Do You Have Old Wooden Decoys?!
What a great journey it’s been 35 years of studying old wooden decoys from all over the world & helping people evaluate their decoys always free of charge. I am semi-retired and thrilled about the many folks that contact me every day from all parts of North America. I enjoy giving back for all I have been given in life.
My payment has been countless new friends.
Your old wooden duck goose even shorebird decoys may be priceless to you for sentimental reasons or could be some of the valuable antique decoys the millionaire collectors are hoping to find.
Find out by simply e-mailing a picture of your old birds.
I know that all of you reading this have dreamed of finding treasure in some form, as we wonder with anticipation from antique shops to flea markets and to the internet.
Too many folks have overlooked the value of old wooden decoys pushed into an old basket in a corner. My goal is to help you all see the possibilities of your old decoys.
I have been called Canada’s Foremost Authority on Historical Decoys by much of North America’s media, Outdoor Canada Magazine, The Toronto Star, The Ottawa Citizen, Global News, CBC TV, CTV TV, CJOH TV, PBS, and so many more.
The history of decoys in North America dates back at lest 2000 years. Wow most people didn’t realize that. Decoys are noted even further back in other parts of the world like early Egypt. The oldest decoys in North America are housed in the Smithsonian Museum. These unique bird replicas were found in an Arizona cave and were dated with native pottery pieces found alongside. Our traditional wooden decoys were primarily made in the mid 1800's to the mind 1900's.
In the last 100 years “decoy” means many things to many different people.
To most is an artificial duck or bird carved of wood.
To hunters it is a tool required for successful waterfowling.
To Collectors it means a desired folk art.
To Antique dealers it is a supplemented income and a wonderful accent to country furniture.
To Steven Lloyd it is his life long study and passion.
What if your decoys could talk?
A famous saying often used when talking about decoys is
“If only this old bird could talk, imagine the stories it would tell.”
If you have enjoyed your decoys in your home or cottage, THAT’S GREAT but I’m sure you have wondered what all of us decoy owners have.
What about the history?
Who made this decoy?
Where is it from?
Where has it been used?
How did it get here?
Why was it made this way?
What kind of duck is it?
Who owned it?
Is it documented?
Whose initials are on the bottom?
Is it valuable?
Would a museum want my decoy?
Most of these questions can be answered, some easier than others.
You can start by sending a picture of your decoys to Steven. As a well seasoned decoy researcher and Canada’s foremost Authority on decoys he can often answer many of these questions with a glance of your decoy.
The Word “ Decoy ”
1 a bird or mammal, or an imitation of one, used by hunters to lure game.
2 a thing used to mislead or lure someone into a trap.
3 a pond from which narrow netted channels lead, into which wild duck may be enticed for capture. verb lure by means of a decoy.
Decoy’s are a functional tool primary that was used with as many as 300 similar blocks to lure in wild birds to excited waiting hunters.
To day, many decoys are still used for hunting but many thousands have been retired and are being used in Antique shops to lure in wild decoy collectors, excited about finding the next treasure.
Like the early hunters that had different opinions about what was the best decoy and how they should be used.
Today’s collectors have similar opinions on what decoys are treasures or trash.
In the most early days of decoys they were primitively constructed from materials on hand, marsh grass, tamarack, mud, twigs even animal skins. All usually had a few found feathers of wild birds to add color and texture.
From the mid 1800's to 1918 was the glory years of decoys. Thousands of decoys were carved out. The market hunters were in full flight and the demand for wooden decoys was higher than what could be supplied. There were many individual carvers that sold decoys but soon factories took the overflow. The Mason, Dodge, Stevens, Victor, and Peterbourgh Decoy Companies were some of the many ones.
The diehard men hunting day after day. Many even in spring and fall. It’s a known fact that many of these outdoors men prided themselves on hitting three or more ducks per shot on a regular basis. Then unfortunately for the waterfowl there was the invention of the punt gun. It was like a small canon that was bolted to the duck boat and could shoot dozens per shot.
In these days ducks were an important source of food for early families.
Many for the commercial hunters also sold at a market. The folks would go into town and sell the days hunt often by the pair. The ducks were also shipped in barrels by rail to larger centers. In early days it was common in all the upscale restaurants to order a wild duck dinner or in some areas geese, swans, even shorebirds.
Criteria for Evaluation & Appraising Old Decoys
Most collector and investors agree on the following criteria.
1 Condition, as perfect as when it was originally made.
2 Damage, rule of the thumb the more damage the more the value drops.
3 The carver, the decoys of well-known carvers often bring higher prices.
4 Documentation, decoys that are documented are usually more desirable
5 Rarity, of the decoy, by specie, construction, or numbers produced.
6 Folk art, unique construction or a creative pose often catches a different eye.
7 Matching pairs or sets of birds appeals to many collectors & investors.
8 Museums often have interest in documented & unique decoys.9 Our economy, if things are good in the world decoys price are often up.
10 “A Bird In Hand” is true today as it was years ago. Collectors and researchers like myself often only get one opportunity in a life time to buy a dream decoy. We often have dreamed of a certain bird is still out there. So yes, I have paid much more than market price for a few dream decoys in my collection.
What has happened to the thousands of decoys?
Do these stories sound familiar?
1 I lent them to a hunting buddy & they never found their way home.
2 I left them in my duck boat on the shore, in the morning they were gone.
3 I once had a great retriever but she loves eating the bills off decoys.
Before my great retriever I had great decoys.
4 A great storm came up fast from the northwest and swept them all out to sea.
5 They looked so real they were shot into tooth picks!
6 My great old hollowed body decoys sank!
7 I gave them to my son & nephew.
8 I sold them for $2.00 each, years ago & bought plastics.
9 My wife sold them at her yard sale.
10 I gave them to a friend that liked them.
TRASH OR TREASURE
One mans trash is another’s treasure.
There are many ways of saying it.
My way is, if you have old wooden, duck, geese, shorebirds, owls, crows even seagulls, “FIND OUT WHAT YOU HAVE!”
Antique Road Shows.
There are many different Antique Road Shows in different parts of the world. All have the same intent. To help people with that common dream of knowledge of their old items. All of the millions of people that watch week after week hope that they see a glimpse of an item similar to the one in their den.
Your decoys may very well be that treasure! I have seen thousands of old dusty, dirty decoys pulled from under cottages, attics of houses, in the loft of boat houses, chopped out of the ice, even pulled from the bottom of lakes, that are very valuable.
My Dad, Grandfather or Uncle made my decoys.
This is often the case. But more often than not there are a few decoys that were found on the shores by our family member while they were hunting. Many times these are the treasures. Every larger rig (flock) of decoys have these diamonds. Often found in apple baskets, brand sacks or old fish boxes so may decoys are still found in.
A full basket of decoys may be valued from $10.00 to $1,000.00 each.
Looking for the valuable ducks in a basket is tricky.
First use an old saying. “ Put all your ducks in A.”
Look for differences. Identify the different species. Look for the more rare species like hooded mergansers, shorebirds, teal, geese, gulls or even early mallards.
Many people have decoys that have been in their family for generations or are from a past love one. I feel it is important to be sensitive in sharing my knowledge while informing the family of the value and history of their decoys.
It's great to have old decoys but it adds so much to the pleasure of owning a fine old decoy when you have details of its history. I love seeing pictures of your Dad’s or Grandad’s decoys but so often decoys in the rig were made by others. That’s often a good thing! Many pictures of valuable factory made, Mason decoys have been thought to be made by Dad. Masons can be worth, many thousands . . .
My dream is to help as many people as possible in my life time evaluate their old wooden decoys and to educate folks, city dwellers and county folk, about their decoys, the history and their value.
“The National Decoy Information Center” \Steven Lloyd 441 Elmwood Drive, Belleville, Ontario, Canada, K8N 4Z6 firstname.lastname@example.org 1-613-922-7000