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On Tuesday, April 22nd, my wife and I flew to Chicago for the Guyette and Deeter duck decoy auction. This event is held in conjunction with the North American Decoy Collectors Association show at the Westin Chicago Lombard Hotel. Decoys are considered to be a branch of American folk art, the rarest of them have utility, beauty and age. The hotel rooms fill up with decoys as dealers and collectors sell and trade the wooden birds. I was chomping at the bit to visit these rooms, but first my wife insisted we visit our grandchildren who live in a Chicago suburb. Later that day I was able to acquire a rare bird that was made in 1915 and still retained its original paint. Decoys were used hard by duck hunters to lure in waterfowl and the most valuable of them are close to the original condition.


On Thursday morning, the auction began, and a full house of bidders was joined by internet bidding and a bank of phone bidders. The first item, a pintail decoy from Illinois made in 1935 by a well-known decoy maker, sold for $156,000. Several more items were hammered down at record prices. A goose made in New Jersey in 1920 brought $348,000. A plover decoy from 1915 and used for hunting shore birds sold for $228,000 and a gull used as a confidence decoy brought $204,000. The highlight of the auction, a black duck made in 1920 by the famed wood carver and painter Elmer Crowell, of East Harwich, Massachusetts, brought $462,000. The total for the two-day auction was $6.4 million. I was happy to have added two birds to my collection without breaking the bank. Another auction will be held in July. They say that precious metals and art are the best hedges against inflation. I hope that’s true.


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