Published: August 19, 2008
The third in the series of summer waterfowl auctions in New England, certainly the northernmost and perhaps the most popular of the events, was hosted by Guyette & Schmidt over the weekend of July 26 and 27. The two-day auction proved to be yet another solid event for the firm, grossing just over $1.6 million.
Despite the auction’s location having been juggled around in the past couple years, first from picturesque Ogunquit, Maine, to bustling Boston in 2006, and now back to Maine for 2008, the sale was attended by a large and enthusiastic crowd. Most in attendance were pleased to be back in the Maine region, close to the ocean, close to a plentiful supply of lobster and close to the original stomping grounds where Gary Guyette and Frank Schmidt first cut their teeth with auctioneer James Julia.
Two rooms adjacent to the auction hall were filled with dealers’ displays. This added to the excitement and there still seemed to be some wheeling and dealing going on among them, despite this being the third time in a little more than a week that the same core group of dealers exhibited alongside one another.
Prices at the auction for New England decoys and Mason Factory decoys were noted by the auctioneers as being particularly strong. The auction featured decoys from the collections of Joe French, Gene and Linda Kangas, Howard and Jean Wadell, J. Creighton Reipe Jr and Dave Galliher.
Despite the auction lacking the big-dollar decoys that many have become accustomed to watching sell during a Guyette & Schmidt auction, the sale was healthy overall, with one decoy eclipsing the $100,000 mark and approximately 40 others selling in excess of $10,000.
The sale got off to a brisk start with a selection of Mason Factory decoys. One of the first lots to be offered was a premier grade pintail drake with the head in a slightly alert pose. Guest auctioneer Jim Julia opened the lot for bidding at $6,000 and action came from the rear of the room and the telephones. The lot hammered down moments later well above estimates at $19,550.
A Canada goose by Mason, an early Twentieth Century example in excellent original paint, also did well, with it hammering down at $18,400.
The top lot of the sale came as an old squaw drake by Joseph Lincoln crossed the auction block. Called “One of the finest Lincolns to come to auction in some time,” the lot carried a presale estimate of $100/125,000. The lot was described in the catalog as having more detail in the paint and a more stylized presence than other Lincolns. The outstanding dry original paint showed an attractive mild crazing with the surface marred only by a couple large gauge shot pellets, a couple of which remained embedded in the side.
Frank Schmidt was manning a telephone line as the lot crossed the block. As Julia opened bidding at $70,000, a hand shot up from the rear row of the gallery, advancing the Lincoln to $80,000. Schmidt’s telephone bidder hit the lot at $90,000, and the bidder in the rear of the room hit it again at $100,000. The phone bidder hesitated as Julia asked for $110,000, and moments later Schmidt’s client cut the bid to $105,000. The bidder in the rear of the room hit the lot twice more on his way to claiming it at $137,000.
Three other Lincoln birds did well, with a sleek and stylized old squaw hen in excellent original paint selling at $69,000, a pintail drake in great paint $26,450, and a classic Lincoln-styled Canada goose went out between estimates at $20,700.
Shang Wheeler’s decoys, along with many of the other Stratford area carvers, seemingly hit a price plateau a few years back on the auction circuit; however, Shang’s birds attracted renewed attention at this most recent sale. Leading the way was a rare black duck in a sleeping pose that had been presented by the carver to George Johnson of Buffalo, N.Y., as a token of appreciation after a attending a hunting trip at Johnson’s club. The decoy descended in the family and was consigned by Johnson’s son.
The sleeping black duck had an unusual inletted head, but was otherwise classic Shang †with delicate lines, superb scratch paint on the head and elaborate feathering. The lot opened for bidding at $20,000 and was claimed by South Carolina dealer Dick McIntyre at $63,250.
A couple lots later, McIntyre would claim a pair of Shang wood ducks in original paint for $34,500. Also offered was a cane with a carved snake wrapped around the shaft and climbing toward an egg-form ball handle. The cane, in original paint, sold at the low estimate at $2,012.
Elmer Crowell decorative carvings did well, with a rare life-size common snipe topping the list. The early chip carved wooden base was marked on the bottom with Crowell’s oval brand. In excellent original paint, the feather carved mantel bird carried a presale estimate of $30/35,000 and sold at $32,775. A full sized black-bellied plover with the rectangular stamp on the base along with Crowell’s signature and the date 1942 hammered down between estimates at $29,900.
A hollow carved black duck by John English, from the New Jersey carver’s personal rig, was noted by the auctioneers as being in the “best condition of any John English low-head black duck that we have seen.” Branded “J. English” on the bottom, the decoy hammered down at $28,750.
A selection of southern decoys caught the eye of collectors, especially one small blue-winged teal that was offered at the end of the second day. Listing a provenance of the Reipe collection, the catalog revealed that the decoy had been purchased from Carrie Stump in 1974, and that Reipe had shown the bird to Madison Mitchell, who said it had been made by Joseph Cowden of Aiken, Md.
Estimated at $5/8,000, the decoy was in the dry original paint and displayed an attractive surface, untouched for nearly a century. A sleeper offered amid a selection of Ward Brothers decoys, bids came fast and furious, with it finally hammering down at $41,975.
A Nathan Cobb brant from Cobb’s Island, Va., in original paint was another of the Southern decoys to bring a premium price. A “big plump decoy,” it exhibited a “characteristic split tail, inset and splined hardwood bill and angled neck seat.” The decoy, in a worn old working repaint, sold at $33,350. A Nathan Cobb black duck with a serpentine neck and a serif “N” carved on the base sold at $27,600.
A rare hollow carved black duck carved by South Carolina maker Huck Caines also did well, selling at $26,450.
Maine and New Hampshire decoys also fared well, with a Gus Wilson merganser with rawhide “seaweed” in its bill exceeding estimates. In excellent dry original paint, the Maine carved decoy sold after active bidding at $19,550. An unusual mallard decoy by Wilson, made to resemble a bird in flight with extended wings, was sold at $14,375. New Hampshire carver George Boyd’s classic merganser exhibited what Guyette & Schmidt cataloged as “fine form with detailed feather paint on the breast.” Listing a provenance of Dale and Gary Guyette and later the collection of Phil Denormandie, the decoy went out between estimates at $17,825.
All prices include the buyer’s premium charged.
Guyette & Schmidt’s next decoy sale will take place November 12 and 13 in Easton, Md. For further information 410-745-0485, 207-625-8055 or www.guyetteandschmidt.com .
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