This photograph taken on March 24, 2022 shows a "Ngil" mask of the Fang people of Gabon ahead of its auction in March 2022. Photo by Pascal Guyot/AFP via Getty Images
Africa,  Collecting,  Discover & Learn

Elderly Duo Discover Their ‘Garage Sale’ African Mask Was a $4.4 Million Jackpot! Now, They Want Their Fair Share!

Well, folks, here’s a lesson on why garage sales might need more scrutiny! A French grandma, 81, and grandpa, 88, found an old African mask while tidying up their holiday house. They sold it to a local antique dealer for a mere $157, thinking it was just another trinket. Imagine their surprise when they spotted their ‘trinket’ in the news, auctioned off for a whopping $4.4 million!

The mask wasn’t just any mask; it was a rare Fang mask with a backstory straight from an adventure novel. Grandpa’s grandpa, who had been a colonial governor in Africa in the early 20th century, brought it home from Gabon. This mask had seen secret societies and purification rituals of the Ngil society in Gabon. It was an artifact steeped in history and mystery.

Feeling they got the short end of the stick, the couple is now taking the dealer to court. They believe the dealer knew the mask’s true value but chose to keep mum. And while the dealer did seek valuations from auction houses, it was only after specialized testing that the mask’s true age and significance became clear.

This isn’t just about a mask, though. The plot thickens with tales of conspiracies involving the couple’s gardener and suspicions about the dealer’s motives. At the heart of it, however, is the mask – “a piece of kaolin-coated cheesewood so rare, it has only a few peers worldwide.”

Now, with the court drama unfolding, all eyes are on this mask. Will the elderly couple get their just dues, or will the dealer have the last laugh? Stay tuned as this intriguing tale unfolds!

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Every time I hear stories like this, a myriad of emotions wash over me. Firstly, there’s that pang of sympathy for the elderly couple. How many of us have offloaded items, thinking they were mere trinkets, only to find out later that they held more value? It’s that gut-wrenching feeling of “what if?”

But then, there’s also the question of due diligence. The antique dealer, whether he knew of the mask’s true value or not, did buy the mask in good faith. Does he not have the right to profit from a shrewd business decision? After all, in the world of art and antiques, value can be nebulous until verified by experts.

Yet, the undercurrent of this story, for me, is about the intricate dance between morality and legality. Legally, the dealer might be in the clear; he made an offer, and the couple accepted. Morally, though, if he indeed had an inkling of the mask’s value, there’s that unsettling feeling that perhaps the elderly couple were taken advantage of.

In the end, this tale serves as a reminder about the unpredictability of life, the importance of doing our homework, and the age-old debate between right and ‘legal’.

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