The Refuge Waterfowl Museum in Chincoteague, Virginia is putting one of the world’s largest collections of decoys and waterfowl-related artwork up for sale. According to, the first of two auctions will take place later this week while the second is scheduled for September. Among the items are carvings by famed craftsmen Miles Hancock, Steve Ward, Oliver Lawson, Frank Finney, and many others. The collection of decoys is extensive and one-of-a-kind.

“We have been in the decoy business as it relates to auctions for 10 years and never, ever have we been associated with anything this large or this significant,” said auctioneer Zeb B. Barfield.

The museum was founded by the late John Maddox, a businessman and hunter who applied the same techniques used on the field to those in the boardroom. Maddox opened the museum for the public in 1975, but the operation fell into decline after his death in 2011.

“None of us in the family have the same passion for this as Dad had,” said his son Richard Maddox, who is overseeing the sale. The family sought other methods of preserving the collection intact, including contacting the Smithsonian and local interests, but those solutions did not pan out. As a result the Maddox family will be keeping a few of the items and the rest will be auctioned off to interested collectors. While the decoys have always been at the core of the museum, the sale also includes numerous pieces of artwork, commercial items and even a hunting carriage from the 1890s.

After cataloging many unique items from a variety of artists and manufacturers, experts predict the collection will bring in a sizable dollar amount.

“We believe the collection might sell in the half-million-dollar range, but we could easily go up to $700,000,” Barfield said.

Image from schmuck-by-nature on the Wikimedia Commons

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