I enjoy a good decalogue, so here's my 10-point case why decoys will soar above all Americana arts in the future.
1. Most art historians consider waterfowl decoys as the only indigenous folk art in North America. All others migrated here. Decoys come with a 2,000-year old legacy that crept out of a cave in Nevada. Consequently, waterfowl decoys represent Native American culture and Americana better (more authentically) than any other art form.
2. Decoys are void of institutional and affluent elitisms unlike fine art, rare books, and most cultural art forms. No establishment dictates what makes a great or valuable decoy. Auction houses and dealers enable the "invisible hand" of our free market. We, the Collectors, form the social union and create the supply and demand. It's all very forthright and simple.
3. Decoys are tactile. In a world of velvet ropes, glass cases, and overall flat-screen modernization, human touch matters and there's something unique about holding a decoy in your hands and that it's common practice to do so. The topic of decoys is also very conversational.
4. Decoy collectors are not snobby toward contemporary makers. Decoys are judged by construction method, form, carving detail, and paint. Gratitude (and demand) is rightfully extended to contemporary decoy makers that carry on the great tradition. New inventory allows for industry growth without changing the game or rules. The hobby thrives without mass media or popular culture. This is unique in the art world.
5. Unlike fine art, big names don't totally dominate the decoy market. A great decoy collection can be assembled without Crowell, Cobb, Lincoln, Mason, or Wards. No brand or region is essential. Personal preferences, in the eye of the beholder, are universally respected among decoy collectors.
6. The great architect, Joel Barber, designed our matrix for growth. We've evolved from decoy hunters and gathers to a cooperative society of decoy collectors and merchants. This is irreversible and very scalable. Joel Barber would be very proud us.
7. Decoys represent the art of forging materials, enduring outdoor elements, and our primal instincts of hunting and taking game. Regardless of the collector's gender or view on hunting - true grit mixed with fine art greatly appeals to human nature.
8. Decoys are both plentiful enough to ignite the interest of beginners and rare enough to obsess the purists. Decoys are accessible to anyone, starting at any price point. Resources about collecting are more abundant than ever before.
9. Mass produced collectibles (Star Wars, Baseball Cards, Coins, Video Games, etc.) will never garner more appeal than something unique, hand carved, and hand painted. Decoys represent craftsmanship and tradition. Pride and passions are exemplified in the finding, handling, acquiring, refining, and arranging a decoy collection. I've never seen a collection of anything displayed as well as a collection of decoys in terms of stunning variety, brilliant colors, unique forms, and in the artful manner by which they're exhibited. Building a private collection is an art form.
10. There's a rising popularity in bird knowledge. Perhaps it's environmental awareness, or love for the feathered kingdom, or perhaps it's the popularity of Wingspan - whatever it is, I've noticed a growing interest in bird books, Audubon stuff, bird watching, bird calling, and bird knowledge. As these enthusiasts become inevitably intrigued by investment quality decoys, each aging generation will push decoy collecting to new heights in the 21st century.