I generally resist change, especially when change is thought to be the only form of progress. We see plenty of that these days. Some changes are natural, for example, bird migrations. And when we return home to our historic breeding grounds and nests, it can be very restorative and generative. In that spirit, here are six predictions that will make up the great migration ahead.
Decoy auction firms will migrate to their home nests using online bidding platforms, and no longer serve as traveling auction houses. Their agents will travel to shows with preview "highlights". As they happily save money, our online participation will convince them that there’s no downside. However, there is a downside to the largest firms. Traveling decoy auctions are so logistically complex and expensive to facilitate that other auction houses have historically flared away, or only dabbled at a distance. Large decoy firms should not surrender the valuable mystique of traveling shows or their relationships with collectors will further dilute. It's avoidable and perhaps reversible, but it's going to take a lot more than technology and phone calls.
As a result of #1, competition will emerge in the decoy auction business. Most notable will be Grant & Megan Cole, owners of Auctioneers, Inc. based in northern Michigan (a perfect "flyway" location to balance the Boston and Easton legs). While the long-established houses boast and compete for record prices, Grant & Megan will be more focused on building relationships. It is only a matter of time before they bring a major decoy collection to auction, proving themselves as a worthy competitor on the decoy auction firm podium.
Decoy shows will dramatically innovate and improve. More collectors will trade and deal at shows. More and better decoys will be brought to shows. Hobby fellowship will strengthen. Dealers will no longer have to compete with auction preview times. The joy of handling hundreds of decoys and seeing dozens of ol’ friends will happen at large, well organized, decoy shows – reminiscent of the days before auction houses took over our focus and schedule. It will be like returning to the spawning nest - reminiscent to Joel Barber’s early decoy shows.
Decoy collecting will soar into the 21st Century (the most popular decoy related article on my website by more than 300%). The prediction here is about large expanse. Imagine a great tree with 2,000 year old roots deeply planted in Native American history, the thick wood trunk being centuries of decoy making, the branches have extended to decorative bird carvings, wildlife carvings, marine wildlife carvings and, increasingly, folk art and sporting art. The canopy is growing and gathering light, and it’s very healthy for the tree.
We will have a “Wikipedia-like” database for every decoy maker in North America, past and present. Just think of it; every decoy maker in a master index of every book and page, every auction catalog and lot number, and every magazine issue that contains the maker's name, in one digital, searchable, online database. This massive undertaking is already underway, and it will attract many new birds (collectors) to the flourishing habitat.
A new digital magazine all about decoys (and the "great tree”) will launch. We already have a wonderful 7-issue print magazine, but there’s room for a weekly digital press. It will be open to more writers, more ideas, more timely event details, more resources, more market data, more commentary about the market, and free classified advertising. Facebook is too polluted and too fractionalized to serve this need - a digital magazine will do the job nicely.