'Floating sculpture' to sell for up to $400k

Maximo Kirton is a vintage car salesman, and so should be no stranger to the value of collectibles, but he was quite taken aback when he emailed an auction house with a picture of his carved Canada goose decoy.

A decoy which had rested on one shelf or another where he lived for 30 years.

The auctioneers were able to tell him that it was a genuinely rare example of a working decoy, now prized for their craftsmanship, but few of have survived, having been intended for use, not decoration.

The decoy has a six carved on the base of its neck. This is significant, as it was originally one of a rig of six, with the first three being accounted for - two and three having been sold at auction relatively recently for $233,000 (2000) and $553,600 (2007). We have reported on decoys fetching large sums at auction previously.

"I nearly fainted," said Kirton.

The world record for a decoy is $856,000, for a red-breasted Merganser hen.

This piece is a slot-neck goose, from which the head can be removed and slotted into the body, so that it can be transported about with less chance of the neck snapping.

In this case it fits particularly snugly, showing the skill of the carver.

Unusually, the eyes are tack, rather than just painted on, which collectors are keen on and the carved nostrils and lips show an unusual attention to detail. It is also in excellent condition, with the original oil paint still apparent.

"They're a uniquely American art form ... viewed as a floating sculpture.", auctioneer John Holter commented.

It seems likely, with interest in such pieces increasing, that whatever price is paid for the duck at auction will hold or improve if it is offered again. 

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