North American Indian Club & Pipe, ca. 1890

Value (2011) | $2,800 Auction$3,900 Auction

I acquired these from a couple that had an antiques store over near Altoona, Pennsylvania. When I looked at them, I asked if they would be for sale, and they said that they were considering selling because they wanted to move to Florida, so I left my business card and I said, "If you want to sell, I'd be interested in buying." And I got a call from them about a week or two later and they said that I could have them.

So when these pieces were sold to you, they were sold to you with the attribution they once belonged to Sitting Bull.


And then you pursued that with taking them to institutions?

I took them to an institution and then I had an appraisal by a certified appraiser on Indian artifacts. Plus, I had a notary with this from the daughter of the father that had acquired these from Sitting Bull. The daughter was with him when he received these artifacts.

And there was no photography or no other supporting information?


May I ask what you paid for them at the time?

At the time, I paid $3,500.

And the year that you purchased them was in the '80s?


'81. I looked at all the paperwork, and there were some wonderfully familiar names to me and wonderfully familiar institutions, but there was a huge disconnect between the notarized piece and then the paperwork that followed. They cited similarities. There was no visuals to Sitting Bull. They cited that a really important sale had happened in New York in the late '70s. It was the Green Collection, and your paperwork has the name "Green" and familial attribution of the collector. But there's no other relationship past that in the research. George G. Green was a surgeon, and his collection really was the beginning of tribal arts coming to the auction market in the same venues that sell Picassos and Mondrians. And as you look at the pieces, especially the piece, the fixed-head axe, the way that the drop is applied, the hair, and the beadwork gives me the sense that it was put in much later in history, and... probably around the time it was purchased. But that could be researched further. But in my opinion, the piece is a bit of a put-together piece. Now, the pipe is actually a very nice pipe, and it's from the Eastern Plains, or the Great Lakes region. These pipes were used in both secular and ceremonial times, and it really is a beautifully painted, well-executed piece. The pipe itself would sell for $2,500 to $3,500 on an auction market.


So it's a lovely pipe that is absolutely right in all its aspects. I sincerely question the fixed-head club. And without documentation, there's really no way to actually tie these to Sitting Bull. This is a common problem when you're buying things without hard attribution. There's a lot of research that needs to be done. So in my opinion, this is a piece that came much later than his day. The axe head itself, as well as the pipe, would date to the 1890s, but I personally would not tie it to Sitting Bull, nor necessarily with the pipe, but the pipe stands alone. It's a beautiful, beautiful piece. On today's market, for the fixed-head axe, if it was to come to auction in a sophisticated setting, it would probably bring $300 to $400.

Is that right?

Yes. If these indeed had belonged to Sitting Bull, they could range into tens of thousands of dollars-- it could have been astronomical prices-- if you could actually tie these to Sitting Bull, and I don't believe that that's going to happen.

Probably not.

Appraisal Details

Franklin, TN
Appraised value (2011)
$2,800 Auction$3,900 Auction
Pittsburgh, PA (August 13, 2011)
19th Century
Club, Pipe
Beads, Hair, Wood

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