Apache Indian baskets are primarily divided into four main forms: Apache Trays, Apache Ollas, Apache Bowls and Apache Burden Baskets.
Apache Trays: Apache Trays can range from flat, to slightly curved. to almost bowl shaped. Apache trays with pictorial elements (dogs, horses, and or people) are the most valuable. If the elements are done in a third color, red - generally a deeper red made from yucca root, the baskets can be extremely valuable. These are called polychrome Apache baskets and they bring a premium. Almost all old apache baskets main coloration will be a yellow foundation. This is from willow shoots which are originally white, but over time are oxidized by the sun turning the willow stitches to a nice mellow yellow color. More modern Apache Baskets are made out of traditional materials, but the willow stitch is a whitish coloration. The patination of the older baskets is one of the key elements that helps to date them. Apache trays were originally made for winnowing grain or for food usage. After the railroads arrived and the Apaches were placed in permanent reservations, the needs of the Apache people changed and trays were then made for the tourist trade. Inexpensive metal trays and bowls could now be purchased at the trading post and the Apaches sold their own baskets for money or trade.
Negative designs on Apache baskets are very desirable. Most often these were done by the Yavapi Apache. These baskets began with a negative or dark center and incorporated a large amount of negative design. The dark color was achieved using Devils claw, the scientific name of which is Martynia. Yavapi pieces, as a general rule, bring a premium.
Apache Ollas: This Olla shape was conducive to storing grain which was its original purpose. As the Apache people became less nomadic, and once they were on reservations, the usage for storage baskets became less important and Apache Ollas became more of a tourist item. Apache Ollas are the most valuable of all Apache baskets with larger well balanced pieces bringing on average tens of thousands of dollars. A great Apache olla will sell for over a hundred thousand dollars. These higher end pieces have great symmetry, size, are generally polychrome and display multi-figures. As with all art, condition is an issue and pieces in mint condition demand a premium.
Apache bowls: The third shape, the Apache bowl, comes in many forms. Bowls can be oval, have large jar shapes, look more olla in design but without the neck, or can appear more tray like without the flatness of a tray. Because of their variety, the value is quite variable. Price is determined often on the aesthetics of the piece. Trays can also be quite valuable depending on the stitch count, the condition, and the art quality of the basket.
Apache Burden Baskets: are the last form we shall discuss. The burden basket is the most traditional of all forms in that it was the last form to be made more for tourists than for self use. Burden baskets were made as utilitarian baskets. Often decorated with tin cones, yellow or green ocher, most have a conical shape. Those with original raw hide, cones, and original straps are most valuable. Earlier baskets will demand a premium especially if they are in good condition. Burden baskets were made for carrying wood , food and generally are in less than excellent condition.