Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Decoys

I'm busy working when the man, a customer, just lolly gagging around, looks up at my old decoys and then, "What 'ya asking for 'dem ducks?"

I've been here before and as I've answered many times, said, "They're not for sale."

They are old and they've been with me for most of my adult life. One doesn't sell one's arm.

Even though I'd turned my back to him and moved on, he hadn't, tried again.

"Ah, come one, everything has its price."

"I'm sorry, Bubba, the decoys are not for sale. Period." Thinking - get it.

And then, "Tell 'ya what. My Dad is a big collector of ducks like those there....and,"

Before he finished I turned back and looked him in the eyes, hard. Said, "Listen, once more, they are not for sale." Kinda loud this time.

They've moved cross country with me. The first I purchased was the beautiful Pintail. She's dressed nicely, I think, hand carved from California redwood. At the time, in my early twenties, I thought I'd become a collector of hand shaped decoys.

I've always had a thing about antiques, especially outdoor sports collectibles. Back then, in the early seventies when the earth was still fairly fresh for me and life held possibilities after the war, my young wife and I cruised the antique shops. We had a goal - to own our own, and we did in time achieve our goal.

I began with decoys. Unfortunately my timing was awful. The sporting world went gaga over Mason decoys which spread like a cancer to other sporting bird imitations. The prices went crazy...the auction houses jumped on the band wagon and before I knew what had hit me the price for a good condition Mason went five figures.

Anyway, over the years I'd find an old decoy here and there and if I could afford it, purchased it for my tiny collection. Like the old canvas Mallard on the far right of the above picture. She's sewn carefully of waxed cord, stuffed with Lord knows what material. The tiny Buffle Head between the tan Eastern Seaboard and the Mallard is shaded a flat green, and I'd not part with her for all the tea in China.

My hard headed customer tried again with -

"Tell 'ya what I'll give you a hundred dollars for that pretty one right there."

It was time to shut this down. I sighed, turned and bent forward and as nicely as possible said,

"See this Pintail," I pointed. "I'll take five thousand, cash, gold or silver."

He walked away.

How does one place a price on a lifetime of memories.



  1. He must have never been told "NO!" by his parents when he was growing up....

  2. Current market price to you: priceless.

  3. Matt, very true. Thanks.

    Odysseus, see, you get it. Thanks.

  4. I have an object similar to your decoys. A replica of a French Bleriot monoplane made in silver on a marble base. No clue what it's value is or who made it. It came into the family as a gift by way of Mexico back in the 40s or 50s. I should probably have it appraised for insurance purposes, but I really don't want to know what it's worth since it is priceless to me.

    I wouldn't have given him a cash option in this market unless it was significantly higher than the current price for gold or silver.

  5. Hey you never know, some day someone might give you $5000 cash.

  6. Duke, my friend, for you I'll take $4,500.00 in gold. Nice discount. Interested?

  7. I bet someone knew the real value and was trying to get a good decoy cheap. I like your approach at the end.

    Some people just don't get the hint.

  8. my dear friend...i completely understand! i collect expensive books - i have seen their appraisal value and could get 3 or 4 mortgages paid off by selling one of those books to a dealer. to which i say NEVER! those books are so priceless and will be bequeathed to someone who will properly appreciate them when i die (i can't bequeath them to jambaloney because he is going to die before me - that's a promise. i will not die before him - because i would never leave him alone - end of story!).

    anyway - we have a bunch of duck decoys here that the previous owner left. i like the look of them and when i read this post i asked jambaloney if they were worth anything and should we send them to you. jambaloney laughed his fool head off and said that they are garbage. but i wish they weren't garbage - because i would gladly send them to you.

    your friend,

  9. Only 5K? I would asked 10K LOl Good for you my friend.

  10. I remember the decoy rage during the late 70's. As a teenager I was collecting decoys as well but only managed to pick up a few and eventually made my own as well.

    Are they a bit more reasonable and/or easier to pick up today?

    Looks like you have a very nice collection that's for sure.

  11. You never put a price on such things as memories of your life, treasures for sure. Period.

  12. Mudbug, it's possible, but from the looks of him I'd doubt it. Thanks.

    kumber, I understand you too...and thanks. I've collected first editions for over thirty years. And, thanks for thought on the decoys...but I haven't actively sought them for a while now, taste change.

    Rob, good point. I'll remember it. Thanks.

    PioneerPreppy, it's been so long since I was active in the market I have no idea. I do remember reading some time ago of a Mason that sold for well over a million bucks. Put's them well out of my price range.

    MDR, isn't it a fact.

    kingturkeyoak, very true, so very true. Enjoy the holidays. Thank you.