The decoy was originally purchased by an American expatriate living in Argentina and then sold to a native of that country who was unaware of its origins.


A rare, 19th century hand carved goose decoy that once plied Pennsylvania Susquehanna River before being sold in Argentina, and considered by some to be a floating sculpture, is going on the auction block. It could bring in as much as $400,000.

The one coming up for sale is known as a slot neck goose, because the head dovetails into a hollow carved body. An unusual decoy element, the head slides off the hunters would travel with them up and down the eastern flyway that would prevent the head and neck from breaking, Holter said.

don usually see this kind of detail on working decoy, Holter said.

nearly fainted, said Kirton, a 32 year old vintage car salesman in Buenos Aires.

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The current owner, Maximo Kirton, e mailed a photo of the Canada Goose decoy to Christie several weeks ago wondering what it might be worth. It sat on a shelve at the family sheep ranch in Patagonia, Argentina, for 10 years, and then on the mantel of his parent Buenos Aires home for another two decades.

Because they were utilitarian in nature, used to attract wild fowl, mere survival is extraordinary, added John Hays, Christie deputy chairman.

Making the discovery even more interesting was that three other birds from the same rig were found together in the 1920s or 1930s on the Susquehanna River, said Andrew Holter, Christie American furniture and decorative arts specialist.

are highly prized by folk art collectors and working decoy collectors, he said. a uniquely American art form viewed as a floating sculpture.

The carver, who is not known, in this case was very adept. like a hand in a glove, he said.

The carving is similar on all four of the goose decoy. The Kirton piece has an incised floret of feathers at the base of the neck, a nostril on the upper beak and lifelike lips. It also has tack, rather than painted, eyes a feature collectors look for.

The other three are numbered 1, 2 and 3. No. 3 sold at Sotheby in Cheap Baby Canada Goose Snow Bunting Berry Nz 2000 for $233,000; No. 2 at Christie for $553,600 in 2007; and No. 1 is in private hands. The whereabouts of the others isn known.

To Kirton surprise, Christie told him the goose was a very unusual example of a working decoy from the late 19th century that could conservatively fetch between $200,000 to $400,000. Not only that, it was part of an extremely rare decoy rig that usually included at least six birds.

There is a V shaped groove stamped into the underside of the decoy that accommodated a large brass cross that was inserted or removed for a stick or as a floater. The brass piece is missing.

The decoy will be sold on Sept. 30.

The item also has original oil based paint and is in very good condition.

Kirton said the decoy was part of a package of items his father purchased from the American expatriate that included old English hunting shotguns that his father coveted.

The dovetail neck construction was sometimes also seen in Massachusetts shore bird decoys. It was extremely difficult make it look seamless.

Carved from North American white pine, decoy No. 6 is painted at the base of its upright neck and in the groove of the body.

The world auction record for any working or decorative duck decoy is $856,000, for a red breasted Merganser hen in 2007, Hays said.

knew it was nice. But I didn really know there were such collectors that would want decoys, said Kirton, explaining that decoys are not used by hunters in Argentina.