About 2 years ago, I digitized all my records and photos of Stevens Decoys into a database. Some days I pushed myself 16 hours non-stop; scanning photos, updating auction prices and editing notes on more than 550 decoys. It took several months to complete the work. Boxes of photographs, projector slides, catalogs and notes were tossed away; 33 years of research became a few bytes in a cloud. My thanks to Travis Bryant for recommending "Air Table" as the best platform to host the database and for helping me get the project started. If it weren't for him, my analog collection would have stayed in boxes, perhaps indefinitely.
At first, I was going to make the database available by annual subscription. In fact, it launched that way at $129/year and I sold a couple of subscriptions right away. However, I quickly realized the potential backlash by making the database public. The problem is that the nature, and usefulness, of the database requires that every decoy be sorted by short description. Each category: maker, species, period, model, paint and structural condition has drop down menu descriptions (e.g. PERIOD: 1865 Harvey's first works; 1865-1870 early tackeye period; 1870-1884 tackeye period; 1885-1904 glasseye period, etc.) There are very few nuances identifying a Stevens Decoy, but when it comes to determining paint and condition in only a few words - it's not so simple. Moreover, I'm not interested in dispensing opinions about decoys I think repainted, restored or not made by Stevens at all. Especially those decoys I haven't handled or I'm not reasonably sure about. The database was never going to be perfect - so I kept it private.
Lately I've been asking myself; So why did I bother doing all this work if not to share it? What good is the database to me alone? I hardly need it to collect Stevens Decoys.
What I've realized over the past two years is that I'm tossing out the baby with the bathwater as they say. The questionable decoys are not relevant to the hundreds of useful records and photos of authentic Stevens Decoys. Conversely, the best decoys will make very apparent what a good Stevens Decoy looks like and what description it fits. The database allows collectors to make comparisons to hundreds of original paint decoys on record. It puts the fun of evaluating and collecting Stevens, very conveniently, into the hands of the collector. There's so much good stuff here for the Stevens collector without bothering with repaints, restored or misattributed decoys.
What's now available is the Stevens Decoy Database Collector's Edition (containing more than 250 decoys carved by the Stevens Brothers and having substantially good original paint) for a one-time fee subscription of $49. In addition to the categories above, the database also includes my personal notes on most decoys, auction prices, early provenance (former collectors or museums) and where the decoy is pictured in books about Stevens Decoys. There are certainly original Stevens Decoys out there that I haven't recorded, but I have most everything ever photographed or auctioned in the past 30 years. If you have a Stevens Decoy I've missed, please send pictures for collaboration. The future of decoy collecting depends on informed collectors.
Subscribers get read-only access to gallery view of the database with nearly 1,000 photos. Downloading, copying and sharing is prohibited. Copyright protected.
Follow this link to PayTable to purchase a one-time $49 subscription to the Stevens Decoy Database Collector's Edition.