Arthur Palmer - Aboriginal, Oceanic & Tribal Art

Thursday, September 21, 2006




Shields Up - Clubs Down
During the last 12 months, using plain Solomon Island Clubs as an indicator on eBay, there is a severe and sharp downward trend. This time last year, even average Solomon Clubs were achieving around the $500 USD mark on a regular basis. Last month an excellent example from a reputable well known eBay dealer in the UK auctioned a club with a brilliant provenance of having been a present from Queen Victoria no less (over the top?). This club sold for $250 USD. Why is this so? Answer – supply and demand. Ebay has flushed out many old good clubs in the last 12 months (this is known in the trade as the ‘china doll syndrome’- once rare & valuable – now pedestrian & minor due huge supply surge). Clubs by nature tend to be fairly robust and indestructible and apparently many people have old good examples tucked away in broom closets and in the shed. Clubs tend to survive. Due to the ubiquitous nature of eBay, many of these are now appearing on the market, whereas pre eBay they may only have appeared spasmodically at church fetes and in flea markets. Aboriginal clubs of average nature have also suffered the same fate over this period for exactly the same reason. High quality clubs continue to appreciate as do all superb rare examples of all types. However, the indicators are that supply is now far out stripping demand. What collectors/dealers now desire/demand are upgraded examples & omissions in the form of rare fine examples.

Shields- both Aboriginal & Pacific - on the other hand are at the top of the collectible list with rapidly rising values being achieved. At a premium are good old, big, bright, bold examples in good condition with an unimpeachable provenance. In common with other high quality artefacts, provenance is often up to 50% of their collectible value. In company with the rising value comes the increasing number of fakes and bodgied up lesser examples. As this trend bites, provenance becomes increasingly important. On this point the market is getting very nervous & particular emphasis is being placed on full provenance. Picked up in a junk shop is not good enough any longer to achieve good returns.

As the Market gets more picky & nervous then this trend in general will affect all other types of artefacts. Dealer & collector reputation & track record together with provenance will have as great a weight as the objects presence on inspection. Give that eBay relies almost solely on the buyers ability to interrogate a 2 dimensional photograph of questionable quality- then the proven provenance of the piece coupled with the track record of the dealer all become critical mass.

How many dealers & buyers are there really? Analysis of eBay suggests that about 200 buy & sell world wide on any regular basis if the one off sellers & buyers are discounted. This conforms to the Artefact Expo experience which suggests most sales are dealer to dealer trades. Also begs the question of how many collectors are now in touch with each other due eBay and now by pass dealers completely on the world market. Is the collector to collector market different to the dealer driven controlled market. The irresistible conclusion is affirmative.

How different? - To be the subject of the next report.
All the best .Cheers Arthur