EASTON, MD. — There were decoys aplenty at Guyette, Schmidt & Deeter’s 27th annual fall decoy auction on November 6–7 at the Talbot County Community Center, but the top lot of the sale was a late addition, an outstanding cigar store Indian princess. The figure was bid to $747,000 (including premium), an auction record, according to the firm, going to a private collector bidding by phone. A total of 12 phone bidders along with the audience participated. Leigh Keno, representing another private collector, was the underbidder.
“It was great,” said firm co-principal John Deeter after the sale. “Everybody in Easton was talking about it afterward.” He noted that it was very gratifying for his company, already known as one of the premier decoy auction houses in the country, to bring such a rare and great item to market. “Because decoys are considered a form of folk art, our audience appreciates great form, surface and provenance; although this was slightly different, it shows we have credibility.”
The figure has nearly perfect provenance, dating back to photographs of it in front of the original tobacco shop in Louisville, Ky., prior to 1890. It was removed from the store in 1974 and had been kept in a single owner’s home since that time. Paint analysis on the figure was conducted by Jennifer Mass and shows to be an original period surface. At 83 inches tall, the figure commanded a lot of attention from the folk art world, and clearly was valued far above its $125/250,000 presale estimate by the successful bidder.
A complete report of the sale will appear in a future issue. In the meantime, an entertaining YouTube video is up, showing the auction action with a spirited Jim Julia as auctioneer cajoling ever higher bids from the phone bank. —WD