top of page

Some rules get broken, some don't...

In The Essential Guide To Stevens Decoys, published in 2004, I set forth "Ten Missing Records or Ten Valuable Rules" in Chapter VIII. I suggested we "rejoice" in what might be discovered in the years ahead. So, after 16 years; let's see what's been discovered...

1. NO tackeye decoys with stamps, stencils, branding or labels.

Still no tackeye period decoys with stamps, stencils or branding, but authentic paper labels have been found on three tackeye decoys:

(1) a mallard drake in mint condition (Log 124) that is missing the black paint on the bill tip and the right wing shoulder is missing the comb drag compared to the left that is properly finished. It's the only example I've ever seen with such a peculiar flaw. It looks like it was lifted straight out of Harvey's hands while he was working on it and placed into a time machine to the 21st century. I had recorded the decoy in my record but not authenticated in hand (the "too good to be true" phenomenon had me partially convinced it was repainted). In 2007, I had the chance to handle the decoy. It's 100% authentic - I just wish the those time travelers had let Harvey finish the thing!

2) a well gunned-over redhead drake (Log 222) whereas a large portion of a Stevens paper label was astonishingly preserved by a lead pad ballast being tightly attached over the label on the underside of the decoy before it was ever placed in the water. The lead weight was recently removed to reveal the preserved paper; and

(3) a bufflehead drake (log 624) with a partial label preserved in the same manner as the redhead. Therefore, it is very possible that Harvey used paper labels on many, if not all, his tackeye decoys. This rule is less about the use of paper labels and more about paper labels surviving use.

2. NO tackeye hen decoys.

Other than the black ducks with orange and green bills (Logs 114 and 514), there are still no hen paint patterns from any of the tackeye periods (1865-1888).

3. NO tackeye decoy stamped by George Stevens.

Remains true.

4. NO sleeper models other than bluebills, redheads and whistlers (including eclipsing birds).

Remains true.

5. NO tackeye widgeon, pintails or canvasbacks.

I should have clarified this better in my book. I meant to say no tackeye period widgeon, pintails or canvasbacks made between 1870-1888 when tackeye decoys were primarily produced. There were two early tackeye canvasbacks already known in 2004; both from the early tackeye period 1865-1870. Both are pictured in my book. However, in 2009, I saw a tackeye canvasback from the 1870-1884 period by Harvey Stevens in Muller's Book (Log 495). It's one-of-a-kind to date (2020) and breaks the rule forever.

6. NO canvasback hens from any period.

Remains true. Also true for hen widgeon, teal and bufflehead (whereas drakes are known).

7. NO variety in head positions. Other than the sleeper model decoy with their heads also straight forward. Harvey, the perfectionist, did not fool with variations.

Remains true.

8. NO Goose or Brant decoys, someday maybe a goose will land, but we can doubt the Brant forever.

Remains true, other than the well-known goose head held by Albert Lamphere in a 1955 photograph.

9. NO shorebirds. Had Harvey lived longer maybe he would have competed with Mason in the shorebird market, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Remains true. (although some modern shorebird decoys are stamped "STEVENS".)

10. NO wood ducks, scoters, green-winged teal, shovelers, ruddy, old-squaw or eider.

Remains true - although the decoy below was offered by Decoys Unlimited as a ruddy duck by George Stevens. The bill appears to be partially replaced or repaired. A huge price estimate scared off any interest from buyers. Trying to be open minded, there's a chance it was made or painted by George, although I'm not sure if it's ruddy, but then again, what else could it be? In any case, I'm holding Rule #10, remains true for now.

bottom of page