The Artifact & The Story
Elsewhere in this issue (p. 63) is an article about an “ancient” decoy derelict that has been in the care of Ron Gard for almost fifty years. As he writes, it may not qualify as a derelict, in the strictest terms, since he has provided shelter and “safe harbor” for it for such an extended period of time. But that factor alone provides at least a partial story for the ever-so-well weathered old bird. However, as Ron says, “You can use your imagination on how beautiful the original, oversized, Mason Can Drake was, and how many hunts, and how many marshes it saw before its head ended up on this body, and maybe several others before.” So that beautiful decoy is the artifact, but we only have the end of the story. And as Ron suggests, we would love to have the “rest of the story” about its apparently long life prior to its being “rescued” by him.
In my “Railroad Decoy” article (pp. 6-14) in this issue there is another wonderful and “ancient” artifact, dating back to around 1890, that Deb and I rescued about twenty years ago. Unlike Ron’s decoy that no doubt weathered many stormy seasons in watery marshes as well as a good deal of stray buckshot, our artifact enjoyed the “high life” of dining cars on New York Central & Hudson River elite trains. Its habitat was linen draped tables with flickering candles and soft music. It was no “pretend” artifact like Ron’s wonderful decoy; it was the “real thing,” a silver solder, toothpick holder provided for the convenience of wealthy, freshly wined and dined, railroad patrons of the “First Order!” In my article I tell where Deb and I found it, but like Ron’s decoy, it has no known story, so I made one up. You can decide whether you like it or not. It’s on page 14 of this issue.
It’s an interesting concept…. Serious collectors are always talking about how old and/or how rare an artifact is. That’s understandable since both age and rarity are huge factors in valuing an artifact. But I have a hunch that most collectors are as interested in an artifact’s story as in its value.
When you stop to think about the “artifact vs. story” concept, it boils down to a pretty simple “bottom line.” Consider this: Why would someone collect ancient Roman coins if they didn’t know (or care) anything about the Roman Empire and its history. Or why would anyone collect World War II U.S. postage stamps if they didn’t know anything about the history of WW!!?
I’d pretty much “put my money” on a serious collector of rare fly rods and reels that he/she is also passionate about getting to a good trout stream any time they can! And why would anyone collect vintage golf equipment if they didn’t love the history and lore of the game of golf?
I’m sure there are individuals who have valuable collections of “Whatever” who don’t know beans about the story behind the artifact. To each his/her own! But, if you’re reading this editorial in this magazine, I know that YOU do care a LOT about the story of the artifacts that you collect; and I commend you!!
Happy collecting, everybody!