use a variety of materials for the actual engraving our reproductions are created from, they include, fossilized Mammoth, Mastodon and Walrus ivory. This photo shows a variety of blanks in different shapes and sizes, as well as types of materials. All of the ivory pieces in this photo are Mammoth ivory with the exception of the rectangular piece on the left which is pre-ban Elephant ivory, there are 5 pieces that are white Corian, a man made counter top material. These represent about half of the blanks I have ready for scratching on, I like to keep a fairly good supply of ready to scratch blanks on hand. If the piece doesn't need to be very thick such as for money clip inserts and some earrings we use elephant ivory from old piano keys. Several of the original engravings we are currently making reproductions from were done on "Pre Ban" African Elephant ivory that we purchased well before the ban went in place in 1990 and we do still have a little of it left but when it's gone we will not be purchasing any more, we want to be able to say with certainty, "Our Scrimshaw Products Do Not Endanger Any Wildlife." We also use some man made materials for the master engraving, we have found that Corian counter top material engraves fairly well. Regardless of the material the original engraving is done on, all of our reproductions are cast with a polymer resin and the polymer we use is formulated specifically for us to look and act like real ivory, with age our reproductions will take on a rich golden patina making them even more beautiful than when you first purchased the piece.

Some other teeth and tusks Scrimshanders like to scratch on are; Hippo teeth, Wart Hog and Wild Boar tusks. As far as I know these animals are not endangered nor will they be in the foreseeable future. If you are considering becoming a collector or trying your hand at Scrimshaw and you’re not sure about the laws, I suggest you check with your state and federal “Fish & Wildlife Services to see what the current laws are governing the particular material you’re going to use or buy
These are the 2 tools I use. The knife is an X-acto 9RX stencil cutting knife, the other is a pen vise with a leather sewing needle (glovers needle), the needle comes with a triangular shaped poiont, I use a diamond hone to re-shape the needle to a cylintrical shape then sharpen the needle to the sharpest point I can get without it turning back on itself. To maintain the sharpest possible point on the needle and the sharpest possible blade on the knife, I use an extra fine diamond hone.

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While you're here, please take a minute to sign our guest book and tell us what you think of our web site. If you have a specific animal or design you would like us to add to our collection of designs let us know and we'll add it to our list.

Walk in peace,


Here's a few links for some additional, informative reading on the subject.

Is Ivory Trading Legal in Your State?

The links below take you to the "Ivory Educaton Institutes web site.
The Ivory Mess
Is the Ivory Ban Actually Saving the Elephants?
The Wrong Way to Protect Elephants
Only the News That’s Fit to Print
Domestic Ivory Ban Crushes Small Businesses

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