In the current auction world of uncertainty there are some objects that still can find buyers willing to pay big bucks. However, as I scrolled eBay I found there are over a thousand sellers hoping to connect. Seems like everybody has a Native American basket they would like to unload. And then there are the examples that come to specialized auctions. Rarities still fetch thousands of dollars. So if you are selling a Native American basket what are your chances of not only selling it but getting a good price? Examples of early styles are
The shape of baskets for utilitarian use was determined by their purpose. There were burden baskets, water containers, bottle shaped baskets to hold small seeds and water. Flat trays could hold food or winnowing grain.
19th century baskets are considered choice. Animal figures bring more money than geometrics.
CLUES: Most popular with collectors are baskets made in the Southeast and Southwest, known for their decorative figure work. A problem for beginning collectors is that contemporary basketry is often made in the old style and designs are still being made.
Knowing what materials were used by the different tribes helps to identify. For instance, the Florida Seminoles and Miccosukee’s made their baskets from pine needles. Western tribes used rush, yucca and grasses as well as willow or other materials native to their area. Northwest tribes used grasses and roots. The fine baskets made by the Cherokees in North Carolina, Tennessee and Oklahoma were made from oak-splint and cane, often tinted with vegetable dyes. The Southwest tribes used the devils claw plant for designs in black. They were often trimmed with feathers, beads, horsehair and shells.
When a basket is described as “Mission” this refers to baskets made in California’s Franciscan Friars missions. Hundreds were made, usually of sumac and rush. A good example can sell for thousands of dollars.
Historically, baskets for tourists were first sold at the San Diego Exposition, 1915, by the Fred Harvey Company. During the 1920s, 30s, hundreds were made and sold to tourists at railroad stations, gift shops and road side stands.
When you bid at auction for a quality piece you will be competing with not only private collectors and dealers but Native American Museums that often buy back their own tribal items.
PHOTO CAPTION: (1) Apache pictorial Olia. Sold for $15,990 Credit: Skinner Auctions.