Crowell miniature blue heron brings record $31,050 at Decoys Unlimited An extremely rare miniature great blue heron made by renowned American carver A. Elmer Crowell (1862-1952) sold for a record $31,050 at a Summer Decoy Auction held July 15-16 by Decoys Unlimited, Inc.
News-Antique.com - Aug 06,2012 - (HYANNIS, Mass.) – An extremely rare miniature great blue heron made by renowned American carver A. Elmer Crowell (1862-1952) sold for $31,050 at a Summer Decoy Auction held July 15-16 by Decoys Unlimited, Inc., at the Cape Codder Resort & Hotel. It was a new auction record for a Crowell miniature, breaking the previous mark set about five minutes earlier.
That’s when the lot immediately preceding the blue heron – an American egret standing 8 ½ inches tall and boasting the superb original paint – changed hands for $25,875, breaking the previous record of $25,300 (set at a 2004 auction, also held by Decoys Unlimited, Inc.). Where it took eight years for the egret to enter the record books, it took minutes for that record to fall.
The great blue heron, at just over 8 ½ inches tall, was about twice the size of a typical Crowell miniature bird of this species, which no doubt drove up the price. It was mounted on a carved “rock” base with subtle undulations and the piece was signed on the base in Crowell’s hand (“Blue Heron”). The surface of the decoy was flawless, with nicely blended feather detail.
“All the Crowell carvings in this sale were strong, as were miniatures by A.J. King and George Boyd,” said Ted Harmon, owner of Decoys Unlimited, Inc., based in Barnstable, Mass. He added, “The market is much stronger than it was in 2008 and 2009. Things are bouncing back. The back-to-back Crowell miniature record-breakers are indicative of a healthy demand.”
The auction was held in conjunction with Swap & Sell, an annual event held by Decoys Unlimited that brings together dealers, collectors and other decoy enthusiasts from across the country. The auction and Swap & Sell drew a combined crowd of about 400 people, while the auction grossed right around $1.15 million. Internet bidding was facilitated by Artfact.com.
Following are additional highlights from the auction, in which 1,021 lots came up for bid. All prices quoted include a 15 percent buyer’s premium.
While the name Crowell was chanted frequently throughout the sale, one of his decoys was not the top lot. That honor went to an exceedingly rare red knot in breeding plumage, with carved wings and shoulders, by John Dilley (Quoque, N.Y.). The decoy, showing intricately painted feather detail and in untouched, original near-mint condition, hammered for $51,750.
Three other birds topped the $30,000 mark. One was a magnificent pintail drake made circa 1910-1920 by Lloyd B. Sterling (Crisfield, Md.). The decoy, having a broad body style with an elongated, gracefully upswept tail, brought $37,375. Another was a rare crook neck “hissing” goose by George Boyd (1873-1941), New Hampshire’s premier carver. It hit $31,625.
Other George Boyd examples that got paddles wagging included an extremely rare miniature dovekie on a “signature” square wooden base in fine original condition, with numerous collection stickers on the bottom ($5,750); and a scarce miniature mountain plover with the words “Mountain Plover Male” in pencil and “1889” in ink at