• Native America

    Carved wood Arctic mask

    Q:  My father recently passed who was an avid collector of Native American pottery, rugs and baskets.  These items currently are with Heritage Auction for a sale in November but we found these after those items left for sale.  We just want to know if they are “junk” or have real significant value.  I can try to get to them later today (in storage) for better imagery but I do know given my father’s contacts they are more than likely somewhat authentic.  Jackie, 1034 A:  You sent me six small pictures, of which this is a larger version of one. I think they are all Native American artifacts from the…

  • Oceania

    Colorful PNG mask

    Q:  This New Guinea mask is coming up in an estate sale this Tuesday morning.  Unfortunately this is the only pic that was online and I will have to make a decision on the spot. The starting bid is $300. I know it is not much to go on but any guidance you can give me would be greatly appreciated.  Herb, 1033 A:  PNG mask prices vary according to the following: (A) pre contact, (B) carved with modern tools, (C) made for the tourist trade. Without better photos I would lean toward B and C. I like the look of it, but this is only my artistic taste. If we…

  • Guatemala,  Mexico

    A swinger from South of the border

    Q:  Found this today at a barn sale in Pennsylvania and was wondering if it’s a carnival mask?  Central America?  Not a collector, just couldn’t leave it behind.  8 inches high and 6 inches across.  Thanks.  Terence, 1032 A:  It is a carnival mask from somewhere in Mexico, or maybe Guatemala. But more importantly, it is old, well used, yet still in good condition. I get a special kick out the cigarette hole which clearly has been used. I’ve also heard of booze being poured down holes like this. Mexican and Central American carnivals can get pretty rowdy. I think you have a nice cultural artifact.  A Save Save

  • East Asia

    Suggestions for Mask Man

    Called Hannya, this famous character shows up in several Noh dramas as well as Kyogen plays and Shinto rituals. Hannya is also popular in America as a tattoo subject, good luck charm and decorative wall hanging. What you see here is a mask for the use of a professional actor in Japan. Note that several stages of construction are shown. Most of the time people send me pictures of masks they can’t identify, but I also show photos that illustrate other aspects of mask collecting. Anything is possible on this blog. I hope you will help me improve this service with your opinions. Feel free to write a little or…

  • Mexico

    Good-looking tigre mask

    Mexican mask collectors know that tigre is what they call a jaguar. Though now extinct, they were once the apex predator in that part of the world. Yellow masks with black dots and sharp teeth are featured in many different dances all around Mexico. Village carvers sell their products to local dancers as well as tourists (who are willing to pay more). The good news for collectors is that the tourists often get the prettier, more creative versions. Mexico is indeed a very artistic culture. Save Save

  • Native America

    Indian mask made of bone

    Q:  The mask came from an inheritance when my friend died at the Oakville reservation (Chehalis tribe), in Washington. It will be a trade of medicine. We never discussed monetary values… it was a part of her memories of a past pow wow. I am not sure it is even Chehalis or any northwest tribes because she did some travels when she was young. (Montana or southwest),  it is pelvic bone , the beads don’t look old and the grass is not brittle,  the paint looks new and I am not sure what the teeth are made of. I am looking for a quick sale because I need herbal remedies…

  • India & Himalayas

    Multiple Mahakalas for decor

    Q:  The masks were purchased from the daughter of a collector who died. The only information she gave me is that the mother traveled the world and always wore a mask. The little information I got on the Internet for the of mask 9 heads is that the Mahakala is a sacred entity of Tibetan Buddhism. But also I found many other names for that entity. Perhaps it was produced in Tibet and made of wood. The size of it is about 40cm tall and 30cm wide. I have a few more of this collection I acquired and still do not have enough information, so I will attach them to…

  • Mexico

    Storing masks can be fun

    Q:  I just have a quick question about mask storage. I have a small collection of African and Indonesian masks and was wondering about the best way to store them for long term preservation. Do you have any suggestions? Hang them? Put them in boxes? I’d appreciate your feedback.  Annabelle, 1027 A:  My choice would be to hang them on the wall, especially if the air in your home is fairly well regulated. This way they are easy to inspect and occasionally dust. Best of all, you’ll love the way lots of masks hanging close together can have a decorative effect. Here’s what I did with part of my Mexican…

  • Mexico

    Him and her masks from Puebla

      Q:  My husband purchased these two Mexican masks, a male and female, online.  They did not come with any information other then an old label on the back of the female mask stating Puebla.  They seem to be quite old, worn thru in one area on a cheek, and with old repairs to splits.  Can you help with information?  Kim, 1026 A:  This is an unusual pair… both the blue color and underneath-the-eye sight holes are uncommon. But they were made by the same carver somewhere in the Sierra de Puebla Mountains. Definitely old and used. Personally, I love the way they look together. You  should purchase a book…

  • Caribbean

    Elaborate Dominican masks

    The Carnival occurs every weekend in February in the town of La Vega.  The Dominican carnivals are supposed to be the first ones celebrated in the New World (even predating the more famous ones in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro). La Vega is the third biggest city in the Dominican Republic with a long history dating back to the time of Christopher Columbus.  The first Dominican Carnival goes back to the 16th century.  The Spanish would let their slaves have some fun for a day.  The Spanish, however, were very religious and needed the festival to have some sort of religious significance so it became a battle of good…