In a difficult year for bird hunters, one area of our little world has proved itself practically bulletproof: Sporting auctions are thriving. The nation’s top decoy and sporting-art auction house, Copley Fine Art Auctions, in Hingham, Massachusetts, topped its own record with a winter event realizing almost $5 million. Over two days in mid-February, the 600-item auction, which included punt guns, duck and shorebird decoys, and sporting paintings, sold 98% of lots offered.
Many readers are familiar with Elmer Crowell (1862-1952), who’s preening pintail—the Mona Lisa of duck decoys—recently was sold privately by Copley’s for a record sum. But who knew that this giant of waterfowl carving also created upland birds? A pair of his extraordinary bobwhites (pictured below) from 1938 sold for $221,400, topping the $40,000 to $60,000 estimate in dramatic fashion. Likewise, a feeding brant by Nathan F. Cobb Jr. (1825-1905) went for well more than the estimate of $100,000 to $150,000, selling for $186,000. German-born setter and pointer breeder Edmund H. Osthaus (1858-1928) was represented by an oil on canvas of a pointer with a quail. It sold within estimate for $180,000.
Copley’s owner, Stephen B. O’Brien Jr., said, “The bidding on all platforms was strong, with an unprecedented number of new buyers coming away with lots. It is a good sign for the future growth of the decoy and sporting-art market. Though markets go up and down, once you get hooked on sporting art, it’s a tough arena to stay away from.” Copley is having its Sporting Sale 2021 on July 9 and 10.
For more information, visit Copley Fine Art Auctions.