Sunday, July 6, 2014

Hurricanes and duck stamps

The plan was to spend some time in Charleston, daylight hours on the beach and evenings sampling a few of the many dining establishments, in celebration of my bride's 40th. The dining establishment part was appealing. Sitting on the beach for two days, tempting the skin cancer gods, well.....

Mother Nature to the rescue. Thursday morning broke to showers and a 25 knot wind courtesy of Arthur, the first named storm of the season, and just enough to make the beach unappealing. The birthday girl decided to meet a friend at a Pilates class instead. Yeah I know, but it's her birthday and it would likely keep me out of any number of antique stores. So there I was in the Holy City with several hours on my hands and not one thing to do but wander around.

Downtown Charleston is a swarm of retail stores of all flavors, historic buildings dating back to the early days of our country, restaurants at every turn, and art galleries. Dozens and dozens of art galleries.

Art has always been a bit of an enigma to me, especially when it comes to placing a value on it. What makes one example of paint on canvas worth millions while another struggles to find demand at any price? Simple economics play a role, certainly, but perception seems to drive demand at least as much as supply. If it tickles someone's fancy enough to make him pay a high price, it has instant value to the rest of the art world and instantly lands out of my modest reach. As such, I tend to stay out of art galleries.

Unless, being captive in a city with more art galleries than fire hydrants, I wander by a window with 'Dog and Horse' on it.

Just inside the entrance hung 9 framed pieces of original duck stamp art. Done by several different artists, they dated from the '40s, '50s and '60s and, at least in the in opinion of the owner, are worth about as much as a brand new pickup with all the fixins.

Original duck stamp art collection for sale in Charleston gallery

The asking price on the collection is $50,000 and the owner prefers that it be sold as a set and not broken into individual works. Having spent my last $50,000 at Dunkin Donuts a few hours earlier, I was not a player as I gazed at this cut of waterfowling history. They were nice drawings, some intricately detailed and others more intent on action, but I have to say that none moved me, and I for art to have any value beyond mere investment it really should spark some feeling inside. Anger, longing, amazement, exuberance, even shock, anything that grabs your emotions by the collar and shakes them a few times when you look at it.

Someone will buy this collection eventually, though, and it will end up in a study or an office or a hunting retreat and people will ooh and ahh over these old, old duck stamp originals. And the next time they are sold, the price will be higher still.


  1. Art prices boggle my mind as well, I am considered by some an artist. I would rather undersell, pay some bills, and hope that my work makes it out into the world to be enjoyed by other people rather than ask a high dollar amount to try and recoup my time and inevitably never move a piece.
    I think in the case of those duck stamps and some other unreachably expensive pieces, the owner would actually ( wether they choose to admit or not) rather not sell in the first place. It can be hard to part with a rare item you have searched for and covet once its in your possession. And for the artist, it is just as hard to sell a painting you have spent months or even years fretting over and tweaking until you thought it was perfect.

    1. Interesting perspective. I'd never though about it from the producer side.

      I was listening to a story on NPR yesterday about a wine counterfeiter. They talked with one of his victims who spent millions on wine that wasn't what he though he bought. He drank plenty of the wine and still didn't know it wasn't the real thing until the authorities started contacting the counterfeiter's customers. Then he was pissed, not because the wine didn't taste good, although I'm sure it didn't taste quite the same, but because his "investment" wasn't worth what he paid for it. Seems there's an awful lot of value in perception.

  2. All the value is in perception...I, too, have wasted all my vast expendable income at Dunkin' Donuts, so things like Lynn Bogue Hunt originals, orignal duck stamp art and the like will have to remain outside my realm of experience. I tend to stick to thrift shop finds at thrift shop prices...