When buying fish decoys on ebay you have to rely in general on the sellers brief description of the piece and one or more pictures chosen by the seller. If the decoy is an older piece, descriptions and pictures can become even more important. Most sellers on ebay do a straightforward job at describing the item and backing it up with great pictures, but there’s always that lesser group of sellers that for what ever reason, give you inadequate or erroneous information and or darn right poor quality pictures.
Spend some time on ebay and you’re sure to see a description that reads something like this, ‘Vintage fish decoy with rusty fins. I don’t know anything about fish decoys but was told from an avid fisherman it was very old and rare.’ Along with the description there will be pictures that are blurred. Many potential buyers that come across listings like this one will shake their head in skepticism and move on to other listings. While I can’t blame them for moving on, there are the rare occasions you’ll pass up a notable decoy at a great price. Because of my persistence I’ve added several first-rate vintage fish decoys to my collection. And other times, I have kept myself from making a fundamental misjudgment. Sitting next to my computer I keep a list of questions as a reminder of things to ask a seller if needed. And I ask my questions early on in the auction to give the seller ample time to respond. Below are some of my more essential questions I will ask when required.
(1) If needed, ask the seller to email you better pictures of the item and close up pictures of areas you’re concerned about. More often than not I receive the pictures and of better quality then the initial pictures. I have a secondary email address I give sellers to email me the pictures to.
(2) Ask seller for information on exactly how and where he got the decoy from, and for how long he has owned it. If you ask for and get enough history from the seller, you just might be able to figure out fact from fiction.
(3) If the seller uses the word ‘vintage’ ask him why he feels it is vintage and just how old or what date period would vintage be to him. My vintage work boots haven’t been made since 2004 but my vintage wood working tools date from the 1940’s.
(4) When you see a word relating to rust on the decoy, you should raise your eyebrows. I will always plainly ask the seller if its recent or genuine aged old rust. You’d be surprised how often I get an honest answer. I also ask the color of the rust since pictures don’t always illustrate the true color. I ask if the rust wipes of easily and if the rust does wipe off easily, is there clean or shinny metal showing under the rust.
(5) Ask if there is any damage that is not mentioned in the description or anything else that might effect the assessment of the decoy. If there is a signature, ask if it looks original to him or added at a later date. I actually had sellers email me back that the signature looked to be added at a later date.
(6) Ask the seller if he can tell by looking how the fins are affixed to the decoy. If he states by glue, this will help tell if the decoy is more modern than vintage.
These questions are my basic ones and with time you’ll add others to your list. When asking questions, you can request not to have your question shown on the seller’s page. Why give another potential buyer the same advantage from your hard work. Finally, regardless to what you’re bidding on, always check the sellers feedback score and their shipping and return policy.
Happy hunting, John A. Gabriel
You can contact John at
This article was written by John A. Gabriel
from Lombard, Illinois
(c) 2007 John A. Gabriel
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Fishcritter comments: John has writting two very informative articles and well worth the reading. Thanks John.