by Donna Tonelli
Amidst all the discussion, speculation and uncertainty about Dr. Jim McCleery’s collection and its ultimate sale, one thing was clear: his sporting collectibles collection was one of the finest ever compiled. Dr. McCleery was a scholar of many aspects of waterfowling, not just hunting decoys.The McCleery collection included one of the first extensive game call and snipe whistle collections to reach the auction block. Although small, his collection of spearfishing decoys included several pristine 19th century Lake Chautaugua, New York fish and some of the finest examples by the Faue brothers, Minnesota’s finest makers.
McCleery had assembled a fine collection of shell boxes, a fine grouping of two-piece boxes among them, including the rarest, a Winchester Star Christmas box, and excellent gunpowder tins. Highly desirable gunpowder advertising posters and a nice selection of Audubon etchings were among his art collection.
McCleery’s art collection was comprised of five choice gunpowder posters, original 20th century wildlife paintings, etchings by Audubon and Roland Clark, and vintage photographs. A DuPont "Shoot Ballistite" poster (est. $4000/5000) depicting a hunter lighting his pipe amidst his spread of shorebird decoys sold for $13,800, a new record price for any advertising poster or calendar. A Remington poster of redheads coming into decoys more than tripled its average estimate, selling for $12,650. The five posters brought $50,887, nearly double the high estimate. But the sleeper of the artwork was a watercolor on paper, "Take Two," by Jack Cowan of a winter scene of hunters and geese; estimated at $400/600, it sold for $10,637.
The gross sale of related waterfowling artifacts, fish decoy and wildlife art totaled nearly $625,000, an unprecedented figure in the history of sporting collectibles.
For the complete story, please see the March/April 2000 issue of Decoy Magazine.
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