EASTON, Md. — Guyette, Schmidt Deeter conducted its annual fall decoy auction Nov. 6-7 at Talbot County Community Center. The sale grossed over $3 million with 41 lots selling for more than $10,000 and two selling for more than $100,000.
A swan decoy made around 1890 by William Basnight of Dare County, N.C., sold for 10 times its estimate and a record for the maker at $183,750.
In 1952, decoy collector, James “Spann” Jeffers corresponded with early decoy collector, and advisor, Carter Smith of Birmingham, Ala. Mr. Smith told him about a William Basnight swan that he bought out of Raymond Rodgers’ barn loft in Wanchese, N.C., the year before. Mr. Smith wrote that there were four swans left – two with heads and two without heads. He suggested that “Spann” send a letter to Mr. Rodgers if he wanted one of them. Mr. Jeffers contacted Mr. Rodgers and purchased this swan decoy from him that spring. Mr. Jeffers died in a plane crash in 1957. His decoys were put into storage until this past summer when his son consigned the collection to Guyette, Schmidt Deeter for auction. William Basnight (1841-1920) lived in East Lake, N.C., and was the caretaker of the Durants Island Hunting Club. He is one of the old time decoy carvers featured in the book, Gunnin’ Birds, by Charlotte, N.C., author and decoy collector Kroghie Andreson.
Other old time North Carolina decoys in the auction were made by Alvirah Wright of Duck, Robert Morse of Churches Island, Ike O’Neil of Ocracoke, and Ned Burgess of Churches Island. Gary Guyette of Guyette, Schmidt Deeter stated that this is the most significant grouping of North Carolina decoys the firm has sold since they sold the Jim Lewis collection of Goldsboro, N.C., in 1987.
The world auction record for any North Carolina decoy was established in 2008 when Guyette, Schmidt Deeter sold a ruddy duck, circa 1890 by Lee Dudley of Knott’s Island, N.C., for $269,000.
Established in 1984, Guyette, Schmidt Deeter is the world’s largest decoy auction firm with over $147,000,000 in sales. They hold four decoy auctions per year in different locations across the United States. Its next decoy sale will be held Feb. 14 in Charleston, S.C., at the Charleston, Marriott, in conjunction with the Southeastern Wildlife Expo.