Arthur Palmer - Aboriginal, Oceanic & Tribal Art

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Aboriginal Artifact & Tribal Art Valuation & Appraisal

Should artefact collectors get Registered Valuers Reports before selling or purchasing major pieces? Or, is eBay an adequate indicator and guide to the current values and prices of the ethnographic tribal art market? If so, why is there such an enormous gulf between prices realised on eBay as opposed to values for similar pieces achieved by major auction house events?

Why does the Aboriginal and Pacific artifact market seem to fluctuate so dramatically? How is it that one year items such as Pacific clubs or Aboriginal shields demand large sums and then within six months similar pieces are changing hands for less than 50% of recently achieved prices?

Is it possible and desirable for valuation and appraisal to take these fluctuations into account? Is it possible to use well researched valuations and appraisals to accurately predict coming trends in the Aboriginal artefact and tribal art market? Tribal art is often touted as a strong investment market by upper end dealers and auction houses. Because we’re dealing with rare, old and beautiful works, with enigmatic and mystical provenance, can we in fact apply some science and rationale to the expenditure involved in artefact collecting and tribal art investment? For instance, if you seek an appraisal and valuation for Australian Aboriginal boomerangs, should the report take into account the continuing interest and rising number of collectors for this iconic and quintessentially Australian Aboriginal artefact? If supply and demand is the immutable indicator of current and future values, then what impact will the eBay vacuuming of Australia over the past two years have upon the value and availability of old, high quality examples? Will this in turn lead to an increased appreciation and interest in high quality transitional boomerangs, which are presently, in my view, grossly under rated and therefore undervalued?

Likewise, it is fairly predictable that prices for high quality 19th century Maori pieces are set to soar exponentially. This will be solely attributable to the superb 2007 traveling NZ museum exhibition on Polynesian Pacific migration.

Valuations and appraisals for a specific artefact or full collections are often for widely different applications i.e. investment, sale, trade, auction, purchase, insurance, benevolent bequest and estate will settlement. Sometimes this can, and should effect both the appraisal and valuation. For instance, I recently gave a valuation and appraisal for an old very good quality piece at almost double what would have appeared to be the current market value. The justification was that its unimpeachable provenance coupled with the condition of the piece, meant that it offered to fill a significant omission in another client’s major collection. At double the price it was snapped up.

Artefact valuations and appraisals should take into account many other relevant matters rather than simply relying on an empirical interrogation of the object. Valuation and appraisal may be subjective opinion backed up with the weight of Government registration, but it should also be high quality, informed advice that allows collectors, institutions and sellers to trade assuredly with confidence and without loss.


  • This is the most helpful TRIBAL ARTIFACT discussuion site.It will change the way collectors and dealers do the Aboriginal Art deals and sales.Keep the topics going please .Aussie Collector.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at February 22, 2007 12:20 AM  


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at February 23, 2007 8:53 PM  

  • Excellent blog. Keep it coming!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 04, 2007 3:44 PM  

  • hello arthur.
    why dont you place prices on your
    web site, if you are selling items.
    i may buy something.
    dennis longstaff
    corroboree exports

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at July 04, 2007 1:29 PM  

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