African art hits the mark with collectors at auction

Collecting Treasures: Some museum-quality pieces can reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

(Photo: Erik Hoyer/Special for The Republic)
(Photo: Erik Hoyer/Special for The Republic)

African art hits the mark. I say that with all the enthusiasm I can muster as we just recently represented at our auction house a stunning African art collection from a Scottsdale resident.

The results exceeded our expectations. The stars of the show were a 19th century Benin Wood Altar Head, which sold for $5,300, and a Namibia Bow and Arrows with sheath that commanded $4,700.

African art can be inexpensive for the collector who collects simply for aesthetics and home décor, but it can get costly for the collector looking to add museum-quality pieces.

These rare, coveted pieces are a little more difficult to find, and with that difficulty comes the more costly price tags.

The less expensive pieces can be found in mass quantities all over the Internet and range from masks to carved wooden stools to carved wooden figures at prices as low as $10. You will find these pieces can go with just about any type of home design.

Now, if it’s the museum-quality pieces you are after, you better hold on to your wallet as some pieces can reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Not only will an African artifact of this caliber add to your collection, depending on the market, it could be a smart investment.

But as with any art purchase, you need to be careful and do your research. I have seen pieces represented as very valuable when in reality they weren’t.

When I look at a piece that is represented as antique or really old, the first thing I look for is the condition of the wood and what it’s made of. If its finish is clean and smooth and has no flaws, more than likely that’s going to be a newer piece that’s not as valuable.

On the other hand, if you examine a piece and see some flaws along with a more uneven patina, that would possibly indicate it’s an older piece.

But again, be careful. I have seen pieces that have been coated with oil and buried in the yard for a couple of weeks and then left out in the sun to try to duplicate that aged look. This not only applies to African art but to primitive antiques as well.

Finally, when you look at a piece and something in your gut tells you it’s not what it’s represented to be, then trust your gut, as more times than not, your instincts are correct.

Erik Hoyer co-owns EJ’s Auction & Consignment in Glendale and J. Levine Auction & Appraisal in Scottsdale. Reach him at, or @EJs_Auction on Twitter.

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