James R. Best Swan/Goose

James Best

James Best (1866-1933) Born and raised in Kitty Hawk, N.C.

The goose is from the famous stand of eighteen geese carved from the mast of the schooner, William H. Davidson.

Mr. Best made this stand of decoys for his friend, A. B. Love Tillet around 1910. The goose had several layers of paint applied by the Twiford family from Elizabeth City, N. C. after they inherited the goose and used if for many hunting seasons.

The stately form sets this goose decoy apart from any other North Carolina decoys. The decoys simply have the best form and style of any old working goose or swan decoys made in North Carolina.

My personal story about this goose took place at the Guyette & Deeter, Inc. auction November 21, 2020. I purchased the goose with swan overpaint for $30,000.00. As a collector I knew that the form was great but I had to question whether there was good, old paint left under the swan white surface paint.I went back and forth trying to decide whether or not to take a chance on the goose. My wife, Margie, said -You’ve lost your mind spending that much money on a repainted decoy.

After sending photos to the restorer and discussing the paint we felt like the decoy could be brought back to its original purpose as a goose decoy. The decision was made to bid and purchase the decoy. Please see photos of before and after the restoration and you be the judge.

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