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A. Elmer Crowell, preening black duck decoy, estimated at $300,000-$500,000 at Guyette & Deeter.

A. Elmer Crowell’s ‘finest’ duck decoy swims into Guyette & Deeter April 25-26

LOMBARD, Ill. —The duck decoy that many consider to be A. Elmer Crowell’s finest achievement will be offered at Guyette & Deeter this month. The model of a preening black duck made by the Massachusetts carver circa 1905 is among the many highlights of the Alan and Elaine Haid collection, to be presented on the first day of the Thursday, April 25 and Friday, April 26 Annual Spring Decoy and Sporting Art Auction. The catalog is now available at LiveAuctioneers.

The supremely carved 17in model that retains its original paint under an early coat of varnish was made for one of Crowell’s most important patrons. The Boston stockbroker Stanley W. Smith (1869-1941) wintered in the city but summered in Cape Cod, where he hunted wildfowl on Little Pleasant Bay. This, one of many pieces he bought from Crowell in East Harwich, passed down in the Smith family for several generations before it entered the Haid collection. It has been pictured in a number of publications including in New England Decoys by Shirley and John Delph and in Elmer Crowell: Father of American Bird Carving by Steven O’Brien and Chelsie Olney. Such excellence does not come cheap: the estimate is $300,000-$500,000.

Alan and Elaine Haid started their collecting journey together in 1967. The fruits of more than 50 years spent in one collecting field is a grouping of some of the rarest examples by many of the leading American decoy artists.

Among the best-known works by Robert Elliston (1847-1925) of Bureau, Illinois is an oversize hollow-carved model of a preening black duck. Made in the 1880s, this 17in model with its original paint intact was found by an antique collector at a New England flea market in the spring of 1984 and sold in the first-ever Julia and Guyette auction that same year. It has since been pictured in many decoy books, including Decoys: North America’s One Hundred Greatest by Loy S. Harrell Jr. It sports an estimate of $80,000-$120,000, and is one of eight decoys by Elliston in the collection.

Alan Haid became a successful dealer and appraiser of decoys and would write two books. Chosen as a front cover illustration for Decoys of the Mississippi Flyway, which he wrote and published in 1981, was a pair of hollow carved American mergansers by the Mason Decoy Factory (1896-1924) of Detroit, Michigan. They are estimated at $50,000-$70,000.

Pictured on the front of Mason Decoys – A Complete Pictorial Guide, the book he co-authored with Russ Goldberger in 1993, was a solid-body drake in original paint. The back cover showcased a circa-1900 two-piece model of a curlew with glass eyes and iron bill. They are both included in the sale, with estimates of $80,000-$120,000 and $30,000-$40,000, respectively.