Antique Fish Decoys

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2015-06-26 11:16:14

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Antique Fish Decoys are hand-made decoys popular with collectors due to their age, quality and rarity.

Brief history

Accumulating a collection of vintage fish decoys has become a popular hobby for not only fishing and sports enthusiasts, but folk art collectors as well. Although the purpose of a fish decoy was to lure a fish towards the range of an ice fisherman's spear, today they have become a product of folk art thanks to their uniqueness, rarity and beauty.

Antique fish decoys were typically produced in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan or by Native Americans, however, antique fish decoys have been found in various other states in America as well.

Fish decoys started to become mass produced after 1950 and were used as tools for ice fisherman during the 1980s for winter ice spearing as well. Fish decoys that were made between 1900 and 1940 were typically hand-made and came in a variety of different paint colours and body shape.

Types of Antique Fish Decoys

Antique wooden fish decoys

Stanton Auctions in Hampden, Massachusetts sold:

  • An antique, wood-carved and painted 20.25 inch fish decoy with glass eyes, tin fins and a tail for $700 in September of 2010.
  • Two antique wood-carved fish decoys with metal fittings for $225 in January of 2008.
  • An antique 12 inch wooden fish decoy with tin fins for $225 in September of 2010.
  • An antique wooden 12 inch fish decoy painted in orange and with tin fins and a tail for $275 in September of 2010.
  • An antique wooden 8 inch long green fish decoy with tin fins for $125 in September of 2010.
  • An antique wooden 12 inch long orange and brown fish decoy with tin fins for $125 in September of 2010.
  • Four antique wooden fish decoys with tin fins and tails for $250 in September of 2010.
  • An antique wooden 8.5 inch green and black long lead weighted fish decoy with tin fins for $125 in September of 2010.
  • Four antique wood and lead weighted fish decoys with tin fins (two also have tin tails) and range from six to nine inches in size for $150 in September of 2010.

Schmidt's Antiques Inc. in Ypsilanti, Michigan sold five antique wooden ice fishing decoys from the mid-20th century, (two of which have lines with handles while two others have slotted bodies and no fins) for $120 in October of 2010.

Dirk Soulis Auctions in Lone Jack, Missouri sold an antique wooden fish decoy with metal fins and glass eyes (7" x 2") for $140 in February of 2011.

Antique metal fish decoys

Stanton Auctions in Hampden, Massachusetts sold two green and brown antique cast metal fish decoys with tin flippers (6.5 to 7 inches long) for $100 in September of 2010.

Antique plastic fish decoys

Stanton Auctions in Hampden, Massachusetts sold four antique hard plastic fish decoys ranging between five and nine inches in size for $100 in September of 2010.

Guide for collectors

Restoration of an antique fish decoy is not recommended as even fish decoys with a missing tail tip have become valuable in recent years. Fish decoys that are still in "pristine" condition are considered to be extremely rare and valuable.

Fish decoys with a unique shape, paint color, or a dry paint surface which has since "alligatored" are all considered to be extremely valuable among collectors.

For more information regarding where to find antique fish decoys, visit the National Fish Decoy Association.

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