Dealer who Bought ‘Worthless’ African Mask for $165 Sells it for $4.6 Million


-A rare African mask that a couple disposed of for $165 fetched $4.6 million at an auction

-The seller, a French couple, went to court to claim a share of the proceeds of the sale

A second-hand dealer is smiling all the way to the bank after winning a case where an African mask he bought for $165 fetched him $4.6 million at an auction.

The huge amount had pained the couple to the point of them going to court to claim the proceeds of the sale.

The couple argued that the dealer had misled them about the true value of the mask.

Incidentally, the dealer had offered the couple $330,000 following the successful auction, which they declined.

The dealer’s lawyer, however, argued the couple should have researched the item’s true worth before selling it to his client.

“When you’ve got such an item at home, you should be a bit more curious before giving it up,” Patricia Pijot told French media.

In the ruling that went in favour of the dealer, the judge observed that the couple had failed to exercise due diligence in evaluating the “historical and artistic” value of the mask.

The $330,000 offer by the dealer was retracted following the case.

The dealer had bought the African mask from the couple in their 80’s in September.

Fang people

However, it turned out that the rare Ngil mask, made by the Fang people of Gabon, is one of only about 10 in the world.

History points out that the rare mask was worn by members of the Ngil secret society.

It aided the members as they traversed villages looking for troublemakers, including suspected sorcerers.

Separately, Gabon had asked that the mask’s sales be stopped, claiming that it belonged to the country.

However, the court dismissed that claim as well.

The 19th-century wooden mask was probably obtained “in unknown circumstances.”

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This was probably around 1917 by René-Victor Edward Maurice Fournier, a French colonial governor and the plaintiff’s grandfather.

The nation of West Africa was a French colony when Fournier obtained the mask.

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