Mystery Sawfish Snout Solved!

BKR Appraisers in St. Louis MO, appraisers in southern IL

Recently we were asked to appraise several items for a client for estate tax purposes. The executor of the estate had inherited the items from his parents and he needed to know what the items were worth to complete the tax forms to close out the estate.

We are able to establish the values easily on most of the items but a pair of the items required special attention.

Within the grouping of items were these two items mounted on Lucite plastic bases and the attached label said, “2 Lucite base goat horn, 2 of 2”.

The parents of the executor had traveled extensively so he was not able to give me any information about the items or where the items came from. He assumed the items came from Florida since his parents had a home in Boca Raton Florida for many years.

What are they? That was the question to be answered.

The label said on the Lucite bases said “2 Lucite goat horn”, but these “horns” did not look anything like horns from a goat anywhere. But I recognized the characteristics and the form from weapons that the Indigenous people of New Zeeland had made.

With some research I confirmed and then determined that the pair of items was the rostrum (snout) of a sawfish. The sawfish is related to sting rays and inhabits the fresh and salt water ways of the tropical and sub-tropic regions of the world. There are a number of sub-species of sawfish from a few feet long up to 25 feet long.

The indigenous people of the world have fished for the sawfish and have made use of several parts of the body of the fish, apart from just the snot alone. Sport fisherman and trophy hunters also collected the snouts to make trophies as was done with the pair of sawfish snouts that I was asked to appraise.

Further research revealed that due to a number of factors that all sawfish are seriously endangered and a protected species, worldwide. 

BKR Appraisers in St. Louis MO, appraisals in Missouri

Under the protection of the law, no part or parts of the fish are to be collected, traded or sold with in the United State as well as several World Heritage sites around the world.

The laws regarding this protected and endangered species (since 2007) are very clear and the sawfish is fully protected. The label on the trophy was clearly incorrect. Was the label purposefully marked incorrectly before it was sold in a tourist or antique shop, which is how this estate ended up with the pair of items? I cannot say one way or the other. Our responsibility as an appraiser was to accurately identify the item and then determine the value.

What does that mean as far as an appraisal value?

Due to the fact that the species is fully protected under the Endangered Species act, these sawfish trophies have no legal monetary value. They cannot be legally sold, traded, imported, exported or shipped across state lines or out of the United States to be sold.

There are a number of endanger species that are protected by the laws of the United States. Some of the laws for various species are very complicated and change frequently. It is important to know and stay current on these regulations. That is part of the job for a professional credentialed appraiser.

Richard Kloeckener of BKR Appraisers in St. Louis MO, appraisals in Southern IL

"It's always exciting to see what things are worth."

Richard Kloeckener, 

Graduate Personal Property Appraiser

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