Published: May 7, 2019
ST CHARLES, ILL. – Guyette & Deeter conducted its 34th annual spring decoy and sporting art auction on April 25-26 at the Pheasant Run Resort in conjunction with the North American Vintage Decoy and Sporting Collectibles Show. The auction grossed nearly $3 million, with five lots selling for more than $100,000 and 48 lots selling for more than $10,000. The sale featured the final grouping of decoys from the William J. Mackey Jr family holdings. The Mackey family had 94 lots in the sale for a total of $1,319,265, for an average lot price of an incredible $14,034 – the highest average lot price Guyette & Deeter has seen from a single collection. In total, the Mackey items sold 29 percent over the high estimate and 49 percent over their average estimate.
Of the top five lots in the sale, four came from the Mackey family. An important pair of mergansers by John Dawson sold well over estimate at $230,100, an early gull by Harry V. Shourds sold nearly double its estimate at $212,400, a famous swan by John Williams of Virginia for $194,700 and a rare feeding robin snipe by Obediah Verity went for $112,100.
The sale’s top lot was Dawson’s rare rigmate pair of American mergansers, which had been carved the in the first quarter of the Twentieth Century. The 18-inch hollow birds trounced their $80/120,000 estimate. With a Mackey collection stamp on the underside, the pair had an exhibition history that included the 1966 IBM Gallery of Art and Sciences in New York City and the 1967 St Paul Arts Center, St Paul, Minn.
The hollow carved herring gull by Shourds, the Tuckerton, N.J., carver, came with the same provenance and exhibition history. With carved bill, eyes and extended wingtips, the decoy was used as both a stick up and a floater. Shourds was arguably New Jersey’s finest carver. He carved decoys commercially for a variety of species, but his herring gulls are the rarest of all his work.
Williams’ look down swan was the catalog’s cover lot. Carved in the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century, its appeal shone through its old paint, cracks and light hits by shot. The Virginia carver’s swans have brought high prices in the past, including $348,500 in 2018 and $131,500 in 2011. Bill Mackey was one of the first to recognize the outstanding qualities of Williams’ carvings, and the swans became a focal point in his collection. The look down swan had remained a treasured possession of the family and was offered at Guyette & Deeter for the first time since Mackey’s death in 1972.
The group of Mackey decoys that were offered in this sale comprised some of the most well-known decoys from William J. Mackey Jr’s original collection. The firm’s catalog states, “Mackey knew that someday decoys would be valuable, but that is not why he collected them. He liked nothing more than spending time with the carvers and baymen he met. He would bring back loads of decoys and tales of the men that created them . . .Now this final group of Mackey’s incredible collection will be entrusted to present and future generations.”
Also making the top five list was a wood duck drake by Tom Chambers from the Chua Collection, selling for $135,700, one of only two known by this maker.
The sale featured decoys and sporting art from the collections of longtime decoy collectors Jim Cook, Jonathan and Virginia Chua, Paul Tudor Jones II, Don Kirson, Doug and Ellen Miller, David Meyer, Dick Stephenson, Bill Staplin, Jim Karsnitz and Ron Swanson.
Sporting art and duck calls have always been a specialty of Guyette & Deeter. A new world record was set for a painting by David Maass, titled “Canvasback Flight,” which sold for $25,370. Lynn Bogue Hunt’s paintings were popular among bidders – the ringneck pheasants painting sold for $16,520, and “On the Bear River Marshes” brought $15,340. Among the calls, a rare crow call carved by Charles Perdew sold at the auction for $8,850, and a rare six-layer brick model duck call by William Clifford went for $8,378.
A continual influx of new buyers at all price levels is having an impact on this decoy market. New buyer participation in this sale was strong, with 34 new buyers participating and representing nearly ten percent of the auction total. This auction revealed the demand for the more expensive items. Guyette & Deeter’s guaranteed condition reports, along with a trusted reputation for giving sound collecting advice, have worked to create a comfortable environment for their clients. Guyette & Deeter’s goal is to provide advice that will encourage buyers to continue collecting into the future.
Bid calling was done by Jim Julia and Dudley Brown.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium, as stated by the auction house.
Guyette & Deeter’s next auction will be conducted on July 22-23 at the Sheraton Harborside Hotel in Portsmouth, N.H. Consignments of decoys, decorative carvings and flat art for the sale will be accepted until June 1 or until full.
For additional information, www.guyetteanddeeter.com, 410-745-0485 or 440-610-1768.
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