Hess Fine Art

Fine Art, Auction, Watch and Antique Experts Since 1984.
1131 4th Street North
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What’s It Worth? Here, Duckie Duckie

Here, Duckie Duckie

Collecting duck decoys is one of the most rewarding – and frustrating – experiences in the world of collecting.

The overwhelming majority of duck decoys are common and only worth between $5 and $25. However, because of the cross-collectible interest in duck decoys as utilitarian items for actual duck hunting – and in Americana as an art form – occasionally, they are worth $1,000- $10,000 each.

Because of the migrating habits of ducks, it seems that decoys from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Maryland are the most popular. Some duck decoys were carved by jewelers – like the famous Schoenheider decoys – and can be worth $5,000-$10,000 each.

The Schoenheider family carved duck decoys in central Illinois for many years. Early versions from the 1920s and ’30s go for $2,000-$10,000. Even damaged later versions will bring several hundred dollars.

Since he was a jeweler, watchmaker and duck carver, his works are extraordinary. Other names to look for are James Walton from Milwaukee, whose works typically bring $800-$1,500. Usually, the more delicate the work and the larger the decoy, the more valuable. However, some very large decoys can be worth comparatively little, especially if they’re modern.

“Primitive” decoys are very old and quite sought after – and can look awful to the novice – but some of these crude 19th-century pieces are by far the most coveted.

We saw a recent auction by the cream of the crop in the world of decoy makers like James Perde, Bowman Brant and Joseph Lincoln bring between $10,000-$35,000 each. Probably the most important duck decoy ever offered at public auction in recent times was an unusual drake decoy by Augustus Wilson from the late 1800s that fetched $150,000.

We recently bought a duck decoy collection from a local resident in hopes of finding a treasure, but unfortunately the most expensive one was $350. To even be considered to have appreciable value they need to be pre-1950, large, in good condition, preferably made of two-piece construction with glass eyes. And finally, as with most artwork, it’s typically the signature that counts the most.

Do you have a large, primitive duck decoy or other piece of vintage Americana to sell? We are always buying and make complimentary house calls. Call 727.896.0622 to speak with one of our experts.

Comments, questions or suggestions for this column, please send to jeffreyphess@aol.com.

St. Petersburg 1131 4th St. N, St. Petersburg FL 33701.

Ph: 727.896.0622

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Hess Fine Art - Fine Art, Auction, Watch and Antique Experts Since 1984

What’s It Worth? Here, Duckie Duckie.PDF

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Publish Date: 
February, 2016