Published: September 4, 2007
A large selection of Elmer Crowell miniature and decorative carvings had the capacity crowd sitting on the edge of their seats at Eldred’s on August 1, during the fourth and final auction conducted during the summer series of decoy sales. The first of several consecutive auctions for Eldred’s that range from Americana to Asian, this sale is always a popular finale.
With close to 200 lots of waterfowl and fishing materials, it is the smallest of the four auctions, yet there is always a great assortment of material, and this year was no exception. Included in the grouping was an impressive selection of Crowell decorative and miniature carvings that had remained in the same family since they were originally purchased directly from the carver.
The shorebirds and minis were all very early, many marked with the rubber stamp, and they had been collected by Mr J.B. Chase during the 1920s and 1930s. Chase had a keen eye and many of the birds exhibited some of Crowell’s finest painting techniques.
The auction began with a selection of Mason decoys, with the first lot capturing the interest of several in the crowd. Estimated at $2,5/3,500, a pair of Challenge grade canvasback decoys opened for bidding at $2,500 and took off with telephone bidders and several in the crowd chasing the lot. Retaining the original paint and leather line-loops, the decoys sold to a buyer in the room for $14,950. A pair of Mason bluebill decoys in rough condition followed, bringing only $373.
A Joseph Lincoln bluebill drake with some old in-use repaint did well at $4,025, while a repainted Lincoln brant hammered down at $3,105.
A nice plover shorebird from the Accord area did well as it sold for $10,350, a golden plover thought to be from Cobb’s Island went out at $7,475, and a set of tin fold-up sanderling decoys brought $3,335.
The selection of miniature decoys got underway with a George Boyd Canada goose in a swimming pose selling at $7,475; an alert head Boyd goose brought $3,450, and a miniature black duck sold at $1,610.
It wasn’t long before the Crowell carvings crossed the auction block and the first item up was a miniature curlew jack from the Chase collection. Bidding on the lot opened at $3,000, with Bob Wilkins, seated in the rear with partner Suzanne Courcier, of Courcier and Wilkins, chasing the lot in competition with a couple of people in the room and on the telephones until he claimed the carving at $9,200.
A black neck stilt was next, with it also selling at $9,200 to a telephone bidder, and a miniature greater yellowlegs sold Wilkins’ way for $6,900.
Other Crowell minis included a bar-tailed godwit at $9,200, a Hudsonian godwit $8,625, a ruddy turnstone $6,900, a dunlin $6,325, a knot $6,900 and a Wilson’s plover at $8,625. A small group of shorebirds included a willet and a Wilson’s snipe selling for $7,475 each, a lesser yellowlegs at $5,750, and a solitary sandpiper brought $6,325.
An oversized miniature Canada goose in preening form took off with a bidder in the rear row battling with a phone bidder until he claimed the lot at $20,700, and a pair of oversized miniature Canada geese on a clam-shell base brought $26,450 from a telephone bidder.
A life-sized semipalmated plover decorative carving by Crowell was getting some serious attention during preview, and by sale time strategies had been formed by several in the crowd. Estimated at $25/35,000, auctioneer Robert Eldred looked for an opening bid of $20,000 and got it right away. Bids bounced back and forth around the tent with several phone bidders trying to get in on the action as well until the lot was hammered down at $51,750, selling to Wilkins and Courcier.
A life-sized green wing teal drake with spread wings in a flying form by Crowell was another lot to do well, with it selling at $25,300. A life-size kingfisher with a minnow in its bill, mounted on a carved tree-trunk base, was also bid to $25,300.
A rare least tern in flying form was actively bid, with it selling at $19,550, while a life-size lesser yellowlegs brought $20,700.
More Crowell minis were sold next, with prices ranging from $2,530 for a bufflehead drake to $6,900 for a redhead hen.
Sporting and military items were also offered, with a selection of fishing related materials including a selection of Von Hofe salmon reels with the original boxes, selling between $287 and $402. An Oscar Peterson brook trout fish decoy sold at $4,020 and a tin tackle box with assorted lures brought $632.
A good selection of firearms rounded out the auction, with a Sackreuter European double rifle bringing $9,200; a Marlin Ballard rifle in 32-40 went out at $8,050, and a Brenneke drilling sold at $1,725.
A rare Colt model 1911 semi-automatic pistol in 45 caliber was bid to $9,200, and a Colt model 1860 revolver in 44 caliber brought $1,380.
A rare bowie knife with a coffin-shaped carry box was also sold, bringing $4,887.
Prices include the buyer’s premium. For further information, contact Eldred’s, 508-385-3116 or www.eldreds.com .
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