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Record sale of duck call signals interest might be on rise

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Updated: August 26, 2012 6:18AM

A J.T. Beckhart duck call sold for a world record last week, as expected. But the $103,500 sale made it the first call to fetch six figures.

And it might signal more than a rare spike.

‘‘There is a lot of interest in calls today, and I expect to see pricing increasing over the next few years as more collectors jump into it,’’ emailed Jon Deeter of Guyette, Schmidt & Deeter, the world’s leading decoy auction firm.

There certainly was interest July 17-18 in Portsmouth, N.H., at Guyette, Schmidt & Deeter’s annual summer decoy auction.

The Beckhart call will be part of ‘‘a great call collection on the West Coast,’’ according to Deeter. The $103,500 sale nearly doubled the old record of $63,000, which pre-eminent collector Jim Cook of Minneapolis paid for a Kinney and Harlow duck-head call at an auction
Jan. 22, 2000, in New York.

The Beckhart call sale has roots in this area. The daughter of the late Joseph Nathaniel Whitley brought it in for a free appraisal in late April during the Midwest Decoy Collectors Association’s annual National Antique Decoy & Sporting Collectibles Show in St. Charles.

Whitley, a top outdoors official in Arkansas, received the elaborate call — a rattlesnake carved around the mouthpiece with an alligator, hound, duck, pheasant and other intricacies — from Beckhart in the 1920s. Beckhart is believed to have carved it around 1890.

Downstate collector Joe Tonelli recognized the value of the call and helped the owner get it into the July auction.

‘‘If it wasn’t for the [MDCA’s] show, it would not have shown up,’’ Tonelli said later. ‘‘It is the best thing that ever walked in in 47 years.’’

Beckhart carved plenty of ordinary calls, so the logical question is whether the elaborate and rare nature of this call was more than a fluke.

‘‘There are two more about like this, but other than that, I would find it hard for a call to break $50K,’’ Deeter emailed.

Part of this sale was the sometimes-feverish nature of auctions themselves.

‘‘There were five bidders on the call, and at least three of them were active up to the end,’’ Deeter said.

The bottom line is that calls might be entering the stage where collectors and investors alike are after them.

‘‘All of this activity surrounding this call has elevated the interest in call collecting in general, and I am sure that our next sale in St. Charles will offer many rare and unique calls as consigners are looking to consign,’’ Deeter emailed. ‘‘The auction seems to be the way to get top dollar for rare and unusual items.’’

About 150 calls were sold at the July auction, including some rare Tom Turpins, an E.A. Faifer and a record Herters.

The future is in the past.

Straight arrow

Jeffrey Jones of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ office of community outreach wanted to make a clarification. The young men and women doing such a good job with the archery shoot at Kids’ Fest on July 14 were part of the IDNR Urban Collegiate Conservation Internship.

Wild things

Ron Chrzas messaged on Facebook: ‘‘The ticks are really going strong at Northerly Island. Make sure to check thoroughly!’’ I would generalize that. This is the worst summer I’ve seen for ticks on our dog, our kids and ourselves. . . . Ken Gortowski mentioned how many doves he already is seeing around Silver Springs State Fish and Wildlife Area near Yorkville. I noticed the same in the far south suburbs. It’s much closer to what I normally see in mid-August.


Draws for waterfowl blinds at area public sites are Saturday. The ones for Illinois River-area sites are Sunday.

Stray cast

The trade saga of Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster reminds me of figure-eighting a muskie.

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