The Beginners Guide To Duck Decoy Collecting
When it comes to interesting and unique collectibles, few things can compare to duck decoys. They have a rich history behind them, are beautifully constructed, and are always fun to show off to your friends. Collecting these unique works of art has become quite popular among people of all ages and backgrounds. If you're wanting to get into this exciting hobby, read our guide here on how to start a duck decoy collection.
If you're a duck hunter, chances are you probably already have some duck decoys laying around somewhere. This is how many people, myself included, have started their decoy collection. I remember going up to my attic one day and seeing a bunch of old decoys my father and I used to use when we went hunting many years ago. I thought they looked pretty neat with their almost vintage look, so I started decorating the house with them. Not too long after, I found myself researching antique duck decoys and going to different decoy trade shows and conventions across the states. I must say that it's a both addicting and rewarding hobby, but the one thing I enjoy most about it is talking to others who share the same enthusiasm as I do.
Planning Your Decoy Collection
Let me first start off by saying that there is no right or wrong way to collect duck decoys as long as you're enjoying it. That should be the purpose of any hobby you partake in. However, you should still have an idea of where you plan to go with your decoy collection. Maybe you want to collect decoys that look like the birds native to your area, or perhaps you want decoys that come from a certain time period or artist. If you're unable to decide, start researching the history behind some of your favorite duck decoys and when you find a type that interests you, focus on collecting them.
The purpose of planning your collecting is so you'll stay focused and on the right path for your objective. There are just so many decoys available that have been made from so many different carvers that's easy to feel overwhelmed. You have to think, people from all over have been making duck decoys for thousands of years and continue to do so. If you wanted to buy one of every decoy you come across, not only will you need more money than you probably have, but your collection will be a mess of non-categorized pieces.
It's okay if you change your mind or decide to collect a different type of decoy. In fact, most collectors will probably change their minds or want to collect something different than what they originally intended on. Just keep track of what pieces are in your collection.
Where To Look For Duck Decoys At
Unless you've already been collecting decoys for some time, you may have difficulty finding a good place to buy them. Many beginners to the hobby are faced with this common problem. It's not like there are decoy shops just around the corner. So where do you look? Here are a few of my favorite places to find decoys.
One of the places I recommend beginners to look at is online auction sites, such as ebay. Oftentimes, collectors will list their decoys here with a starting bid that's much lower than the value of the decoy. As long as you don't get into a bidding war with someone who's determined to buy the piece, you can really get some good deals on some amazing decoys. Another benefit to using online auction sites is that you can find some rare pieces that you may not be able to otherwise. Although, one of the downsides is that you can't see the decoy is person before you buy it.
Trade shows are one of my favorite places to not only find duck decoys for sale, but also to talk and converse with other collectors. Visit the decoymag.com trade show page for a list of the dates and locations of the top decoy trade shows in the country. Even if you don't intend on buying anything at these shows, they are still an excellent way to learn more about decoys and make some connections in the industry. There's nothing wrong with walking around and talking to the vendors and asking them about their decoys. More than likely, they will be eager to tell you all about them.
Another little trick to finding some antique duck decoys is looking at flea markets. Don't get me wrong, it's usually a long shot, but if you see a flea market that looks like it might have some hunting and fishing gear, there's a chance they may have some. Just stop by and ask around at the booths to see if anyone sells decoys. I've found some pretty neat pieces at ridiculously low prices by doing so.
Tips For Buying Duck Decoys
As with most types of collectibles, the value of an item is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. If you're missing a certain type of decoy and stumble across one, you're probably willing to pay more. Duck decoys will range greatly in price, from a couple bucks to over $800,000. Okay, you might not see any for that price, but that's how much one of the worlds most expensive duck decoy was sold for. It was a red-breasted merganser hen by Lothrop Holmes that was sold at public auction for $856,000. This set a new world record for the most expensive decoy ever sold, although it's believed that two decoys have been sold at over a million dollars in a private sale.
Some of the factors that should affect the value of duck decoys are condition, age, level of craftsmanship, who carved it, and history behind it. When you're interested in a decoy, try to learn as much as you can about it by determining these things. If you need help, as always ask around. Other collectors and vendors will be more than happy to help you.
Storing Your Decoys
You could do what I did for a while and just store your decoys in the attic, but this is not the recommended method, as I've found out the humidity can do some damage on them. Instead, find a way to encapsulate an preserve your decoys, protecting them from dust and humidity. Trade shows are likely to have some storage options available, or you can make your own. I created a shelving unit with glass shadow boxes that allows me to not only protect my decoys, but show them off as well.
It's also important to keep your decoys protected from sunlight. If you leave your decoys near a window, over time the sun will begin to bleach the coat of painting on your decoys.