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Re: [African_Arts] how to tell if an item is rare

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  • William Klebous
    I ll take a shot at parsing rare . The only kind of rare that I think is totally legit is when only a few examples of a highly-valued and well-documented
    Message 1 of 6 , Jan 13, 2007
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      I'll take a shot at parsing "rare".

      The only kind of "rare" that I think is totally
      legit is when only a few examples of a highly-valued
      and well-documented type (in terms of age, style, AND
      function) exist in academically impeccable
      collections and then another one comes to market
      with no question as to its authenticity and aesthetic

      Every other use of the word "rare" is polluted to one
      extent or another by one or more of the commercial
      considerations already discussed. The question of
      course (as always) is "how polluted?" How much of
      the description is hype and how much of it is, if
      not rigidly scientific, at least consistent with
      the preponderance of opinion of those who know and

      In other words, whether its a major auction house,
      or a minor dealer, where there's selling there's
      hyping and that will never change. Lies and errors
      can be policed by individuals, but only the market
      can police hype. The only thing an individual can
      do is listen to Public Enemy and "Don't believe
      the hype!" Rely on your own judgement and that of
      those you completely trust.

      One last thought on "rare". As I first stated,
      a certain kind of documented rarity can and should
      positively impact value. But something can be too
      rare, in other words, anomalous, so that even if
      it is beautiful and seemingly authentic, the market
      will often shy away from it because there's nothing
      to compare it to.

      And that's when, to bring us full circle, a high-
      powered dealer buys it for next to nothing,
      "authenticates" it, pronounces it not an anomaly
      but rather wonderfully "rare", and puts six figures
      on it. If that dealer's honest and skilled, he's
      done the cultural world a favor. And if he's not,
      he hasn't. And often only time will tell which it is.

      Send instant messages to your online friends http://au.messenger.yahoo.com
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