Field Trip: Prehistoric Native American Stonework Artifacts
HOST: The McClung Museum in Knoxville, Tennessee, has a remarkable collection of prehistoric Native American stonework artifacts, including this iconic figure known as Sandy from Middle Tennessee. Sandy may look familiar because he was featured on a U.S. postage stamp in 2004. Appraiser John Buxton was excited to discuss Sandy and to show us more of these amazing artifacts up close.
We have two figures here. This is a male figure, Sandy, which is a nickname because it is sandstone. And this is a female figure. They were both found together on the seller's farm, Wilson County, which is in Central Tennessee, and they were found in 1939. Now, this figure dates from about 1250 to 1350 A.D. The Mississippian culture was a mound builder culture that existed east of the Mississippi River and encompassed portions of the South, the Southeast and the Midwest. There's less than 100 of these figures known. Sandy is certainly one of the finest. HOST: There are some other artifacts here at the museum that you've chosen to highlight from the Tennessee Cumberland Region, and they're referred to as chipped stone items. Tell me about those.
Yes, this superb collection behind us includes 46 stone flaked or chipped maces, daggers, knives and swords. And they were considered to be emblems of authority and leadership among the ruling elite. These were found on the Banks Link Farm in 1894, which is right on the banks of the Duck River in Western Tennessee. The material that they're made of is called chert. Chert is really a lower grade flint. Now, there are both federal and state laws that govern the possession and the sale of archaeological material. Often as appraisers, we're asked to appraise for museums for insurance. And there are legitimate sales that we can turn to to help us make the value determination. Now, I know of a Mississippian pot that sold for almost $200,000. I also know of a ceramic from the same culture that sold for just under $200,000, so again, a retail sale. I know a head pot that sold for almost a hundred. None of these objects are remotely as important as either Sandy or the Duck River Cache. I've talked to a number of people, I've looked at a lot of data, and I believe that the Duck River Cache, for insurance purposes, should be valued between $600,000 and $800,000. HOST: Oh, my.
The insurance value on the female figure would be $300,000 to $500,000. HOST: And our friend Sandy here?
Sandy is in a special category. For insurance, I would value Sandy between $800,000 and $1.2 million. HOST: John, it's so wonderful to stand here and learn so much about this ancient culture and see representations of their work right here, virtually on the land where they were dwelling so many years ago. Thank you.
Thank you, Mark.
Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.
Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."
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Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.
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