When I was a kid growing up I collected baseball cards. I paid for those cards with money I made delivering the Albuquerque Journal every morning in my neighborhood. The cards represented the current players in Major League Baseball, and of course I had my favorites like Wade Boggs. Also, I had some fortunate friends growing up who’s parents spoiled them with things like Mickey Mantle rookie cards. Today my collection has some cards worth money, especially when you compare it to the original .25 cent purchase price. My lucky friend, his card came with instant value and has appreciated over the years. When it comes to collecting Native American art both of these approaches can be used and equally rewarding.
To make your collection valuable, look for pieces you like
Your collection should be distinctly "you." It might seem odd, but, typically it is great collections that make great artists. Make yourself familiar with names and styles, and definitely concentrate on things you like, no sense of building a collection you are not going to enjoy. Once you have an idea of what it is you want, begin to recognize and appreciate artists and materials.
Look for great artist names
It is always a good idea to start with artistic work that is known to be good, an artist like Calvin Martinez will always be a good choice. Everything he makes is distinct enough to be recognizable as "his" by a knowledgeable expert, he is consistent, talented, and--at least for now--affordable.
Look for collectible materials
When it comes to materials, if you’re wanting something with stones pick something with a classic like Number Eight Turquoise because it will always be more collectible over the years. Remember the baseball cards, all baseball fans know Wade Boggs, not many if any remember Ken Smith the 3rd overall pick of the 1976 draft. Its the same with stones and materials. Art made with respected and well known source materials will typically maintain better value.
When collecting Native American Art you have to look in the right places
Whether this is spending hours visiting different galleries and trading posts, or browsing through the many different websites catering to Native art. Remember, Gallup, New Mexico is where you go to find great First American silver and stone, it just originates here. There are other places to peruse and acquire great Native Art, but the quality and quantity available here, in Gallup, is second to none. If you are looking to build a collection of current working artists do a little research before you make your journey to this Native American art Mecca, but if at all possible, do come!
About collecting the "greats"
If you are looking for the Mickey Mantle equivalent, say a piece of Kenneth Begay, the game becomes different. These historical pieces are spread across the country, lots of enthusiast collect and resell these important pieces. Take the same approach as the current artists collecting and find a style and artist(s) that you really enjoy the work, remember these are things you are going to be wearing. Do your research and get to know the artist and work, because it is possible that the older work you are collecting will not have an artist hallmark to identify it. You might have a harder time finding prices, but if you do the groundwork you will eventually get a feel for a cost range that makes sense. Having a piece of art that is a one-of-a-kind and admired by a community of enthusiasts is very rewarding.
Remember, use resources like this (Native Art Collector) that can help you find experts and those wanting to sell art. Anyone is able to comment or post topics on the forum, this will eventually lead to accurate information from a wide variety of perspectives.