December 29 2013 Sunday at 10:55 AM

Garage Sale Report: Mystery Native American Necklace


As previously mentioned (and added to our epic want list,) I have a sudden, deep interest in Native American history, culture and artifacts. Mostly, I have been learning about the natives that lived around my part of the world as I find it most fascinating to learn about those that felt the same winds, saw the same animals and looked at the same mountains.

When it comes to artifacts, I buy what I find, which is primarily from other parts of the country. When asked at garage sales, there is an opportunity to ask if they have something that you are specifically looking for. Depending on the day, I ask if they have adult bicycles, automatic knives, old paintings, cars and, increasingly, "anything Native American." Generally, you do a little profiling of the sale and ask about something that follows the interests, aesthetics and quality of what they have for sale. Sometimes targeted query will net something that "nobody would buy at a garage sale" but I assure them that I am a serious, cash buyer. About a month ago I asked a fellow at a South Pasadena/San Marino garage sale for anything Native American and this necklace emerged from deep within his home. One wonders what else could be in there... If I had asked if he had a stuffed grizzly bear, I wouldn't have been completely surprised to be greeted by one.

Garage sale provenance is about the least reliable information in the world, just above craigslist ads but below swap meet dealer selling stuff from storage lockers. However, it is the only kernel of information I had to search on - he stated that he bought it in the Bay Area 30 years ago and was told it was from the Northeast United States. After much googling, I know little more than when I started.

This is so far out of my areas of expertise, that I am open to all possibilities - including that it is not Native American . My guesses - and they are just that - are that it is old, ceramic trade beads, strung with sinew with bone feature elements. Again guessing, I would conjecture that this was not made for the tourist trade as it is a little noncommercial. The fact that the sinew is so tight and strong makes me think that it may have been assembled (comparatively) recently from old components. 

What do you think? Email me at!