Published: July 31, 2007
They were among the biggest ever seen or heard †some might even call them whoppers †and they were even bigger than the ones hooked at the last fishing outing back in April. Every fisherman has his tale and, as time has told, the details often grow and are soon exaggerated to an unrealistic point. Such seems to be the case with the tales told after the this past weekend’s Guyette and Schmidt auction, where fishing collectibles brought seemingly exaggerated, although thoroughly documented, prices.
Another grouping of fish decoys, dubbed the “remainder of the finest collection of Lake Chautauqua fish decoys to ever come to auction,” had bidders angling from all quarters as they drove prices to new record levels. Hot on the heels pf the previous offering, sold during the record-setting auction conducted by Guyette and Schmidt this past April in St Charles, Ill., the fish decoys once again performed beyond expectations.
Provenance on a musky spearing decoy and a trout spearing decoy with a jigging stick by an “unknown maker” listed both as found together “in an attic” and “carved by Mr Smith, the homeowner’s father-in-law.” The catalog referred to the musky decoy as ranking “as one of the finest New York fish made.” In unused condition, the lot opened for bidding in the gallery with a called out “do or die” bid of $27,500; a phone bidder was quick to counter and the lot sold to the telephone for $34,500.
The trout was offered next and a different tact was taken, although it, too, proved unsuccessful. The lot opened at $9,000, yet it ultimately went to the same phone bidder, also selling at $34,500. The pair now share the record for the highest price paid for a fish decoy at auction, eclipsing the previous record of $32,200 established seven years ago at the McCleery sale.
The same buyer claimed at least six of the lots offered, including another Lake Chautauqua musky decoy at $24,150 and a Harry Seymour trout spearing decoy at $21,850.
Although not pertaining to fish, another huge story emerged from the auction when a picker waltzed into the auction room on Friday morning, just prior to the auction starting, with a “tag sale” find that he wanted to sell. The six decoys and shorebirds were immediately consigned to the auction. “These are right out of a home,” declared auctioneer James Julia as the first of the lots was offered on Saturday morning. Among the group was a Joseph Lincoln brant decoy that sold to New Hampshire dealer Russ Goldberger for $37,950, a Russ Burr plover that also went Goldberger’s way for $28,750, and two other Burr plovers realized $27,600 each. The “picker’s” total; a cool $147,200, with premium.
Other decoys that brought exceptional prices included a John English pintail hen in exceptional paint that sold for $225,000, an Ira Hudson merganser hen with folky carved comb brought a record price of $214,000, a pintail drake by Ontario carver Ivar Fernlund established a record at $126,000 and a John Blair black duck sold at $97,750. Shorebirds also did well, with a plover with a removable head by an unknown carver selling at $109,250, and a black-bellied plover by Obediah Verity sold for a record price for the carver at $94,875.
A complete review will appear in a future issue.
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