Ducks for dollars

Ducks for dollars

Article from SUMMER 2009 - Country Roads - Discovering Hastings County

Before you throw out those old wooden ducks that have been collecting dust in your basement for years, or sell them for a couple of bucks in a garage sale, do yourself a favour and call Steven Lloyd. What he has to say may shock you.
The 54-year-old resident of Oak Lake, just south of Stirling, is one of the foremost experts in the world when it comes to appraising wooden decoys.
And if that sounds funny consider this, the Canadian record sale for a wooden decoy is $206,000, and not too long ago Lloyd helped a Rice Lake lady secure $52,000 for a pair of decoys she had found in her house.
Still laughing?
Telling the unsuspecting that grandpa’s old hunting decoy is worth many thousands of dollars has become almost a way of life for Lloyd. On a daily basis he fields enquiries from across North America from people wondering if they’ve hit the jackpot.
“Once or twice a month someone will send me a photo of something really magnificent,” Lloyd says. “And I’ll direct them to an auction company and they’ll go from there.” Lloyd jokes that he has been around hunting from before he was born, since his pregnant mother used to accompany his dad on hunting trips. But his real fascination with wooden decoys started soon after he moved out on his own and he had to purchase his own decoys for hunting.
“When I started looking around to purchase decoys I realized that there was a lot of difference between them, and I started appreciating them as an art form,” he recalls.
Soon after he was asked by the Ameliasburgh museum, in Prince Edward County, to display some of his decoys.
“A reporter from the Toronto Telegram was there and he seemed to be impressed with my knowledge,” Lloyd says. “I found it so enjoyable displaying them there I’ve been doing that sort of thing ever since.”
Eighteen years ago Lloyd made his first appearance at the Toronto Sportsman Show, and in the first day he had 100 people approach him asking for their old decoys to be appraised. He has traveled all over North America and consulted with the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. The rise of the internet has meant less travel for Lloyd. Within a few minutes of seeing some photos emailed to him he can often give a fair appraisal of a piece of work.
Lloyd says the history of decoys in North America goes back 2,000 years. The earliest such items are now stored in the Smithsonian. They were found in an Arizona cave and were dated with native pottery pieces found nearby.
Most decoys were made from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s. Among the most celebrated craftsmen were George Warin of Toronto in the late 1800s and William Hart and Bill Chrysler from the Belleville area, whose work goes back to the 1920s and ‘30s. It was a piece from Hart, a Hooded Merganser, which fetched the $206,000 Canadian record price.
So what gives a decoy that kind of value? According to Lloyd the quality of the workmanship is a key factor. The best looking decoys were the ones that would show up in reference books. These became well recognized and as a result are highly sought after.
Those with a hollowed body are also extremely valuable, since those were more difficult to make. Their light weight made them very popular among hunters.
While Lloyd runs into many people who feel like they’ve won the lottery when he appraises their wooden decoys, for others the value runs a bit deeper.
“A lot of times I’ll deal with families where a relative has died and the collection of decoys is among the artifacts they’ve left behind,” he explains.
“And when the family finds out how valuable those decoys are, they really appreciate them as a remembrance of that relative.”
Lloyd can be contacted through

Contact Steven

National Decoy Information Centre

Steven Lloyd, Canada’s Foremost Authority on Historical Decoys, has established a National Decoy Information Centre, The Centre seeks to inform and educate people about the history and value of wooden decoys.

For more information contact the Centre:


“The National Decoy Information Centre”

Steven Lloyd
242 Sherry Road
Thomasburg Ontario Canada K0K 3H0
Phone 1-613-922-7000