Volume 15, Issue 1
River Trading Post
314 N. River Street
Dundee, Illinois 60118
7033 E. Main Street, 102
Scottsdale, Arizona 85251
Going on 17 years now,
River Trading Post has become
renowned for its diverse collection
of American Indian art, and as the
friendliest place around for explor-
ing and buying American Indian
Browse our galleries, visit our web-
site, and we believe you will find a
treasure with your name on it.
We recommend three steps for you to
take in determining the value of your
American Indian treasures.
First things first.
Before you start, do you know what
you have? Many people come to us
telling us that the Raku pot that they
inherited is by Maria Martinez, or
that the Pakistani basket they have is
a Hopi basket from 1935. Some of
this is family lore, and some of it is
faulty research. If you’re not sure
what you have, find out before you
try to evaluate it.
Then, do your own Internet research.
Google is pretty good at helping you
do this. Start by collecting any infor-
mation you have on the item includ-
ing the artist’s name, the original cost,
the dimensions and the condition.
Your first search should be on the
artist’s name. If there is no search
result for the artist, chances are you
are going to have trouble with this
method. That is because there is no
market value established for the artist.
Even then not all is lost. Do a second
Your second search, is generally on
the item itself, such as Navajo weav-
ings or turtle shell rattle, or any other
specifics about the item you are re-
searching. Make sure you know the
difference between a hand-coiled pot
and a green-ware pot, and a tapestry
weave and a pound rug. These kind of
specifics create wide variations in
prices and will give you bad infor-
mation if you simply Google “Pueblo
pottery” or “Navajo rug” and look at
the first thing that comes up.
Compare the prices you found during
your search to the price that you paid
for the item. This will give you a ball-
park estimate of the value of your
item. Be sure to take into account the
size and condition of items in your
search results relative to the size and
condition of your own item to ensure
that you are looking at comparable
pieces. This should do the trick. But if
not, continue on.
An Evaluation (or valu-
ation study) is the most basic and least
expensive way to get an independent
determination of the current market
value of an item. If you are not donat-
ing the item or if you do not need a
formal appraisal for insurance purpos-
es, then this is most likely only thing
you will need.
An evaluation is performed by a
knowledgeable person such as a gal-
lery owner, and is suitable for suggest-
ing a retail price, determining whether
insurance values should be altered,
and in getting an initial "read" on the
authenticity of an artwork.
But it will
NOT suffice for substantiating values on
donations of artworks to non-profit organi-
zations nor for making insurance claims.
There is often an nominal fee for a
written evaluation, but if all you need
is some verbal information, many
places will offer the basics without
charge. If you are trying to sell the
item, make sure you get at least two
valuations prior to accepting an offer.
Kicking it up a notch, the
next level of price determination is a
formal appraisal. This is done by a
Certified Appraiser. Make sure you
use one that specializes in American
Indian Art and is fully accredited.
This is a more complex and therefore
more expensive procedure than an
evaluation. It is important to have a
formal appraisal if you are donating
the work or if you are insuring an
item worth a substantial amount.
The appraiser will want to see the
item in person, and ask to review all
available documentation including
provenance, sales receipts, and prior
appraisals. Typically, the base price
for such an appraisal is $150-$200.
HOW MUCH IS IT WORTH? A DO IT YOURSELF APPROACH.