Collecting Factory Decoys

There was a time when some early decoy collectors snubbed Mason decoys because they were not hand made. Yet today collectors consider the Mason Factory decoy the ‘universal’ decoy because they were used in all the waterfowling regions. Examples can be found in almost every major decoy collection. There is an interesting trend in decoy collecting today that is growing stronger every day: collecting Post World War II vintage factory decoys. There are several reasons why people are turning to the later factory decoys. Probably number one is cost. For the average novice collector these vintage factory decoys are a good starting point in building a collection. One would be hard pressed to find a good old wooden decoy in original condition for under $500, yet a nice looking plastic decoy can still be purchased for under $25 in antique shop or a decoy show, or better yet found within an entire rig at a farm or garage sale for less! In that price range one could introduce their children to collecting, giving them a gift that they will enjoy the rest of their lives. A older friend once told me “if you collect anything, you will always have friends with a common interest”. .

Post-WW II decoys increase in value? Only time will tell, but I can remember a time when antique dealers would put wooden decoys made by master carvers under their table because they were their lower-end merchandise. Two or three years ago hardly anyone collected plastic and papier mache decoys, now there are two new books devoted to later factory decoys, Ken Trayer’s American Factory Decoys and Joe Bosco’s Pascagoula Decoys. The Pascagoula decoys were manufactured in the Mississippi river town of Pascagoula where inexpensive light weight tupelo wood was turned on a lathe. The finished decoys, still retaining the rough lathe grooves, were usually spray painted creating an inexpensive, light weight wooden decoy. The best known of the Pascagoula Decoys is the Animal Trap Company’s Victor decoy line.

The great variety of decoy styles makes collecting Post WWII factory decoys interesting. The designs developed by Post WWII decoy makers to produce more functional decoys resulted in numerous ingenious innovations. Characteristically these decoys utilized lighter weight materials like papier mache’, plastic, rubber, lathe-turned water tupelo wood and canvas.

The J. W. Reynolds Decoy Company, Forrest Park, Illinois manufactured collapsible canvas decoys. Their Flapper Model had wings that flapped with the pull of a string. The Flap-O-Matic decoys, made in papier Mache and plastic also had moveable metal wings added to the decoy body.

The Carry-Lite Decoy Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin is probably the best known producer of papier mache decoys. Their line included most divers and puddle ducks, geese and coots as well as ‘tippers’, the backside of a feeding duck, and even corn cob decoys. There are so many companies that produced early tenite and plastic decoys that is great the Ken Trayer published his factory decoy book. It is an invaluable source for identifying the various plastic decoys as well as other known Post-WW II factory decoys..

Availability is the other major appeal of the Post-WW II factory decoy. One of the easiest way to purchase decoys whether one is looking for high-end investment quality birds or entry level post-WW II decoys is at a decoy show. The advantage of attending a decoy show is that one can visit one-on-one with the top collectors and dealers and have an opportunity to handle decoys and familiarize himself with their shape and paint. Even the best photographs can’t teach one the ‘feel’ of a decoy. Most exhibitors who attend the decoy shows gather at the same motel and set up in their rooms with decoys and often vintage tackle, related collectibles or folk art available for sale at least a day or two before the actual show. This is when most of the best ‘buys’ are made. Several major decoy auction companies bring their decoy auctions to the decoy show sites. For example The Guyette & Schmidt Decoy Inc, Fairfield, Maine will offer 800 plus decoys and waterfowling collectibles for public auction at the Midwest Decoy Collectors Convention (April 26-30), held at the Pheasant Run Resort and Mega Center April 28 & 26, 2004. On Wednesday evening, April 27, they will host a free cocktail party and preview for the auction. This is a chance for anyone to view and handle an array of sporting items, many than are rarely available to the general public. The top experts on decoys will at the preview and most are more than willing to discuss any decoy. Birds in the his can be an outstanding learning experience for any collector. Don’t think that there won’t be any decoys for the average decoy collector. Of course there are the premier pieces that most collectors can only dream of owning, but there are also a good selection of pieces under $500. The important thing to remember especially with Post-WW II factory decoys is condition is very important. Buy the best you can afford and only buy mint Post-WW II factory decoys.