Why have a mask appraised?

This mask is a Baule Mblo and it comes from Ivory Coast in West Africa. It is obviously of good quality, but is it authentic or a carefully-made reproduction? You can learn more about Baule masks by going to “Africa” in our archive section.

Full disclosure, I do mask appraisals, for which I am paid. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, why should you get a mask appraised? Here are some of the reasons people have.


  1.  You are pretty sure it is valuable.
  2.  How best to sell it?
  3.  You want to keep the mask(s) but need to know more.
  4.  For what should I insure it?
  5.  Is it a good buy or is the seller asking too much?
  6. I posted your mask and gave it an A or B.


What do appraisers look for when they evaluate a mask? Quality is very important. That includes quality of carving or other types of construction, painting and decorations. Was it use in culture or made for sale to tourist and exporters? Age and condition require high resolution photos of the front, side and rear, or actually seeing the mask. Also, the recent selling price of similar masks must be checked.

An appraisal always includes a description of the mask and usually more than one price. Estimates can be for a gallery, a dealer, auctions or insurance companies. I often include suggestions for selling mask(s) as well. What I don’t do is put all of this information on a fancy certificate. Ugh!


  • Lisa Macbride

    My father, recently deceased, had a small collection of masks. Origins of masks include Japan, Africa (not sure which country), Mexico and Italy. I’m looking to sell them and don’t know how to go about this. Please advise and what you charge for appraisal. There are approximately a dozen masks.
    Thank you.

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