A preening whimbrel duck decoy will attract flocks of collectors to a February 15 auction in Charleston, South Carolina, which is being held in conjunction with the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition.
The auction will feature around 200 duck decoys, with items from the collections of Peter Bartlett, Carolyn Rowland, the Chincoteague Refuge Museum, Jim Ward, Robert Billingsley and John Hunsaker.
The preening whimbrel holds the highest estimate of the sale, valued at $30,000-40,000. This estimate is also shared by two greater yellowlegs decoys, all of which were made by master decoy carver Elmer Crowell (1861-1952).
Crowell was a Massachusetts local, who achieved his greatest success in carving decoys for the shooters at Cape Cod which, at the time, was one of the most popular shooting grounds in all of North America.
As stated in Brian Cullity's The Songless Aviary: "Crowel created the most spectacular group of painted carvings the hunting world had ever seen. His working decoys from this period (1900-1915) also show a degree of love, labour and art that is unparalleled in the decoy world."
According to Cullity, Crowell's friend Wallace Furman once commented that a yellowlegs shorebird was so stupid that it would "come to a sock on the stick", meaning that Crowell had no reason to create the masterpieces that he did other than for the sheer love of the art.
The preening whimbrel is noted for its unusual pose and its original paint, which has been applied in the finest detail. It bears an excellent patina, with just a small amount of shrinkage causing a crack to the painted thigh.
The current world record for duck decoys is shared by Crowell's pintail drake and Canada goose, which were each sold for $1.1m-1.3m privately in September 2007.
A red breasted merganser hen, produced by Lothrop Holmes, holds the auction record. It sold in January 2007 for $856,000.