Vintage Duck Decoys
Hunting decoys were originally created by Native Americans to lure birds, they became extremely popular in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s with commercial hunters who provided restaurants with a steady supply of waterfowl. After the US passed the Migratory Bird treaty in 1918, however, hunting regulations became much more strict, and the commercial use of decoys was prohibited. Many hunters discarded or burned their decoys, believing they were of no further use. This severely limited the quantity of vintage carved decoys available, making them a popular collectors’ item and sparking a new hobby – duck decoy collecting.
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Duck decoys are made from a variety of materials, including wood, paper-mache, and cork. These collectible decoys were made by local and regional carvers, as well as produced in decoy factories. Both original carved decoys and reproductions can command decent prices for collectors; many of whom collect decoys from a specific region or made by a specific carver.
Wooden duck decoys were originally quite primitive, and gradually evolved into detailed works of folk art. Those interested in duck decoy collecting prize wooden decoys that are hand carved. These decoys are often stamped, signed, or otherwise marked with the carver’s name or the date. Wooden decoys were also factory produced, with the bodies being turned on lathes and the head and other details added on later.
Cork decoys were also produced in factories, and are also popular with duck decoy collectors. Cork decoys were popular with hunters because they floated realistically in the water, increasing the likelihood of bagging a higher number of ducks per day. These decoys were also hand painted, creating a realistic waterfowl image that is prized by modern day collectors.
As you begin your journey into decoy collecting, there are many ways to tell a vintage decoy from a modern reproduction. Older decoys have formal patterns of solid color paint, while modern reproductions have more realistic feathers painted on. The decoy’s eyes are another feature to examine – the older decoys often have tacks for eyes, or painted on eyes. Later decoys have glass or plastic eyes from taxidermy shops.
Whether you are a novice collector or a hunting enthusiast, you’re sure to be impressed by this historic art form. Vintage duck decoys capture a by-gone era in a historic folk art medium. Decoys can be added to your collection gradually, and you’re sure to find one that you like and that suits your budget. Prices for vintage decoys run from under $100 to record setting numbers, making collecting a popular hobby no matter your income. With more and more antique shops cropping up online, it’s easier than ever to find the perfect vintage duck decoy to add to your collection.