Appraisal Video: (4:06)
Antiques Appraiser and Consultant
GUEST: It was offered for sale at an auction on the West Coast, and I fell in love with it. I had to have it. So I was lucky and got it.
APPRAISER: And you acquired it by phone, didn't you?
APPRAISER: You bid on the phone. So you saw a picture of it.
GUEST: Yeah. The particular gallery I dealt with would send videotapes of their auction offerings, and you could bid by phone, or you could send in a bidding form.
APPRAISER: Okay. What made you want to buy this piece?
GUEST: I just thought it was really beautiful. I like this kind of thing. I love pre-Columbian art. I love Asian art.
APPRAISER: Well, now you've done a little bit of research on this?
GUEST: A tiny bit, yeah. It's a stone yoke, and it's associated with a Mayan ball game. I haven't been able to find out where in that group of people this may have come from or the time period. I don't know what all this means. And I don't know how these were used, if they were given away as trophies to the winners. I know they wore really heavy padding and everything to play the ball game, because the ball was very hard. And I'd also read that sometimes the losers were sacrificed. They got their heads cut off.
APPRAISER: All right. Well, let me tell you what I know. First of all, the Mayan or also in the Veracruz area, which is in the eastern shore of Mexico, the ball game was played. And the ball game was really a ritual event that depicted scenarios that would happen in pre-Columbian life.
APPRAISER: The prisoners participated in this. The scholars have a debate going on about how, specifically, this was used. Some believe that the prisoners had to wear this, which encumbered them during the game, which means that they failed, and then they were sacrificed. Other people believe that it was just ceremonially worn before this ritual ball game. So that's still out. The ball-- we don't have any pre-Columbian balls, but it was a hard rubber ball, so we know that. Now let's talk about this particular yoke.
APPRAISER: And I'm so glad you brought it in, because it gives us a chance to develop what the authentication process is, step by step.
APPRAISER: And what we look for are red flags-- the things that tell us that maybe this isn't quite right. We know in the yokes that normally, they're completely carved.
APPRAISER: And up here, you might see a human face, you might see an owl, you might see a toad. This is not carved.
APPRAISER: Now, stylistically, when we look at this area down here, we see these designs, and they don't really make any sense. They're sort of amorphous signs that just, it just doesn't strike home. Now, that's bothersome. The third thing that we look at is we look at the surface. Now, you see how abraded the surface is here?
APPRAISER: It's really not abraded the same way anywhere else. Now, you have to remember, these objects were buried. So we want to see a surface that indicates that it was buried.
APPRAISER: It's not telling me that. The next thing that we do is go to the provenance. Now, we know that you bought this at a gallery on the West Coast.
APPRAISER: Well, I called up a colleague in Los Angeles, and he's one of the great pre-Columbian experts on the West Coast.
APPRAISER: And I asked him about this particular gallery. And he said they really don't know pre-Columbia. Now, that's not to say that they couldn't sell a real piece, but they don't have a reputation.
APPRAISER: Okay, you paid $1,700 for this.
APPRAISER: A pre-Columbian yoke that was authentic could easily go anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 and up.
APPRAISER: So we have all these red flags, and we say, okay now, any one or any two might be okay. But when we put them all together, I don't think it's authentic.
APPRAISER: Now, if it's not authentic, then we must value this on the decorative market.
APPRAISER: So as a decorative piece, I still think this thing could be $500 to $1,000.
APPRAISER: It's a beautiful piece.
GUEST: Of sculpture.
APPRAISER: It's very elegant. It's a great piece of sculpture.
GUEST: That's cool.
APPRAISER: Thank you very much for bringing it in to ROADSHOW.
GUEST: Well, thank you, I appreciate it. You just never know.