Eskimo Hunting Helmet, ca. 1820

Value (2012) | $100,000 Retail$125,000 Retail

GUEST 1: Well, I have to say, we thought... we were so embarrassed when we got there because we kept going, "Well, we don't know anything about it. "What are we going to say? Should we even bring it?" So we didn't even know if we were going to bring it. And Grandpa bought it at the flea market, what, about...

GUEST 2: I'd say 20, 25 years ago.

GUEST 1: Yeah.

So it was bought at a flea market here in California.

GUEST 1: Yeah, in San Jose. He went every Sunday, as long as I can remember, and went to the flea market every morning.

Well, what you have here, what your grandfather found, is an exceptionally rare Eskimo hunting helmet.

GUEST 2: Well, can I interject something here? This is really wonderful, because my father went to Alaska when he was a young person, I would say 16, 17 years old, and always had an interest in Alaska, and suspected that this might have come from the Aleutians or something like that.

Well, it actually comes from an area just south of the Aleutian Islands. There are in fact less than 25 of these known to exist in the world today. Coincidentally, there have been, in the 22 years I've been in business, four of these in the marketplace. These were very magical objects to the Eskimo people. They were used when they were hunting out in the ocean, the Arctic Ocean, to hunt sea mammals. And they imbued tremendous spirituality and spirit in these helmets. And they were actually made to sort of replicate the animals that they were going to be hunting. This object is made from a single piece of wood that is quite miraculously split, steamed and bent, and then sewn with sinew, and then decorated with ivory. Showing animal figures here, and here we have little Russian trade bead eyes insert into the middle. It has little condition problems. It's missing a few things. However, given how rare this object is-- in the last year, there have been two of these sold at public auction. There was one that my gallery purchased. We purchased the example for $66,000 American dollars. We were the underbidder at $140,000 American. This example is a little... needs a little restoration. It does. It has Scotch tape on it. I noticed that somebody's done quite a restoration job with Scotch tape here. That's Grandpa. It obviously holds a high position in your house. With restoration, I would anticipate the retail value is in the neighborhood of $65,000 to $75,000.

GUEST 2: Well, that's wonderful. And I do have to ask, how old is this?

This is from very early in the 19th century, perhaps 1820.

GUEST 1: We almost decided to go home before even showing you this.


GUEST 1: Oh, my goodness, thank you.

GUEST 2: Oh, Donald, thank you.

Appraisal Details

Donald Ellis Gallery
Dundas, ON, Canada
Update (2012)
$100,000 Retail$125,000 Retail
Update (2012)
$60,000 Retail$80,000 Retail
Appraised value (1997)
$65,000 Retail$75,000 Retail
San Francisco, CA (August 09, 1997)
19th Century
Beads, Ivory, Wood
October 31, 2011: A viewer's recent email regarding an appraisal of an Inupiaq cribbage board prompted us to review past appraisals that mentioned Eskimo culture.

It is ANTIQUES ROADSHOW's intention to use culturally respectful terms when discussing the history of items being appraised on the show. We acknowledge that terms that describe a person or group’s identity regarding race, ethnicity, religion, etc., can change over time or have different meaning to different people. "Eskimo" is a word that has different connotations depending on where you live in the Northern Hemisphere.

In Canada and Greenland, "Eskimo" has negative connotations and is no longer an accepted term. "Inuit" is preferred, but that term is not commonly used in the United States. In the U.S., "Eskimo" is not considered to be derogatory and is in common usage. "Eskimo" is used when speaking of two main indigenous cultural groups collectively: "Yupik" (a culture group from Western Alaska) and "Inupiat" (a culture group from Northern Alaska and St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea). When one of these groups is being referenced, "Yupik" or "Inupiat" is favored over "Eskimo" by Alaskan Natives.

The term "Alaskan Natives" includes all indigenous peoples of Alaska: Eskimo, Unangan (Aleut), and American Indian, and is also considered broadly acceptable.

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."

Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.

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.

Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.

Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.

Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.