Kimball books are a necessity to serious fish decoy collectors
BY MARK GREENIG
In my discussions with you, I often talk about the need to become educated in hunting and fishing collectibles that are of interest to you. To impress upon you the need for such knowledge, this week I want to discuss the first of many articles regarding quality printed information available to you as a collector. With that thought in mind I will begin with three books that are in high demand for all fish decoy collectors -- the three volume set of "The Fish Decoy" written by Art, Brad and Scott Kimball of Wisconsin.
When the Kimball's wrote their first book, "The Fish Decoy," I am not sure they visualized the impact their first effort would have. "The Fish Decoy" was first released around the mid 1980s. I have a fourth edition dated 1986. It contained a wealth of new information from carvers specifically from four states, including Minnesota. It held a minimum of color plates for collectors to study. However, numerous black and white pictures assisted all of us in identifying formerly unknown carvers. Volume two was published shortly after their first book. The third edition of volume two is dated 1987. It expanded information regarding other carvers from all over the United States. Interestingly, volumes one and two have numerous mistakes regarding identifications of various fish decoys. Actually, I believe that adds to their charm. The first edition of volume three came out in 1993. It is by far the most impressive, complete and accurate.
Keep in mind there are not many books available for identifying fish decoys. Some other time we will talk about two impressive fish decoy books by Donald Peterson, both focusing just on Minnesota carvers.
Let's discuss the cost of these books as they are somewhat of an exception because of their dramatic increase in value. Years ago I purchased all three from Art Kimball directly. At the time, I paid $60 each, which I thought was a lot of money. However, even back then I knew the importance of educating myself to be better prepared when spending my hard earned money. Volume three is easily the book in most demand. I have been told the reason is due to its accuracy when compared to the previous two volumes. Also, that specific volume has the most color plates, which are of great help in trying to identify fish decoys. I have an eBay listing for this book from Nov. 2003. With over nine hours left on that particular auction, the price tag was already $355. There have been a number of occasions where that very book sold for over $400. In today's current economic climate, I seriously doubt it would fetch that amount of money. Yet, make no mistake these three books are still in high demand. I believe your best chance of obtaining one is still eBay. They are a necessity for any serious collector and certainly add value to your collection. There is something very relaxing about reading and studying the Kimball books on a quiet evening.
What is appealing about volume three is the Kimball's specific mention of our own Detroit Lakes, White Earth and even Alexandria. The three authors state, "Area 3-Viking Land. The White Earth Indian Reservation is in this area, which is bounded on the west by North Dakota. The towns of Detroit Lakes and Alexandria are centers of fish decoy making and usage. Many sunfish decoys are seen in the Alexandria area." This is an accurate compliment to the many fish decoy makers in our area.
Finding quality decoys can still be done today. I compare such searches to shaking apples from the tree. Simply stated, shake long and hard enough, you will get one. Until next time, may all your searches be successful.