Articles / Collecting Pre-Columbian

Interested In Collecting Pre-Columbian?

I can guarantee to save you a bundle of money and make it a lot more fun. It's easy, and it's guaranteed......


The first few things you buy can be the most important pieces you ever buy.


Make them books

Big books, with a lot of pictures- and a readable text. Abrams has a couple of them; they're out of print- and can cost you a couple of hundred dollars each- and save you thousands.


Then, read them. Study the pictures, and read them again. If you're not hopeless, you'll start to get a feel for the field - how pieces were made - what was regularly done, and why. You'll begin to see similiarities, and how different cultures handled the same subjects - and how they differed. You'll very quickly begin to understand some things the average beginning collector, and even some dealers don't seem to be aware of. A crude, almost shapeless figure isn't a piece of Pre-Columbian art; it's just Pre-Columbian. Clay figures weren't "carved"; they were modelled, or, sometimes molded. That a hunk of stone with an apparent groove or two probably was formed by nature, not man - and even if man did make it - it still ain't art.. That a head, maybe with part of a torso, is not a figure - it's a fragment; and that age alone doesn't make something important, or valuable.


Pre-Columbian isn't very rare, or very expensive. They made thousands of pieces, of every style and culture. The price differences come with the quality differences. A 7" nice Colima flat, mint, made in the period 250 BC - 200 AD can be purchased for less than $200. A fine Colima Shaman, 15" tall, can cost $20,000. Same age, but a different animal entirely...


You've got to develop your taste, both what you like, and what's considered good, very good, fine, and fabulous. You'll learn that when all the pieces of one type are 7-10" tall; and you're offered one 14" tall, the hair on the back of your neck rises a little. When something is "better" than all the illustrated similiar ones- doing more - adorned more heavily- generally more interesting and complex, you'll suddenly smell fish.


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