Considered prized relics of American folk art, collectible duck decoys have a history that
runs parallel to the settlement and growth of North America. This evolution introduced a diverse
number of wood carvers including Elmer Crowell, the Ward brothers, Lathrop T. Holmes,
Delbert Daisey, and Charles Perdew. The evolution also prompted the establishment of decoy
factories that capitalized on demand across the commercial and sport hunting industries.
Native Americans were the earliest known makers of duck decoys, using reeds, grass, and
rushes to construct lifelike replicas. As North America was settled through the 1700s and 1800s,
high restaurant demand for waterfowl brought market hunting to fruition. Concurrently, the need
for duck decoys rose as commercial hunters often used 50 to 100 decoys or more on the water.
The industry changed again once the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 was enacted, making
commercial waterfowl hunting illegal. The popularity of game hunting grew, and wooden decoys
remained an important trade.
When deciding which duck decoys to collect, some enthusiasts choose to gather decoys by
bird type, carver, or even decoy position. The value of a resulting collection then depends on a
combination of factors including condition, rarity, and carver. Altogether, decoys representing
birds not typically hunted and decoys representing birds hunted with fewer decoys tend to hold
During the Ford presidency, First Lady Betty Ford would often use carved
waterfowl as centerpieces at White House dinners
The Smithsonian National Art Museum holds an expansive collection of duck decoys. The
earliest is made by Native Americans, dating back to a period between 400 B.C. and 100
Guyette and Deeter, Inc. specializes in selling decoys, holding four major auctions each year
and weekly online auctions