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Basket Collecting Offers Many Choices

Today is Easter, and for many of us, that means searching for — or hiding a basket or two.

Easter baskets are an important part of the spring tradition here in the United States, and most children enjoy the search as much as the enjoyment of the treats inside the grass filled-containers.

Baskets of all kinds are collectible. For example, Native American baskets have avid fans in the world of antiques.

Like most Native American art and tools, the well-made baskets created by tribal people out West are now treasures to collectors who also like beadwork, clothing, weapons and other Native American artifacts.

Native American baskets are still made today and command hefty prices. Amazingly smooth, these baskets often display colorful geometric designs and attached trinkets. They are perfect conversation pieces and room accessories in modern or Southwestern-themed homes.

When baskets come to mind in our region, people often think of Longaberger. The popular Ohio-made basket maker changed the face of the American basket industry in the 1970s when founder Dave Longaberger reportedly noticed department stores were selling imported baskets rapidly.

He turned to his father, J.W., an old-time basket maker, to whip up several dozen, which sold immediately, and Longaberger was born (see Longaberger.com). These baskets continue to have a following with collectors who seek all shapes, sizes and accessories for these baskets, sold online or through QVC.

In the antiques and collectible world, however, baskets include many other categories of fine, old baskets. American Indian, Japanese, African, Shaker and other types of baskets are some of the top names.

Some of the most expensive baskets found in the antiques world are Nantucket baskets, which can bring thousands of dollars at auction.

These American baskets come from the state of Massachusetts and are handcrafted on the island of Nantucket.

Antique Nantucket baskets date to as early as 1830, when whaling was big on the island and seamen turned out these masterpieces of basket making. Most Nantucket baskets are either round or oval, open and lidded. Many have carved handles or ivory clasps.

An interesting thing to note is that the smaller the basket the bigger the value. This is because small is harder to craft. Amazingly, a very tight basket weave can even hold flour or water.

Shaker baskets are desirable in the antiques world, and many of these were created for work usage.

There were different baskets woven for carrying apples, washroom usage, gardening and even for cheese making. Other baskets were created as fancy examples to sell to generate income for the Shakers.

The craftsmanship is remarkable in Shaker baskets, which were painstakingly made and represent the skill of the worker.

Another mark of age is the patina, which in older baskets becomes darker and warmer, like good antique furniture. Old baskets can be nested, in graduated sizes, too, and these are very attractive to serious collectors.

Judging a basket for age is tough and requires a knowledgeable dealer or appraiser — or a connoisseur collector.

But it’s a topic worth studying if you enjoy the weaving and design of this traditional craft.

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