Enjoyment in observing and handling your private collection.
Satisfaction in putting together a good collection.
Create value so you can have a hobby that is also an investment. Returns may be secondary, but are important.
Enjoy waterfowl heritage and study of this history while accumulating your collection.
Decide what kind of decoys you like and want to collect and or specialize in.
Build personal library of books on decoys. Read these books many times and use for identification purposes.
Buy old auction catalogs and maintain for references in library.
Buy current auction catalogs and go to as many of them as possible. Study and keep post-sale price keys.
Join local decoy organizations and get involved.
Go to museums and exhibits that have good quality decoys.
Go to decoy shows to look at exhibits and handle dealer’s decoys. Watch other collectors examine and purchase decoys. Talk to other collectors about decoys!
Pick-up and handle as many decoys at these shows as possible.
Learn how to evaluate the visual structural condition of decoys.
Learn how to evaluate the paint condition of each decoy - old repainted, waxed decoys, oil, stripped, newly painted decoys etc.
Learn how to identify the general geographic area of the country where each decoy is from by recognizing the common characteristics of certain regions.
Learn how to spot fake decoys.
Learn how to evaluate x-rays of decoys.
Look for restoration in buying decoys and always ask the seller if any restoration work has been done to it. If you are not sure, either do not buy the decoy or discount the price to account for the diminished structural condition.
Study the general values of the maker’s decoys that you want to collect.
Do not apply wax or oil to the outside of your decoys. Dry old paint is much preferred by collectors. The wax and oil make it difficult to spot repairs and determine paint condition, so avoid if possible.
Shiny paint usually means recent over paint, be aware of this high probability.
When you x-ray decoys look for excess nails in head seat area; change in types or ages of wood: parts of decoy that look older than other parts, etc.
Look for new looking nails, very old nails.
Check dowel holes carefully in shorebirds as well as where the bill is connected to the head for irregularities.
Go visit other collectors and study their decoy collections.
Buy decoys from reputable decoy dealers, auction houses and collectors.