20th-Century Kwele Beete Gon Mask

Value (2012) | $2,500 Retail$3,500 Retail

I think it's a...more of an Eskimo, kind of an Alaskan walrus mask.

Why do you think that?

Because it's got the tusks right there.

Does it look like a scary mask to you, or...?

Yeah. It looked appealing... scary.

And where did you get it?

I got it at an antique mall. We were looking, and then there's a back room full of all kinds of stuff that no one really looked at. So we went back there. There was a couple more masks. They weren't as appealing to look at, and they weren't as cool, I guess. And that one stood out, and I really liked it. So we decided to get it. The man that owned the collection of masks had died. The things were auctioned to the man owning the antique shop. And...he was selling them for $80. So we happened to buy that one.

That's what you paid for this one? $80? How do you display it at home?

We set it down on a curio cabinet.

Just flat on the table like that? It's not Eskimo and it's not a walrus. It's a mask that comes from Africa, and it's from a country called Gabon, which is on the west coast of Africa. Most of these African countries are made up of tribes. And the tribe this belongs to is called the Kwele tribe. And they have these sort of secret societies and things in the tribe, and they take the images that they want to make the masks from the animals in the area. And in fact, this is called a gon mask, it's a gorilla mask. The gorillas when they get very savage, they bare their teeth, and they have these very long incisors, and that's what these are here. These incisors. They're a particularly fanciful group of people. They wear these crazy masks, and they have lots of weapons, and they dance around, and it's really pretty spectacular. Now, the mask is made out of wood. It's hard to say exactly when it was made. It's definitely 20th century, and probably made in the last 20 or 30 years. Now, a lot of the masks we get, they're really not made for these tribal uses. They're really made just to sell to tourists. We think this is a mask that's been used, and we can tell that. I'm just going to take it off here, so that you can see it. In the back, we look for some signs of wear. And if you look at these sort of holes here, they're starting to wear through. And you can see this wear along the edges. So even though it's not so old, it's a real mask, and it's been used, which is a huge difference in these sort of things. Now, have you any idea what the mask is worth? Well, you paid $80 for it, okay? Would you be surprised if I said that the retail price would be between $2,500 and $3,500?

I mean... yeah.

Don't you think that's a good return on $80? I think it's great.

Absolutely great.

What are you going to do with it now?

Not set it on the coffee table.

Appraisal Details

Anthony Slayter-Ralph Fine Art
Santa Barbara, CA
Appraised value (2012)
$2,500 Retail$3,500 Retail
Cincinnati, OH (July 21, 2012)
Ancient Art

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