Buying Decoys? Think Regions

Decoys have been carved, collected, purchased, and traded for many many years. They have become more collected and more valuable in recent history. Some contemporary carvers have gained such recognition as to rival early decoys in monetary value.


When buying an early decoy putting the name of the carver with the bird will greatly enhance it’s value. Very few early carvers – 1890-1950 signed their decoys, so how do you know who carved the decoy you are contemplating purchasing?


The following are some helpful hints:

Get to know the characteristics of carvers in a certain region

Example: Tuckerton, New Jersey school of carvers

  1. Hollow body birds made of Jersey cedar

  2. Inletted lead weights for the most part.


  1. Get to know the nuances of the carvers in that region.

  2. Hollow bodies or solid?

  3. Inletted weights or pad weights?

  4. Pad weights attached with nails or screws?

  5. Keels present?

  6. Carved nostrils and mandible separations in the bills?


  1. Glass eyes or carved eyes?



Decoy paint can be categorized in various ways:

  1. Original paint, old working repaint, restored paint.

  2. Scratch painted or paint patterns.




Try to visit decoy museums, seaports, or decoy shows to get familiar with the carvers of various regions. Informative decoy books can be a great tool when trying to recognize the subtle differences in carvers of different regions. Hope this is helpful. Happy hunting. Decoy hunting that is!


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