With $500,000, you could buy a lot — a private island in Nicaragua, or two 2017 Ferraris.
Or you could buy a wooden goose decoy being auctioned off July 25.
The decoy — created by Newburyport cabinetmaker Charles Safford (1877-1957) — is estimated to be worth $400,000 to $600,000, according to Gary Guyette, one of the owners of Guyette and Deeter, a Maryland auction house.
Guyette said Safford’s family sold the decoy to a collector about 15 years ago, and it is now consigned to his auction house.
Other Safford pieces aren’t worth this much, Guyette said. “His typical decoys sold for like, $10,000 to 15,000,” he said.
So what makes this decoy so expensive?
“It’s just the way it’s made,” Guyette said. “Decoys are handmade, they’re all different, and some come out much better sculpturally than others, and this one hit it.”
Safford carved a number of other geese, according to the auction catalog, but this is his only known “sleeper.” The goose is shaped as if it is asleep, with its head folding back to rest on its body.
“He did make floating birds, but many of his geese, including this one, were oversized, intended to be screwed onto metal triangles along with rigmates and left in the marsh throughout the hunting season,” the catalog said. “Its meticulous craftsmanship and elemental sculptural power place it in a rarified league with the finest of all Massachusetts working goose decoys.”
Born in the fishing hub of Gloucester, Safford is credited with creating some of the finest decoys ever to come from the North Shore in Massachusetts, according to the catalog, though little is known about him. In addition to being a skilled craftsman, Safford was passionate about wildlife, and maintained a shack on Plum Island.
Guyette said the pre-sale estimate was determined based on comparisons of what other decoys in the multi-hundred-thousand-dollar range have sold for, along with the knowledge of auctioning that comes from over 30 years of experience.
Decoys at this price don’t come very often, Guyette said.
“We’ve sold about 10 decoys for this amount or more,” he said. “The most expensive was about $865,000.”
Safford’s goose, along with around 600 other decoys, will be auctioned at the Sheraton Harborside in Portsmouth, N.H., July 25-26. For more information, visit guyetteanddeeter.com.Kiana Cole can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @kianamcole.