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Baskets purchased in Saudi Arabia prove of value

In addressing a reader's inquiry about vintage baskets purchased while in Saudi Arabia, Susan Mullikin identifies some as representative of historic forms: a snake charmer basket and Moses basket. All told the selection of baskets may bring at least a few hundred dollars, Mullikin explained.

Q I thought you and your readers may be interested in some baskets that I purchased in Saudi Arabia, during the early 1980s, near the Red Sea.


Two of the baskets are of reeds similar to those found along the Nile River. The tops and bottoms are of either goat or camel skin leather. Baskets like the one that is oval in shape are said to be Moses baskets, although they've been made in this area before Moses’ time. The Moses Basket is about 22” x 16 x 11, and the Snake Basket is 15-1/2” x 15”.

The other baskets include a rounded “fish” basket (25” diameter x 8” t.), and a “chicken” basket (20” x 20”). Women would take them to Souk (market) to purchase those items, place it in the basket, balance on their heads and take them home.

Is there any value or a market for these very interesting baskets?

— D.K.E., Kalispell, Mont.

Big on Baskets

A Thank you for consulting Antique Trader Magazine regarding your four baskets purchased in Saudi Arabia during the early 1980’s along the Red Sea. Your trip during the early 80’s, Saudi Arabia, a country that has long kept not just its women but it’s very self behind a veil, must have been amazing and very educational.

The baskets as presented in the two photos I believe were constructed at the time you were there for the tourist trade without hands on examining them. The first photo in question shows two coiled baskets.The basket pictured in back of the photo which you labeled snake? Is actually considered to be a snake charmer basket.


Snake charmers or healers used their knowledge of snakes and incorporated it into a form of entertainment.

Snake charming involved a venomous snake typically a cobra or viper being charmed by the music of a flute. The snake would uncoil from the basket, rise, and appear to be hypnotized. Snake charmers were considered street performers. I would value your snake charmer basket at between $100-125.

Moses Style of Basket Steeped in History

When considering your Moses basket in front of the photo presented you are correct in stating that the style of the basket is from Moses time 1400 or before. Of course the story of the Moses basket came from Exodus 2:1-10. Moses was placed in the basket made of bitumen and pitch amid the reeds and the bulrushes of the Nile River to avoid the Hebrew decree that all baby boys be drowned. I would place a value of $125 on your Moses basket.

The other photo pictures two round woven baskets which are very open to carry fish and chicken. As you mentioned the custom of women balancing things on their heads, based on studies of woman who carry things on their heads, people can carry loads of up to 20 percent of their body weight without expending any extra energy beyond what they’d use by walking unencumbered. I would value each of the fish and chicken baskets at $100 respectively.

You did ask also if their is a market for your baskets, in today’s marketplace their is much interest for items representing various and different cultures.

Sights Set on Classic Chandelier

Q I have been a subscriber to your magazine for many years.

Enclosed is a picture of a 4-foot chandelier with 180 prisms on it. The eight glass shades over the bulbs have a scene of a deer etched on them.

It was bought 30 years ago at an auction in Meadville, Pa. The house where it was purchased belonged to an older woman who was moving into a nursing home, and everything was being sold. Her husband had been a collector of antiques, and since he was in the Navy he was able to gather antiques from all over the world.

My husband bid on this chandelier (originally gas and converted to electric many years ago). We hung it in our sunken living room in Mt. Lebanon. There were two identical chandeliers like this at the auction, and we only bought one. The other chandelier was bought by an antiques dealer in Cleveland, who later sold it to a man in Texas who hung it as the main focal point in the foyer of his home.


Could you please tell me what it is worth, as I am interested in selling it.
— F.W., Pittsburgh, Pa.

Details of Chandelier Shine

A First of all thank you so much for being a long time subscriber to Antique Trader magazine. We appreciate your commitment to always being on top of the exciting and ever-changing world of antiques.

Your 4-foot chandelier not only with eight etched glass shades depicting deer scenes, but also graced with 180 glass prisms is the epitome of grandeur. The chandelier is from the 1880-1900 time period when the Victorian era was transcending into the fashionable Edwardian era. A sunken living room sounds as if the perfect backdrop to display and enjoy the marvelous refracted light patterns illuminated from the crystal prisms. I cannot imagine if your husband would have bought both chandeliers offered for sale at that time.

You did mention that you are interested in selling your chandelier. I believe your chandelier is English Victorian, perhaps purchased in England when the lady’s husband you mentioned was in the Navy. Your chandelier with its etched glass shades and glass prisms from the photo provided is primarily brass and appears to retain an old patina. In assessing your chandelier’s value, one must ask are 180 prisms the total number your chandelier was meant to have? Or are some missing? Are all the prisms in excellent condition or are some damaged or chipped. This also pertains to the glass shades. Is the glass, cut glass? Another important consideration to note is the lamp signed anywhere; of course, signature always affects value greatly.

To realize your chandelier’s full worth, since many go for thousands of dollars, I would consign and have your chandelier professionally appraised by a reputable auction house in the Pittsburgh area. One photo I feel is not justice enough to pinpoint the appraisal value on your chandelier.

About our columnist:
Susan Mullikin, owner of Mother and Daughter Vintage Clothing and Antiques is an honors graduate of the Asheford Institute of Antiques. For the last 25 years she has specialized in assisting clients across the U.S. in regards to fine antique garments, textiles, and ladies accessories. She was published as part of a “Child in Fashion 1750-1920,” and her business was honored at George Washington’s birth night ball. She provides conservation, restoration and appraisal services.

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