Early Crowell bufflehead drake soars to $207,000 at Decoys Unlimited July 28-29 auction on Cape Cod An early bufflehead drake decoy, made around 1910-1912 by A.E. (Elmer) Crowell (Mass., 1862-1952), soared to $207,000 at a Summer Decoy Auction held July 28-29 by Decoys Unlimited, Inc., on Cape Cod.
News-Antique.com - Aug 02,2013 - (HYANNIS, Mass.) – An early bufflehead drake decoy, made around 1910-1912 by the renowned carver A.E. (Elmer) Crowell (Mass., 1862-1952), the highest-graded bufflehead drake by Crowell ever offered, and one of only two known in such a high pristine grade, soared to $207,000 at a Summer Decoy Auction held July 28-29 by Decoys Unlimited, Inc., on Cape Cod.
The sale was held at the Cape Codder Resort and Hotel in Hyannis, in conjunction with Swap & Sell, an annual event staged by Decoys Unlimited that brings together dealers, collectors and other decoy enthusiasts from across the U.S. The auction and Swap & Sell drew a combined crowd of about 400 people. A little over 900 lots were offered over the course of the two days.
The Crowell bufflehead drake was easily the auction’s top lot, sailing past its pre-sale estimate of $125,000-$175,000. “It was also the rarest and finest Crowell decoy we ever had the privilege of handling,” said Ted Harmon, owner of Decoys Unlimited, Inc. “It was essentially a flawless bird, made during Crowell’s prime and carved as a working decoy but never rigged.”
Many of the decoys offered were made by Crowell, which helped push the sale’s gross total to just under $1 million. But other outstanding carvers were represented, too, names such as Henry Keyes Chadwick, Capt. Clarence Bailey, Joseph Lincoln, Ira Hudson, George and Harvey Stevens, Domingo Campo, Lem and Steve Ward, Allen J. King, Mason, Evans and many others.
“It was a well-rounded auction, with something for everyone and every pocketbook,” Harmon said. “The market is extremely strong, especially for the better decoys. We had a large collection of near mint decoys by Charlie Joiner from the Ballard collection. Prices ranged from $300-$2,000. Already we're considering a sale in November, as decoys are still arriving daily.”
Harmon added, “Decoys at all levels are back on the rise, with the greatest price hike in the very good to better examples. Prices are once again in the mid-to-high-five figure level, wity the occasional rare decoy in pristine condition bringing six figures. I believe the rare Crowell bufflehead drake that sold for $207,000 is a high water mark for a single decoy in some time.”
Following are additional highlights from the auction. Internet bidding was facilitated by Artfact.com. All prices quoted include a 15 percent buyer’s premium.
The top earners of the auction were overwhelmingly examples by Elmer Crowell. His exquisite life-size decorative carving of a black-bellied plover with outstanding original paint and mounted on an undulating “rock” base brought $40,250; while an outstanding goose with immaculate original paint changed hands for $31,050.
A Crowell gunning model dowitcher featuring split tail with raised wingtips, recently retrieved from a bank safety deposit box where in western Massachusetts where it had been kept for the past 50 years, fetched $28,750; and a circa-1912 mallard drake with its head turned to one side, showing classic Crowell rasp work to the rear of the head, never rigged, went for $14,375.