The small carvings made by the Zuni people are quite captivating and very collectable. People buy them for a number of reasons. They are usually in the likeness of animals, often with a colorful decoration of beads or shell that may be refered to as a "power bundle".
Some people feel that fetishes have healing or other properties.
Each animal fetish has an area of "expertise" for helping its owner.
Each stone can also have special properties
Some, like myself, just appreciate the artistry
They do look cool esp when displayed right
They are made from a variety of substances, mostly stone, but occasionally glass.
Each artist carver has thier own VERY unique style that is as recognizably theirs as their signature.
There seem to be a few main sellers of these items on eBay, but once in a while you can find an individule who is selling estate goods, or is just selling off part of a private collection. Sometimes pawnshops get in on the action, and I have seen some really nice peices in those auctions.
Fisrt off, decide what you want to use the fetish for. For a pocket or purse fetish, in other words, one to carry around with you, look for the chunky-style fetish. Medicine bears and some of the horses and Buffalos have a nice solid appearance with no slender parts that could and probably will break off. Some wolve and other animals too, depending on the style prefered by the carver. There has been a trend lately towards more "realistic" carvings. These are much more fragile then the "old style" blocky carvings and they seem to be better suited for display.
Also, stones are important. Jasper will be very durable. "Slag glass" glass is as well. Sodalite and lapis are also pretty hard. Marble is still fairly durable, but scratches. Serpintine is fairly soft. Pipestone is soft, Alabaster is VERY soft and Black Jet is soft but in a plastic-y sort of way. Jet is warm (not cold like stone) lightweight, resilient and would be ok if carried inside its own lilttle pouch as long as the fetish was one of the "chunky" styles. Jet is one of my favorite materials. Turquiose, the stone that brings to mind the SouthWest, is also actually not that hard unless it is "stabilized" artificially. (there are diffrent grades of this stone. The best grades are harder and have a better color then the lower ones) Many turqouise items may crack if mishandled. They should be carried in a pouch. None of the fetishes should be carried with loose change or keys. Anything will get scratched or damaged then.
For display only, any of the carvings and stones will do fine, in a well lighted area where veiwers can see and appreciate them. I like to re-arrange them periodically.
Traditionally, however, they are kept in a jar with a lid on it, and thus, unseen to the casual visitor. They have a job to do in the Zuni culture, and looking cool for freinds is not on their agenda.
Also, according to tradition, the fetish animals need to be "fed" a cornmeal and turquiose powder every so often. Yes I do feed mine, probably not as often as I should!
As you browse the eBay listings, check out the styles of each artist. They are very distinct and I can tell several artists work just at a glance. They often specialize in one or two animals or have an animal they seem to favor. Wolves and foxes can appear almost the same in some artists rendition. Even unusual animals such as sharks and dolfins can be the subject of the artist. Animals such as panthers, coyotes bears, horses, wolves birds and insects are more common though. Also see a few human images such as a "corn girl" fetish
There will be a wide range of price. Some, highly collected artists, or artists who dont produce prolifically, or artists who are getting up in years command handsome prices reaching into the triple digits. I bet you could not get the stone carving material, and then carve it for the same price though! Of course there are different levels of quality and some artists appear to produce as more of a way to earn a living then for the artistic side. Many fetishes may be had for under 20 dollars. Price also depends on the stone. Pick out the style you like, perhaps read the properties of the fetish and stone, that is nearly always included in the auction listing. Watch it closely if you really like the item. These are popular auctions and Ive lost a bunch of stuff at the last minute. It might be a long time before you see, say a wolf by that artist in that stone again. Gem quality stones such a Turquoise, sodalite, lapislazu and jasper appear less frequently then marble, "fishrock" jet, alabaster, shell and other softer stones.
All the sellers who sell alot of these have near perfect or perfect feedback. They answer questions willingly. Ask alot so you know what you are getting. Each stone and peice is one of a kind. This is not an MP3 player where when youve seen one, youve seen them all and if its new in the box you know what you are getting. The sellers try very hard to describe things accurately, but something might be important you that they have left out. Is the color the same on the bottom? Are the eyes even? are there any tool marks remaining on the surface? ect ect.
Look for ones signed by the artist, and be aware of imitations from the Far East. The auction should mention that it is a "Zuni" product as the name "Zuni" seems almost like a trademark. Descriptions such as "like the Zuni" "similar to Zuni" "could be Zuni" and like that are all red flags.
Also, there are many E-tailers of fetishes on the web. Do a search and check prices there so you know when you are being over -charged.
-Tailfluffs- Hope this was helpful to you ^_^