Copley Fine Art Auctions


PO Box 1707, Duxbury, Massachusetts 2331
617-536-0030

About Auction House

Copley Fine Art Auctions is the world's leading American sporting art auction company. Located in Boston, Copley specializes in antique decoys and 19th- and 20th-century American, sporting, and wildlife paintings. Principal Stephen O'Brien Jr., a fourth-generation sportsman with a refined collector's eye, launched Copley Fine Art Auctions in 2005 after almost fifteen years in the antiques trade. A trusted advisor to leading collectors, O'Brien opened Stephen O'Brien Jr. Fine Arts, LLC, in 1996, today considered one of the finest galleries dealing in American sporting art. Copley was a natural ...Read More
evolution for O'Brien, and a means of providing yet another arm of services to his clients. Copley has set numerous world-record prices for top sporting artists and decoy makers establishing itself as the go-to company for decoys and sporting art.Read Less

Auction Previews & News

8 Results
  • Auction Preview
    Copley Fine Art Auctions Features Harmon Hollow Nantucket Curlew Decoy in Upcoming Two-Day Sporting Sale

    Inside Copley Fine Art Auctions ‘ Two-Day Sporting Sale, collectors will find a Harmon Hollow Nantucket curlew decoy. The appearance of this featherweight, hollow plover decoy shows off its meticulously carved wings, from a raised shoulder to connected wing tips that lead to a thin, curved tail with V-parted feathering and tiger striping. The craftsman responsible for this artwork and its date of completion are unknown. These detailed features, combined with the curlew’s fine design and execution, have been compared to the works of A. Elmer Crowell (1862 - 1952), Fred Nichols (1854 - 1924), Charles Sumner Bunn (1865 - 1952), and others, although this piece is thought to predate these craftsmen by decades. Regarding this piece and its creator, the auction house states: “This Nantucket carver is among the greatest craftsmen ever to construct a working shorebird decoy,” and that this curlew is “among the greatest shorebird decoys ever to surface.” Also available is a rare curlew decoy by Charles Sumner Bunn (1865 - 1952), a member of New York’s Shinnecock-Montauk Native American tribe and an important figure in duck carving. This exceptional decoy has only recently been discovered. The piece had been passed down through a prominent New York family that had traded a 19th-century city life for one in the Hamptons. With very few decoys of this nature still in existence and even fewer circulating, this decoy is said to be “one of the greatest shorebird decoy discoveries in recent memory.” Visit Bidsquare to view the entire collection and explore other online auctions.

  • Auction Preview
    Pair of Realist Decoys Carved by Charles Wheeler Showcased in Upcoming Copley Sale

    In the upcoming two-day Winter Sale 2022, offered by Copley Fine Art Auctions, a pair of decoys carved by Charles Wheeler will be showcased. A self-taught artist, Wheeler made elaborate decoys and ornamental birds. He spent much of his time studying the ducks’ movements in local ponds. This study aided him to produce realistic sculptural forms of ducks. The set available in this event was presented at the 1948 National Decoy Makers Contest and Exhibition in New York.  Also in the auction is a watercolor painting by Ogden M. Pleissner. His paintings can be identified by intricate details and precise brushstrokes. Native Americans, cowboys, and animals are some of the recurring subjects of his compositions. Titled Grassing the Boat, the available work depicts a hunting scene at Long Point. Other items in the sale include a black and white watercolor work by Frank W. Benson, a pair of decoys by Lloyd Johnson, and more. View any of these lots on Bidsquare, and visit the platform to browse other major online auctions. 

  • Auction Preview
    Copley Fine Art Auctions Offers Watercolor Painting by Ogden Minton Pleissner

    A work from Ogden Minton Pleissner, titled June Trout Fishing, will be available in an upcoming Copley Fine Art Auctions sale. Often regarded as a master of the watercolor medium, Pleissner captured his subjects in intricate detail. Explaining the nature of his expressive works, Ogden Minton Pleissner writes in the lot essay: “A fine painting is not just the subject . . . It is the feeling conveyed of form, bulk, space, dimensionality, and sensitivity. The mood of the picture, that is most important.” Watercolor landscapes depicting scenes of the American West became the trademark of Pleissner’s long and successful career. The offered painting shows a fisherman enjoying the early season. The second day of the Sporting Sale 2021 event also highlights John James Audubon’s seven volumes of The Birds of America (1856). The octavo edition marked the success of Audubon’s hand-colored lithographs. It also includes more species that are organized in a scientific manner. View the full auction listings and register to bid on Bidsquare.

  • Auction Preview
    Over-the-Shoulder Plover and More from Copley Fine Art Auctions

    One of the decoys featured on the cover of the book New England Decoys by John and Shirley Delph is a plover in an unusual pose. The bird’s head is twisted, as if it is looking to the rear. Carver A. Elmer Crowell made the piece. The design is considered unique, though reminiscent of his well-known duck and goose decoys. The exact decoy used for the book cover will be available on the first day of The Sporting Sale 2021, offered by Copley Fine Art Auctions. Other carvings in the sale include a long-tailed drake decoy by Orlando “Os” Bibber, a ruffed grouse sculpture by Lemuel T. Ward, a pair of canvasbacks by Lemuel T. Ward and Stephen Ward, and more.  Beyond decoys, there are several paintings, including The Quiet Peace of an African Evening by British artist David Shepherd. It depicts a herd of elephants enjoying a dirt bath. The artist dedicated his work to conservation and launched the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation. Other lots in the sale include a Delph Perdew crow call, several early black and white photographs by Frank W. Benson, and a handful of miniature bird carvings by Wendell Gilley. View any of these lots and register to bid on Bidsquare.

  • Auction Preview
    Dudley, Cobb, and Other American Bird Decoys in Copley’s Winter Sale

    Made to distract, decoy ducks are placed in hunting areas to attract real birds. Carved wooden decoys are more difficult to find as plastic versions have become more popular. The upcoming Winter Sale 2021, presented by Copley, will offer a selection of carved Dudley decoys. Dudley decoys have compact bodies with sculpted lines that flow from beak to tail. The decoys were made by twin brothers Lee and Lem Dudley. These carved decoys also feature in books like Joel Barber’s Wild Fowl Decoys and William J. Mackey’s American Bird Decoys.  Another featured lot is a painting by Frank Benson. From his youth, the artist aspired to be an ornithological illustrator. Upon returning from Paris to his home in Massachusetts, he began painting portraits and birds. The available Redheads in Flight shows a flock of birds flying in formation over a marsh. Other notable lots include fine art by Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, Edmund H. Osthaus, and Ogden M. Pleissner. Visit Bidsquare for the full listings and to place a bid.

  • Auction Preview
    Several Works from A. Elmer Crowell Lead Copley’s Upcoming Auction

    A. Elmer Crowell’s decoy depicting a preening curlew is one of the highlighted lots in the upcoming Winter Sale 2021, presented by Copley Fine Art Auctions. The 1941 sculpture depicts a curlew bird with its head arched back to groom its feathers. A 20th-century decoy carver, A. Elmer Crowell was known for his American wildfowl sculptures. Crowell spent his early years observing and hunting Cape Cod’s birds, which helped him gain an understanding of avian anatomy. Later, this learning would allow him to incorporate life-like details in his work. The sale also features John Charles Terelak’s Dory Fisherman Off the Grand Banks. Many of Terelak’s works experiment with new techniques, distinct compositions, and color combinations. “Every painting takes a life of its own as it develops and evolves, taking the artist along for the ride,” he once said. The available piece shows three long-line dories returning to a fishing schooner to unload their catches. Paintings, sculptures, firearms, and sporting decoys are available in the auction catalog. Register to bid for any of these lots by visiting Bidsquare.

  • Auction Result
    A Record-Setting $108,000 Charles Coffin Nantucket Curlew Tops Copley Sale of Decoys and Sporting Art

    Copley's first live-streamed auction was a success. The sale, consisting of 296 lots, was 94% sold by lot and realized $957,000. The auction achieved several world record prices, thanks in part to the more than 150 new bidders registered to participate in the scaled-down one-day sale. A new record was set for Charles Coffin when the O'Brien-Nelson Hollow Nantucket Curlew sold for $108,000, making it the top lot of the sale. The top painting lot was a quail hunting watercolor by Ogden M. Pleissner, which landed at $37,200. Thomas Aquinas Daly's Electric Mountain blew past its high estimate to hammer at $16,800, setting a new world record for the artist. For more details of this sale, click on the link below to access the prices realized. A new record was set for Charles Coffin when the O'Brien-Nelson Hollow Nantucket Curlew sold for $108,000, making it the top lot of the sale.Copley Fine Art Auctions The results of this auction, along with the $3.46 million Winter Sale 2020, $1.7 million in private sales, and a $270,000 hybrid single-lot private auction, have pushed Copley's 2020 sales well over the $6 million mark just one month into the third quarter. Owner and principal Stephen B. O'Brien Jr. reports, "We created Copley Live five years ago as the decoy industry's only app. To see exponential growth in the number of bidders using it is highly rewarding. With the industry moving in this direction, we are able to seamlessly continue handling top collections and estates in the customized fashion that our clients have come to expect." A small number of items will be available for post-auction sale until next Monday, August 3rd. View the available lots. To purchase an item, please contact the Copley specialists at 617.536.0030 or by email at [email protected]

  • Auction Preview
    The Sporting Sale 2020

    Donal C. O’Brien, Jr., the former chairman of the National Audubon Society, had a special passion for hunting and fishing. Because of this love, he acquired an enormous collection of duck decoys, including those by Charles F. Coffin. Works from Coffin and Franklin Folger, Jr. are among the most notable Nantucket decoys on the market. In Copley Fine Art Auction’s upcoming event is an 1870 three-piece curlew decoy with stippled paint by Coffin. This hollowed decoy is paper-thin, and the body of the bird resembles the island of Nantucket.  Ogden M. Pleissner was an American artist known for his landscapes and paintings of hunters with their game. In this auction is his 1940 watercolor inscribed to W. Howard Cox, who was the head of Union Central Life Insurance Company, an economic advisor to seven presidents, and a sportsman. This piece, titled Quail Hunting, shows two men with their dogs hunting in a field. The inscription reads “To W. Howard Cox, With best wishes” in the lower right corner. View the entire catalog and register to bid for these items by visiting Bidsquare. 

  • Auction Industry
    Copley’s $3.4 Million Winter Sale Is One For The Record Books

    CHARLESTON, SC - Copley Fine Art Auctions, LLC, the nation’s premier decoy and sporting art auction house set a company record for one of their Winter Sales realizing $3.4 million in total sales. The February 15th auction was held in conjunction with the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE) at the Charleston Marriott in South Carolina. There was a frenzy of over 900 bidders participating from all platforms and across all categories, including antique and contemporary decoys, paintings, prints, folk art, canes, and Americana. The auction, consisting of 533 lots, was 96% sold, extending Copley’s unrivaled track record in the industry. The auction hall was filled with energy and plenty of foot traffic throughout the sale. At the auction’s start, every seat was filled and bidders were standing against the walls as established collectors, dealers, and institutions bid against new buyers in town for SEWE and the Dr. Muller Collection. The Winter Sale 2020 had nine lots reach six figures and fifty-seven items sell for five-figure prices. Robert Shaw, past curator of the Shelburne Museum and author of the definitive ​Bird Decoys of North America,​ described Dr. Muller as “a collector's collector, one of the great connoisseurs of the art of the decoy...Peter's quest set a new standard for decoy research and curation that should provide a model for all future publications and collections.” Bidders raised their paddles in agreement; Session I of The Dr. Peter J. Muller Jr. Collection of American Bird Decoys was 100% sold, making it one of the only “white glove” sales in the field of decoy collecting. The session achieved an unprecedented average price per lot of over $35,800 and accounted for six of the sale’s top ten decoy lots. This historic session was published in Copley’s fourth dedicated hardbound catalog which included a 24-page biography on the legendary collector. Copley’s owner and principal Stephen B. O’Brien Jr. reports, “​I am thrilled for the Mullers, our consignors, our buyers, and the entire Copley team, having just launched the most successful auction of its kind, ever in the South. The bidding on all platforms was on fire—the live audience was energized,…

  • Press Release
    Copley’s $3.4 Million Winter Sale Is One For The Record Books

    CHARLESTON, SC - Copley Fine Art Auctions, LLC, the nation’s premier decoy and sporting art auction house set a company record for one of their Winter Sales realizing $3.4 million in total sales. The February 15th auction was held in conjunction with the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE) at the Charleston Marriott in South Carolina. There was a frenzy of over 900 bidders participating from all platforms and across all categories, including antique and contemporary decoys, paintings, prints, folk art, canes, and Americana. The auction, consisting of 533 lots, was 96% sold, extending Copley’s unrivaled track record in the industry. The auction hall was filled with energy and plenty of foot traffic throughout the sale. At the auction’s start, every seat was filled and bidders were standing against the walls as established collectors, dealers, and institutions bid against new buyers in town for SEWE and the Dr. Muller Collection. The Winter Sale 2020 had nine lots reach six figures and fifty-seven items sell for five-figure prices. Robert Shaw, past curator of the Shelburne Museum and author of the definitive ​Bird Decoys of North America,​ described Dr. Muller as “a collector's collector, one of the great connoisseurs of the art of the decoy...Peter's quest set a new standard for decoy research and curation that should provide a model for all future publications and collections.” Bidders raised their paddles in agreement; Session I of The Dr. Peter J. Muller Jr. Collection of American Bird Decoys was 100% sold, making it one of the only “white glove” sales in the field of decoy collecting. The session achieved an unprecedented average price per lot of over $35,800 and accounted for six of the sale’s top ten decoy lots. This historic session was published in Copley’s fourth dedicated hardbound catalog which included a 24-page biography on the legendary collector. Copley’s owner and principal Stephen B. O’Brien Jr. reports, “​I am thrilled for the Mullers, our consignors, our buyers, and the entire Copley team, having just launched the most successful auction of its kind, ever in the South. The bidding on all platforms was on fire—the live audience was energized,…

  • Auction Preview
    The Winter Sale 2020

    Duck hunters use confidence decoys to lull their prey into a false sense of security. These decoys are not modeled after ducks, but instead other birds that a duck would encounter in an everyday environment, such as a goose or swan. A 1920 swan confidence decoy carved by Charles Birch is among the featured lots in the upcoming Winter Sale 2020, presented by Copley Fine Arts Auctions. The swan comes to auction in its original condition. This is considered unusual because most Birch decoys of this period were repainted after continuous use. Decoy collectors can also consider a pair of hooded mergansers carved by Ira Hudson. Hudson was among the first decoy makers to realize that patrons were buying his work not only to hunt birds but also for home decoration. He began adding details to his decoys to satisfy collectors. This style change can be seen in the available pair of hooded mergansers, in particular with the female merganser's crest. Beyond decoys, the Winter Sale 2020 also offers books and fine art related to hunting and birdwatching. Among these lots is a complete second edition of John James Audubon's The Birds of America (1856). The book's second edition included more species and reorganized Audubon's observations. The second edition also marked the first time that Audubon's research became widely available to the public. This copy was previously owned by Quaker businessman Charles Evans, whose inscription marks the book's front page. Also included in this lot with The Birds of America are the three volumes of Audubon and Rev. John Bachman’s The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America (1856). Register to bid for this event on Bidsquare.   

  • Auction Preview
    The Sporting Sale 2019

    Copley Fine Art Auctions will host their annual Sporting Sale, a treasure trove of wildfowling depictions and memorabilia.  Harkening back to a golden era of waterfowl hunting, the auction features oil paintings and sculptures that are astounding in their realism.   Depicting crisp autumnal days and snow-covered woods, the fine art portion places the viewer in the heart of the sporting action and gives context to the over 400 carved and cast birds in the auction.  These birds include decoys, or wooden birds used in sport to lure waterfowl. Over time, due to their scarcity and a new-found appreciation for their fine artistry, decoys have become highly collectible pieces of decorative art, and the ones included here are world-class examples.  With its superb brushstrokes, the Harmon turned-head plover by A. Elmer Crowell is believed to be the finest shorebird of its kind.  A Harmon feeding plover also by A. Elmer Crowell is regarded as one of the top two feeders in the world, with a similar example setting the world record for any shorebird decoy. Also included are a third plover, an Earnest-Purnell drake, a Safford goose, and a Combs pintail decoy, among many others.  An exquisite Edmund H. Osthaus hunting dog oil painting is present as are works by Lemuel T. Ward, Arthur Burdett Frost, Ogden M. Pleissner, and Aiden Lassell Ripley.  Rounding out the collection are several handsome sculptures as well as canes and other collectibles. For bidding registration and to view the complete catalogue, go to Bidsquare.

  • Press Release
    Copley Fine Art Auctions Holds Record-Setting $4.7 Million Sporting Sale

    Thomas Chambers (1860-1948), Wood Duck Drake, c. 1900, Sold for $270,000(Copley Fine Art Auctions, LLC, www.copleyart.com) On July 27 and 28, Copley Fine Art Auctions, LLC (copleyart.com) held the most successful decoy auction of all time, with an outstanding average price per lot of over $27,000 per decoy. This almost doubled the average price per lot from the sale of the Distinguished Collection of Dr. James M. McCleery held in 2000. Featuring the Donal C. O’Brien, Jr. Collection of Important American Sporting Art and Decoys, Sessions I and II set numerous world records, signaling the decoy market is back to full strength. John English (1848-1915), Pintail Drake, c. 1880, Sold for $246,000Copley Fine Art Auctions, LLC, www.copleyart.com Lot 6, a pinnacle wood duck by Canadian carver Thomas Chambers (1860-1948) set the first high water mark, selling for $270,000, a record for the carver and also a record for any Canadian maker. The John English (1848-1915) pintail drake sold for $246,000, shattering the old record for the maker, and becoming the highest priced decoy ever to come out of the Delaware River region. The Canada goose by Charles E. “Shang” Wheeler (1872-1949) shot to $198,000, smashing the world record for this important carver as well as for the Connecticut region. Charles E. “Shang” Wheeler (1872-1949), The Mackey-Wheeler Goose, c. 1935, Sold for $198,000Copley Fine Art Auctions, LLC, www.copleyart.com Overall, the blockbuster auction brought $4.7 million. The O’Brien Collection, with a 100% sell-through rate, was Copley's first "white-glove" sale, a true rarity in today’s auction market and a remarkable achievement for the nation’s leading decoy and sporting art auction house. Great decoys with strong provenance and exceptional form carried the day, leading to Copley’s most successful sale in the company’s eleven-year history.Copley Fine Art Auctions65 Sharp Street Hingham, Massachusetts  About Copley Fine Art Auctions Copley Fine Art Auction experts provide a host of services for collectors: Appraisals, including trusts and estates; auction, gallery, and private sales; collections management; custom framing and restoration. Whether you're a new or seasoned collector, we are happy to discuss options for the formation, development, or sale of a…

  • Exhibitions
    Copley To Offer American Prints from the Ernest and Carolyn Kramer Collection

    Copley Fine Art Auctions will hold its Winter Sale on February 17 at the American Theater located in the Design District of Upper King Street in Charleston, South Carolina. The sale will take place on Friday, February 17 in conjunction with the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition. Bidding on over 450 lots will begin at 11 am, with preview times running from 8:30 am until 10:30 am. Frank W. Benson (1862-1951), The Log Jam, 1915, etching, 9 ⅞ by 7 ⅞ inches, Estimate: $6,000-$9,000Copley Fine Art Auctions, www.copleypreview.com A wide selection of prints from the Ernest and Carolyn Kramer Collection will be on offer. After close to fifty years of collecting and thirty-five years in business, the Kramers have decided to retire, and they would like to give collectors the opportunity to acquire fine examples of sporting art by Frank W. Benson, as well as works by many other important twentieth century printmakers. Twenty-two rare and collectible Benson etchings, such as The Log Jam ($6/9,000) and The Retriever ($4/6,000) will be available, alongside five Aiden Lassell Ripley prints and additional works by important American printmakers Anders Zorn, Raphael Soyer, and others. Other artists in the sale include Minna Citron, Luigi Kasimir, Louis Lozowick, A. Lassell Ripley, and Harry Wickey. Ernest and Carolyn Kramer's interest in art was sparked by the rich artistic heritage of Gloucester, Massachusetts, Carolyn's hometown. Gloucester and nearby Rockport have attracted important world-class artists since the turn of the century, such as Fitz Hugh Lane, Winslow Homer, Childe Hassam, Frank Duveneck, Emile Gruppe and Aldro Hibbard.  Anders Leonard Zorn (Swedish/American, 1860-1920), Augustus Saint Gaudens II, 1897, etching, 5 ½ by 7 ⅞ inches, Estimate: $3,000-$5,000Copley Fine Art Auctions, www.copleypreview.com In 1968 the Kramers began collecting etchings by Frank W. Benson, "The Dean of American Sporting Art", and this became the catalyst for their collection and the business, Ernest S. Kramer Fine Arts & Prints, Inc., established in 1982. The gallery was a direct outgrowth of years of collecting Gloucester, Rockport, and Cape Ann paintings, as well as nineteenth and early twentieth century American and European fine prints. Online bidding…

  • Auction Preview
    Copley Fine Art Auctions, LLC – Winter Sale 2017 Catalog Order

    This dynamic auction brings to the block more than 450 lots of American paintings, drawings, prints, folk art, bird decoys, and antique fly rods. Featuring works from the collections of Richard and Lynn Gove, Ernest and Carolyn Kramer, Blair Ledingham, Grant Nelson, and the estate of Joyce and Larry Huffman. Selected artwork includes Trappers on the Lake by Frank E. Schoonover (1877-1972), four watercolors and over thirty etchings by Frank W. Benson (1862-1951), two major oil paintings by Edmund H. Osthaus (1858-1928), an important swan decoy by Charles Birch (1867-1956), and several exceptional carvings by the Ward Brothers, including a pair of life-size flying mallards ($40,000-50,000). The Winter Sale 2017 Catalog