What’s in your basement?

Recently, rummaging through my basement, I put two and two together and came up with twenty-two. OK, I realize that this is improper math, that only an accountant could make happen, but I once toiled in life as an accountant, so I feel justified on the math.

You have to understand that my basement is like few other basements. It is literally filled to the rafters with boxes of stuff. In fact, it overflowed, and I went to the garage. It too overflowed and I bought another house, and… you get the picture.

Anyway, I begrudgingly agreed with my wife to empty one box, in the basement. (She does not read this column, so we will not let her know about the other house filled to the brim.) In the box, I found a whale’s tooth. Wow, I had long forgotten about it, and I greeted it like a long lost friend. I had meant to get it scrimshawed before, and this time I was not going to let the opportunity pass.

I did 30 seconds of research on the web (the length of my elongated attention span), and hired Tina White of Washington State to produce a piece of commissioned scrimshaw. I have, hopefully, attached these pictures. These are meaningful to me because one of them is from the HMS Cygnet, a British gunship that a relative of mine by the name of Thomas Bennett commanded. While doing my research I found that he rose to the rank of full Admiral, and was in the British Navy for 68 years, starting in 1797 at the age of 12. While Captain of the Rainbow in Jamaica, his eldest son died under his command. Somehow, Thomas became mayor of Hereford, England, while in the Navy during the 1840’s. I have also attached his wife’s Sarah Watkin’s calling card case. It is of finely carved ivory. I had been told it was the Admiral’s, but clearly it has his wife’s monogram. I do not know whose coat of arms is on it. Once upon a time I was told it had royal significance. It is a later mystery to solve. (Maybe I am eligible to be the Duke of Earl.) Somewhere in my basement I have the Cygnet’s log.

The second ship is in remembrance of my great-grandfather, John Seippel. He was Captain of his pilot ship, Calvert, in the Chesapeake. While I do not have a picture of his exact vessel, this is a picture of one of the famous Chesapeake Bay vessels that were renown around the world for their speed and endurance. I have a lot of his navigational items in my possession.

While doing this work, a lot of things occurred to me, including that I am the first male in the long history of my family who has not made a living from the sea. Also, I don’t know how to sail. (I don’t get sea sick.) Thus I plan to remedy this when I hit 60, in 9 years, and retire as the CEO of WorthPoint, and consider my current mission accomplished, which is to create the ultimate web site for collecting. I have had many friends tell me they want to join me on my 3 masted schooner.

Interestingly, yesterday I ran into a new member on Worthpoint, Doug, who is an advanced collector of scrimshaw. Doug and I talked about his collection and site. He has shared many of his pieces, including a very rare Sea Turtle shell, on our site for us. It turns out that Doug has many commissioned pieces and they are also done by Tina White, the scrimshawer of my tooth. It also shows you what a small world collecting is and that you never know where a box in your basement may lead!

Click here for Tina White’s website.

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