American Indian baskets from California and the Southwest were in a recent sale by John Moran Auctioneers, Inc., of California. Indian baskets are considered works of art as well as pieces of history. Their value is determined by age, origin, shape, materials used, type of weave, the basket’s intended use and condition.

As the Industrial Revolution (1760-1840) slowly resulted in the availability of inexpensive pots, pans and containers, the need for labor-intensive baskets was reduced. Many Indian baskets made from 1880 to 1930 were made for gift shops. The expensive ones today were used by Indians. Baskets made for the tourist trade weren’t as elaborate.

Early Apache baskets are very collectible. Apache basketry slowed with the 1930s Depression because tourism slowed. A basket made around 1920 with a star and stylized animals brought $1,680. Another Apache basket made around 1920, 18 inches high with five diamonds with stars and “whirling logs” sold for $3,600. The whirling log is an ancient symbol of divinity and spirituality. It is still used as a symbol of well-being and good luck in many South East Asian countries. It disappeared in Indian designs in the 1930s.

California Mission is a name for various early 20th century Indian tribes that worked at the various Catholic missions. Baskets in the mission era tend to go for higher prices because they are scarce and have more woven design. Made around 1910, a California Mission basket with a coiled rattlesnake pattern auctioned for $1,800 (pictured on cover). Another California Mission basket made about 1920 with multicolored stylized birds sold for $1,440, and a smaller basket with a star pattern brought $1,046.

A c.1920 basket with a center star medallion on a flat bottom and a geometric design on the border brought $984.

A Pima tribe basket with five serrated columns went for $923, while a Hupa Indian basketry hat brought $488. Three geometric bands decorated a tapered basket made around 1920 by the Paiute tribe. It auctioned for $2,768. The Paiutes lived in Mono Lake, California.



American Indian baskets had specific purposes. Tightly woven baskets were used for cooking food, collecting water and storage. Work baskets were woven with durable materials capable of supporting heavy loads. Traditional cylindrical baskets were used to store food and other items. Loosely woven baskets were designed for keeping bounty hunted in woods and fish.


Photos are courtesy of John Moran Auctioneers Inc., 145 E. Walnut Ave., Monrovia, CA 91016. Its catalog for the March 15, 2020, Art of the American West auction is archived at

California Mission basket, c.1910. Coiled rattlesnake pattern, 4 3/4 in. h. by 7 3/4 in. w., $1,800.

Apache Indian basket, c.1920. Five conjoined diamonds with stars and whirling logs, 18 in. h. by 20 in. dia., $3,600.

Apache Indian pictorial basket, c.1920. Center star with stylized animal figures alternating with geometric designs on border, 3 1/2 in. h. by 18 1/2 in. w., $1,680.

Pima Indian basket, c.1920. Five serrated columns, 5 in. h. by 17 in. w., $923.

Hupa Indian basketry hat, c.1920. Woven with a multicolored geometric design, 3 1/2 in. h. by 6 3/4 in. w., $488.

California Mission basket, c.1920. Center star medallion, geometric designs on sides, multicolored, 2 1/2 in. h. by 11 1/2 in. w., $984.

California Mission basket, c.1920. Two stylized birds separated by geometric columns, multicolored, 5 1/4 in. h. by 9 1/2 in. w., $1,440.

California Mission basket, c.1920. Radiating star pattern, multicolored, 4 in. h. by 14 1/2 in. w., $1,046.

Mono Lake Paiute Indian basket, c.1920. Three geometric bands, 10 in. h. by 19 1/2 in. w., $2,768.


Leave a Reply

Featured Articles

Skip to toolbar