A nesting Canada goose by A. Elmer Crowell (1862-1952) sold for $661,250 at auction last month. (Photo courtesy Copley Fine Art Auctions)
On July 15 and 16 of this year, Copley Fine Art Auctions held its sporting sale in Plymouth, Ma. Among the many items to be sold were seven wonderful A. Elmer Crowell decoys. (Please see Duck, Duck, Goose: Superb and Valuable A. Elmer Crowell Decoys)
I knew I couldn’t go to the auction to see these decoys in person so I ordered the auction catalogue. It was more expensive than the usual auction catalogue, but there was a bonus that made the price worthwhile. An extra volume beautifully illustrating the Crowell decoys was included with the regular auction catalogue. Entitled “The Harry V. Long Collection of A. Elmer Crowell Decoys,” it is 85-plus pages of fabulous photographs by David Allen of these magnificent decoys. I have had to wipe the drool off of the pages several times as I looked through it. There are also numerous black and white photos by Harry V. Long as well. The text gives backgrounds of the collector, Harry v. Long, including his directorship in the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (now Historic New England), as well as the artist, Elmer Crowell. The lots are then described in detail and illustrated with beautiful multiple images of each decoy.
Preening Pintail drake by A. Elmer Crowell, circa 1900-1910, sold for $546,250 at auction. (Photo courtesy Copley Fine Art Auctions)
Six of the seven Crowell decoys from the Long collection came in within estimate. The nesting Canada goose realized the highest price for a single item in this auction at $661,250 (est. $600,000-$900,000), and the preening pintail came in at $546,250 (est. $500,000-$900,000). The tuck head merganser brought $207,000, the most unusual calling yellowlegs brought $172,500, while the black duck and the black-bellied plover each also brought $115,000. There were two record breakers for the decoys of the Long collection; the merganser more than doubled the previous record for the species (2000) and the calling yellowlegs more than tripled the previous auction record for a Crowell yellowlegs. The fact that Long commissioned these pieces from the carver and kept them in the family until last month provides a very desirable provenance for each of these decoys. Bonuses to the buyers of these decoys are the photographs in the supplement catalogue of these decoys displayed in the Long home.
Open-bill Calling Yellowlegs with dropped wings by A. Elmer Crowell, circa 1910, sold for $172,500 at auction. (Photo courtesy Copley Fine Art Auctions)
There were also more than 390 lots of decoys, working and decorative, as well as some 200 lots of art, mostly wildlife and sporting art. There were other Crowell decoys offered at the sale that were not part of the Long collection. A life-size ruddy turnstone brought a record $80,500 (est. $30,000-$60,000). As you know from my previous article (Duck, Duck ,Goose) Crowell made sets of miniature ducks and songbirds. One complete set of 25 sold at this auction for a record $92,000 (est. $75,000-$125,000).
Overall, the auction realized $4.16 million, indicating that even with a shaky economy the good stuff still sells.
Laura Collum is a Worthologist who specializes in decoys, nautical and scientific instruments.
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