All of us have had that experience, so don't feel too bad.
I would echo much of what Lee wrote and add the following:
1. Buy from reputable dealers or sources/sellers and buy what you can afford. Make sure that the seller will honor you returning the piece for a refund if it isn't as presented.
2. Avoid buying for worth or value, buy what you love and continue to learn
3. Expose yourself to as much material as possible--books, museums, galleries, festivals and shows, exhibitions, and begin to focus on learning about the style or pieces that interest you.
4. Run the items by groups like this prior to purchase. While many sellers don't want to expose the pieces, for modest pieces many reputable sellers won't mind.
--- In African_Arts@yahoogroups.com, Lee Rubinstein <leerubinstein@...> wrote:
> In brief...
> Above and beyond analysis of visually observable characteristics consistent
> with known and verified examples of the class of mask in question --
> including determination of *materials, production techniques and
> style*appropriate to the context of presumed origin -- and the
> presence of
> *signs of usage* consistent with the manner in which a class of mask is
> known to be worn and performed, *collection data* which helps to link a
> particular example to its geo-cultural home and context of usage (a
> reasonably verifiable place and time within a cultural history) is a
> critical tool in confirming the origin and authenticity of a mask. Every
> mask has a history; the challenge is verifying the apparent or presumed
> histories which have been attached to them and subsequently sorting through
> the information uncovered through the process of identification and
> On Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 10:28 PM, hc_baby <lilrhinotx9@...> wrote:
> > **
> > Hello everyone, new here and ready to learn about African Art. Starting
> > off, how can you tell a high end mask from one sold to tourist. I recently
> > purchased one and discovered it not as valuable as I hoped. Sorry for
> > sounding like such a newbie, I guess this would be the best place to learn
> > and teach myself. Thanks
> > Ronnie