Guest essay by Travis Bryant
What is an antique decoy to you? Is it art; a piece of history that tells a story; a woodcarving masterpiece; an investment; all of the above; or firewood? I'm guessing that firewood is not the answer if you have found your way to this article. The reason I ask this question is that there
are many collectors out there that collect because of different interests and that is OK! You can see my small Stevens Decoy collection in the photo to the right.
Growing up as an avid waterfowl hunter and woodworker, the reason I was drawn to antique decoys is because each one contains a piece of history that I relate to. When I first began to collect decoys I fell in love with the different construction methods, how they floated in the water, the evolution of the ballast weights from iron log staples to lead weights, and the different styles based on region. I never once looked at the paint of a decoy to dictate my interest until I met another collector who told me that one of my decoys was not in OP. I asked what OP meant and he replied "original paint" which made me feel quite stupid at the time. I had thought up to then that decoys with hunters repaint were in a way more interesting because of the stories the decoy could tell.
The most I had ever spent on a decoy was about $150 at this point from local antique shops or ebay, but that was soon to change. I was very blessed to meet a man named Scott Mrosko who many of you might know. Scott not only introduced me to many other collectors including Shane Newell, the owner of this website, but he opened my eyes to Stevens Decoys which is what eventually led me here. Over time I have been given great advice from these men, advice I didn't agree with at the time but later succumbed too, and advice that I still do not agree with, but that is what makes this hobby so much fun. Shane once told me that "we are always playing a chess match in the decoy collecting world, and I'm pretty sure people play chess for fun!"
Looking back from today, I have bought $200 repainted Stevens Decoys, $1000 fake Stevens Decoys, and $5000 all original Stevens Decoys. Each one of these decoys tells a story and I am happy with each and every one of my purchases. I love decoys that are all original like the day they were made, but I also love the worn and used work horses that are out there. I am also obsessed with brands which I will save for another post. I have been offered fantastic decoys that I passed on because I simply did not like them at the time and bought decoys that were in not so great condition that I liked, but it was my decision. This leads me to the story that sparked my interest to write this article.
I recently purchased the decoy on the right for $215 on www.decoysforsale.com. I really love this decoy, but it was called Firewood by other collectors because our interests do not perfectly align. At first it hurt my feelings a bit, but then I took a step back and realized that we each see antique decoys through different lenses and through my lens it was perfectly clear that I liked this decoy for what it was. Obviously it is not in the best condition, but condition is not the reason I collect decoys. Through my lens I see a decoy that tells a story with its shot marks and battle scars. I also see one of only two known Goldeneye Sleepers in Eclipse paint. Decoy collecting is about having fun, buying what YOU like, and sharing your passion with others. After all, you are the one that gets to look at them every day.
I really look forward to the online Stevens community that this website will help develop, and I
also look forward to acquiring many more pieces of firewood down the road!