Functional artwork of SEWE. Once used to feed America, now collectors items.

Charleston, S.C.—One night left before one of the Lowcountry’s biggest events of the year, The Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE). Almost everywhere you look in Downtown Charleston there is a trace of the event. Most exhibits open Friday at 10AM.

Today we sent News 2’s Ashley Yost to check out the decoy exhibits at the Charleston Marriott to find out what makes those guys so valuable.

First we talked to Dick McIntyre who is the decoy expert! McIntyre is the President of the Palmetto State Decoy Collectors Association (PSDCA). He was in charge of selecting which rare decoys would go in this year’s exhibit.

Tools of the Trade is the name of the collector’s exhibit this year. The collection depicts decoys as a folk art items because “they were made to feed America,” says McIntyre. He explains, “the definition of American Folk Art is a utilitarian object that is now viewed as art or folk sculpture.”

The pieces come from the personal collections of about 8 members of PSDCA. “There will be everything from Great Blue Heron,” describes McIntyre, “the little small shore birds, no bigger than your index finger, duck decoys, shore bird decoys and little Bufflehead decoys. Just about every species that was used on the east coast.”

Most were made from around 1870 to 1930. Not all decoys are expensive, but just like any form of artwork, the rarest can be very pricey. “More than a couple of nice new foreign cars,” says McIntyre. “If you want one of the very best ones, they are expensive.”

The decoys in the Tools of the Trade exhibit are not for sale and simply for admiration, but if you go down the hall you will find a ballroom full of decoys with a price tag. We talked to Tom Reed who the owner of American Sporting Classics based in Mount Pleasant. Reed is a 4th generation antique dealer and also a member of PSDCA.

Reed gives this advice to people shopping for a decoy. “Buy one good decoy rather than 5 or 10 mediocre decoys because the good decoys hold their value and increase in value much more rapidly than the mediocre birds.”

For first time collectors, both Reed and McIntyre recommend first purchasing some books or attending a show like SEWE to gain some knowledge before spending lots of money.

CLICK HERE to buy tickets to SEWE.
CLICK HERE for more information about the exhibits at the Charleston Marriott.

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