Bufflehead drake decoy by A.E. Crowell could fetch $125,000-$175,000 at Decoys Unlimited, July 28-29 Early 20th century decoys by the renowned carver A. E. Crowell, plus other highly collectible decoys, will all come up for bid at a Summer Decoy Auction slated for July 28-29 by Decoys Unlimited, Inc.
News-Antique.com - Jul 14,2013 - (HYANNIS, Mass.) – Rare and important early 20th century decoys by the renowned carver A. E. (Elmer) Crowell (Mass., 1862-1952), plus other highly collectible decoys, nautical items and Americana from across North America, will all come up for bid at a Summer Decoy Auction slated for July 28-29 by Decoys Unlimited, Inc., at the Cape Codder Resort and Hotel.
Around 900 lots will be offered at the Sunday-Monday sale. “This promises to be a well-rounded auction, with something for everyone and every pocketbook,” said Ted Harmon, owner of Decoys Unlimited, Inc. “We have a large collection of decoys by Charlie Joiner from the Ballard collection, factory decoys by Stevens, Mason and Evans, and of course the Crowells.”
One of the Crowells – an early bufflehead drake, crafted circa 1910-1912 – carries a pre-sale estimate of $125,000-$175,000. “This is the rarest and finest Crowell decoy we have ever been privileged to handle,” Harmon said. “It is essentially flawless, made during Crowell’s prime and carved as a working decoy but never rigged. It basically floated on a mantle for a century.”
It is also the highest-graded bufflehead drake by Crowell ever offered and one of only two known in this premier grade. The decoy was originally gifted by Crowell to his good friend Chester Eldridge. Eldridge’s granddaughter often played on the floor of Crowell’s workshop with Crowell’s granddaughter, Peggy Crowell, while Crowell whittled and the two men talked.
The second and third top lots in the auction are likely not to be Crowell decoys at all, but exceedingly rare hooded mergansers rendered by a member of the Hutchings family Jones Falls, Ontario, Canada. One, a hen, is regarded by many veteran collectors as the finest example of its kind known. With a thin crest that sweeps back to a point, it should command $65,000-$70,000.
The other is a drake, with fully extended crest and a professionally restored front bill (est. $50,000-$60,000). Both mergansers were acquired in 1896 near Chaffey’s Locks (Ontario), from James Smith, who received them by descent from his father, Henry Darling Smith. He acquired them in 1920 from Knox Williams, a local blacksmith who bought them directly from the carver.
An A. E. Crowell piece expected to generate keen bidder interest is a black-bellied plover mounted on a carved “rock” base, executed circa 1912 (est. $35,000-$45,000). “Just when you think you’ve seen the best of the decorative works by Elmer Crowell, an amazing example like this comes along,” Harmon said. “The head, the bill and the split tail are all masterfully carved.”
A pair of dowitcher decoys by Crowell are each expected to fetch $25,000-$35,000. Amazingly, they had been kept in a bank safety deposit box for 50 years on the advice of the consignor’s grandfather, who predicted “they would be very valuable someday and well worth putting away.” To say he was prescient would be an understatement. Both are stunning birds.
One is a gunning model dowitcher having a split tail with raised wingtips, excellent original paint and