What are Ethnographic Antiques?

Ethnographic antiques are antique works of art, practical objects, or other artifacts from indigenous cultures. They are also known as tribal antiques or tribal art. Common pieces include carvings, arrowheads, pottery, and masks. Both the U.S. Custom Office and the Antique Tribal Art Dealers Association consider objects that are 100 years old or older to be true antiques; however, the term "antique" is colloquially used to describe any older object.

Where Do Ethnographic Antiques Come from?

Ethnographic antiques come from many regions of the world. Common locales include Latin America, Africa, the Pacific Islands, and Australia. Native American antique art and objects from North America are also considered ethnographic antiques.

How Valuable Are Ethnographic Antiques?

Ethnographic antiques can vary greatly in value, which depends on a variety of criteria, such as aesthetic appeal, age, condition, quality, rarity, significance, tribe of origin, and cultural meaning. Older pieces, rare pieces, and pieces that hold some kind of special significance or exemplify a specific type of workmanship usually fetch higher prices. Because ethnographic pieces do not have manufacturer stamps or maker's marks, determining age and origin can be tricky. Collectors often evaluate the condition of tribal antiques differently than they evaluate western antiques. Pieces in excellent condition that have not been repaired can be worth more than pieces that have been poorly repaired. Skillful repairs do not necessarily decrease value, as they show that the item was valued enough in its time to warrant repairs. Because of the complex criteria involved, collectors often determine value based on gut instinct and subjective tastes.