Decoy Value Points

The following features will influence both how a decoy is valued today and its potential for appreciation over time.

  1. Maker (if known).
    Most quality decoys can be identified by maker. Certain makers are held in higher esteem than others, and they tend to be judged the best makers in a given region. So, for instance, Elmer Crowell is regarded as far and away the most desirable maker from New England, and probably anywhere in decoy collecting. Other top makers include Harry V. Shourds (New Jersey), Robert Elliston and Charles Perdew (Illinois), and Mason (among decoy factories).

  2. Species.
    Less common species for a given maker or region are more desirable. For example, Elmer Crowell made many black ducks, but far fewer mallards and pintails, which accordingly command higher prices.

  3. Grade.
    With Masons, Premier and Challenge grade decoys sell consistently for more than Standard grade decoys, although a particularly rare Standard grade example may command a higher price. Among individual makers, some carvers offered different grades of decoys. Crowell, for example, made decoys for commercial sale via the Iver Sporting Goods Company of Boston, and while desirable, they tend to sell for a bit less than his individual efforts. Read more about grade in our Beginner's Guide.

  4. Attitude.
    A decoy carved as a sleeper, preener or flyer will generally command more money than a decoy in a normal content sitting pose.

  5. Condition.
    Original paint is critical, as is original structural condition. In general, restoration reduces value. See our article on Restoration for more information about what types of restoration are acceptable and what types are not.

  6. Folk art appeal.
    A decoy by an unknown maker with many of the features discussed above and with broad folk art appeal will also command a premium price.