Burn or saveIn yesterdays comments, which by the way were fantastic and a must read for new folks to the culture. A good question was asked by Mike, “Is it in the best interest of the sport/hobby to have boats restored or boat burned?” WOW! Never mind is it in your best interest. But should there be a place that before they get burned they are stored? Or any creative ideas. Donated to boat schools? Anything is better than destroying them? Or are they so far gone, that it makes sense to harvest parts and turn the boat into another being? Honestly I don’t have an answer. Nor is there probably a definite answer. Sure, we romantically all want to save every boat. But we do need parts? And parts don’t come from the factory anymore. That windshield part you just bought, came from someones dream boat at one time?  I am sure its a boat by boat case study, and for anyone that is reading this, a painful agonizing choice. But they are complete only once?  Let’s add a twist to the question.

Ad on our local craigslist.

Add on our local craigslist. Been there for a loooong time, Now also on ebay!

Lets say several years ago you got a U22 with all the right intentions like this one in DC. Missing parts, rotten wood. All of it.. There are several out there right now for $5K, and sitting there for a long time. Now lets add some hypothetical twist to it.. You are paying storage and your wife has kicked you out of the house. Cause you buy grey boats by the way and smell like old fuel all the time.. Do you trash it? or donate it, to save it. Egh? There is a test for ya! You can’t have it or afford it. What do you do, not for you, but for history. Are you the nail in the coffin? Or do you find a home? Do you change your Craigslist listing to Free to a good home? Can your ego handle it? That is the way to save it?

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56 Responses to “One More Tough Question! Burn, Save Or Donate?”
  1. Texx

    The burn pile should be the absolute last option for any old wooden boat. Some day the supply will diminish further and even a pattern boat may be considered desirable for some models.

  2. Mike

    This is probably not a fair question for this list. Folks reading these posts already have a soft spot for wooden boats and will likely take a “donate” option over a burn option. The question is really for those who have no current connection to wooden boats and have just obtained a gray boat through 1) inheritance, 2) discovery in a storage unit/barn, 3) random/impulse purchase, etc. These folks may have to make a quick decision and that decision will be influenced by the 40K-60K restoration price tag. Besides doing the work oneself (which is not an option for may people), how can we get the restoration costs down? Is there a minimal restoration to functionality; A way to restore to the point of using a gray boat, which still leaves the option for a complete restoration later?

  3. JFunk

    Sometimes it just gets down to economics. Parting out a rotted boat that cannot find a new home can at least help an owner recover some of their cost. Many times parting out brings more money than selling as a complete boat. Sad but true. Seems a lot of bad hulls move unchanged from one owner to another. Once acquired they realize the skills, time, and economics of a restoration are not realistic, and often give up before they begin. Good intentions, unintended result. Some of the most expensive boats are those you get for nothing. Yes, some boats should just be burned with friends over your favorite adult beverage, rather than allowed to linger until they literally fall apart.

    • c bulla

      most of the time good restorable boats get made into novelty items (the very restorable ones that is)and the ones that are not savable usually linger in agony !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Chris Wade

    Very interesting topic and hits close to home. I have a 1940 15’6″ CC Runabout. Grey boat, Pattern boat, whatever you want to call it. 99% of hardware, original CC “B”. For 20 yrs., I have been moving it, storing it, and contemplating its future. Not a highly desirable model, but sweet and prewar. The only thing that saves her from becoming cord wood is the dream of the cool breeze in my face while motoring down the lake. I think I would throw in towel if I new someone could use parts of her or learn something from working on her….Thoughts, Matt?

    • Keith Momberg

      Also hits “close to home”. I acquired a 1948 CC Special Rocket..Very Grey; not a desireable model but it’s all there. It sat out side until I discovered and moved to my Lake place with the intent to restore. It appears from everyone I have spoken to that based on the Model and it’s lack of real desireability, that this would be a candidate for parts…certainly not the “burn pile”.

      • WoodyGal

        Hi Keith,
        Our family boat was a rocket. Cedar planked, painted blue and sold to a friend of my Dad’s in Missouri in about 1967? Do you have any information on your boat’s earlier history?

        • Keith

          Yes, Hull# R-16-992 sold new in 1948 delivered to Starke, Fl and resided on Kingsley Lake, FL with same family until I discovered her. Also cedar planket with white hull, red interior. In Very poor shape…pattern boat most likely; sat uncovered in the weather for years. Worth saving probably not, based on what I have seen ones in very good shape sell for. But No intent to Burn.

  5. Troy in ANE

    So many possible answers to what seems to be a simple question.

    First I would think any boat that is destine for the junk heap should go through an offering in Bone Yard Boats. I have linked several people up with Dave who have had success moving their boat on to the next steward.

    IF you get to the point of parting them out, now you have the same issue. Who wants the parts, where are they, is it worth your time to remove said parts, stock them, list them, and eventually ship them to someone across the country. In my dealings over the last few years even the master parts man himself, Jim Staib, has admitted to me that he does not take W’s that are offered to him because they are too heavy and there is not enough demand. This is not even taking into consideration the emotional toil of taking apart a boat that you had dreamed would be a family heirloom one day.

    I would have to say if you are at the end of the line and someone out there is willing to take it, let it go otherwise it is time for a good bon fire.

    Wow, I can’t believe I just typed that last sentence.

  6. Steve Balcer

    Depending on how rare it is I think saving that old pile of rotten wood would still be worth it. In Bay City MI. where I am from Ron and myself totally save a “possible” 1913 Defoe launch for a historical group that was pretty much rotted away. Just wish they would have saved the original motor and all the hardware. At lease they found something close for it that someone saved.
    Historical stuff should be saved regardless of condition.

  7. Steve Moreau

    Good morning Guys and Gals! Sorry that its been awhile since I’ve posted but I have very limited time right now, and have been in school which has burned up the very little personal time that I do have. Anyhow the last two days the topics and responses have been over the top in my views. The pictures in the header and in this post brings tears to my eyes and the thought that someone would burn them will down right break me down! It’s like that watching that T.V. commercial with the sad dogs and cats that look like they are about to cry, or the kids that are hungry and no parents to love them! So what to do about it I don’t know, I know that I haven’t the time for my own projects, but if I only think about myself what good will that be for the future of the hobby and the outcome of these boats! And to tell the truth any boat that I run across (regardless of hull material or manufacture) that appears to have run it’s course and is left to rot away has me thinking (I wonder what it was like new, how much it must have meant to the owner when they picked it up at the dealership, and how much fun it has given it’s owners over it life and how did it wind up in this state). Anyway need to get back to schooling myself, and it has been a great couple of day here in woodyboatville.

    Thanks Steve Moreau
    PS is there a not-for -profit old beat down boat organization that I can send $20.00 a month to so I can at least say I’m doing my part and feel better about myself!

  8. Gerry Lodge

    If it has a legitimate serial number that can be traced it must be saved !

  9. Rick

    Off topic ( as I am frequently). Attended the NY Boat Show yesterday trying to decide on massive renovation of my plastic fantastic cruiser or go new and bigger. While checking out the new CC’s, my daughter loves the new Carina, I came across 2 friendly faces from Katz. Joe and Tony (hmmm Joe and Tony from Jersey) who were at the show for the 1st time I guess. Had fun talking woodies, the collapse last year (building is still down), Tony lives next door, and the new CC’s. Opening day there and it was on the quiet side so I didn’t feel too bad taking up their time.

    • dreed

      Is Seth selling the Carina or just showing it off? If he is selling it, I thought he would at least give me a ride in it first as I helped him negotiate the purchase price.

      • Rick

        Katz’ wasn’t the only CC dealer in the booth. I’m not sure which were the boats he brought to NY.

  10. Paul H.

    If the boat is grey or only a pattern and everything is either missing or in need of replacement, what is it that is being saved? A hull number or data plate (as I have heard this process referred to in aviation)? That is what it sounds like to me.

    There is indeed a limited supply of preserved boats or unrestored survivors that can be returned to use with some reasonable amount of original materials in place. There is a virtually unlimited supply of hulks or HIN ‘s from which can be synthesized a “restored” boat. To me there is a huge difference between the two classes of boats. If you have to replace everything, then how can it be identified as truly what the HIN suggests it was when built?

    Other than appearance, what does a 1940 barrel back zooming across the lake with all new wood, modern power, electronic instruments and new interior materials have to do with the boat on the hull card? In my view, very little.

    Because a rotted hulk with a HIN will only end up resembling the original but will actually not be that boat, I personally don’t place much value on it and would not spend the money to restore it. The person that burns it today is not the guilty party when attributing blame – that chain of neglect likely started decades ago with someone else. If you can’t keep any of the soul of the original boat, it is okay to dispose of in my view. That also addresses the supply – debt issue that Jeff raised.

    We need to define what is a real antique or classic boat and what is not. In know in my mind what it is but that is as far as I would wish to apply that definition.

    • m-fine

      You cannot compare to the highly regulated aviation world. An old aircraft data plate can be worth many times its weight in gold because you can restore an airplane around it and regain the original certification in the eyes of the FAA.

      You can build two identical 1930’s WACO bi-planes from the factory plans. If one has a data plate, it can be certified is the “Normal category” like it was purchsed from the factory. This is a restored aircraft with the original serial number. The other must be certified in one of the experimental categories and will have operational limitations. This is a reproduction aircraft.

    • Ranger

      “Other than appearance, what does a 1940 barrel back zooming across the lake with all new wood, modern power, electronic instruments and new interior materials have to do with the boat on the hull card? In my view, very little”.

      OUCH

  11. Alex

    “Burn, save, or donate?”

    Man I hate it when people try to limited my choices. There must be other alternatives.

    Has anyone ever tried smoking one if these?

    • Tommyholm

      Alex baby you been out in the sun too long. Get across the bridge for gods sake.

  12. steve bunda

    We need to raise the Demand for wood boats , then the supply will dwindle and the cost to purchase goes up. Every one will be happy , the boat owner will fell more comfortable with restoration costs if the boat value at completion is more realistic. The purchaser of a restored boat will feel more secure with his or hers investment.
    Right now Grey and Project boats are plentiful in some not so rare models, but there are costs to storage. Thus the seller of a project is factoring in this with the acquisition price. Sell , Save, Store , so NO to Burning!

  13. Wilson

    I’d say before burning it, at least get out the plug cutter and make use of as much of the ole boat as possible. I don’t think they are making that kind of mahogany any more.

  14. Mike Green

    Great discussion. Sometimes things don’t always make sense, I believe if your heart is in it then it’s worth every penny. We all know the car world is on a whole other level money wise then restoring a boat. Sometimes the figures are staggering. Look at the restoration of a duesenburg sure the car is worth a million bucks but he has 1.5 in it. The paint job alone is crazy. So it’s all relative to what you want in the end. I don’t know one guy that when the restoration is done and he is cruising his beautiful boat all day he regrets it. He pulls up to the dock to refuel, people stop what there doing to come see a piece of history. The owner and the on lookers feel something deep in there soul, unfortunately that costs money.

    So I pose the question, I this hull worth saving?

    • Mike Green

      “Topper” 1929 28′ Chris Craft Limousine only 1 of 4 to still exist. You will be able to see this boat at the Clayton Museum this summer.

  15. charley quimby

    There used to be a good supply of gray boats in my area, Southern Maryland. Up on the South River there was a marina in the early seventies that crushed and burned lots of runabouts and cruisers. If something is rotted to the keel, stripped of all hardware, then disposal is probably all that is left to be done, but many of those boats were complete, the owners having died off or moved away, leaving the marina to deal with the problem. These days, backyard storage is coded-out in many areas of the country, so blue tarp storage is illegal. If one has the property on which to erect storage buildings, and the passion for preserving boats in various stages of decomposition, then I say why not. Trouble is very few of us are in that position. I have parted out a lot of Ks, Cad. Crusaders, and Chryslers over the years, and let some of the stuff go because of lack of storage room. Same with runabouts such as Shephards, Cris-Crafts and Centuries… Just no storage room inside, and county codes that preclude outside storage. I do know of a few project boats in the area, but they would require deep pockets and the passion I spoke of earlier. In a few years they will be beyond salvation. Charley Q.

  16. Mike Green

    Everything is so expensive now a days it’s hard in the restoration business to make good money. Most of the time I love what I do but does it make financial sense? Working with my hands is what I was born to do and that goes back many generations in my family. So if you can work a good job an restore a boat yourself (not everyone has that ability) then I say go for it! Save every boat you can, it might take you 10 years but you will be glad you did.

    Here’s another hull, save or burn it? Some of you know where I’m going with this.

    • Tommyholm

      But you didn’t save that boat you replicated it. And we thank you for doing so.

      • Paul H.

        With characteristic brevity Holmes, you have reduced my statements to their simple essence. What exists here is a lovely model of a boat that once existed – if I am correct in stating that there is little or nothing of the original remaining in use within it. How could it be anything else? I mean that with absolutely no disrespect to Mike or the owner, and the boat is perfect – far better than the antecedent ever was. But, it is NOT the boat that exited the factory in 1940 – it may be a perfect representation of it, but it is not “it”.

        This distinction is not made anywhere that I am aware of in our hobby, and I think it should be – but that is simply my personal view and nothing more.

        Mike is restoring my Continental for me now – I chose Mike because of his scrupulous attention to detail, his workmanship and his integrity. He has preserved everything that is possible to preserve on my boat, and that is a lot of it. That is just my preference, and I think Mike’s as well – when there is something other than a pattern or HIN to work from.

    • Mike Green

      I think it was worth it, only one still known to exist. 1941 18’6 Century Triple

  17. Gary

    “…the HIN suggests what it was when built…” really caught my attention and also the data plate wrt aviation. In aviation refurbishment and replacement of items happens and most of those replaced parts don’t come close to suggesting how it was built due to safety issues imposed.
    Given a life preserver and the sunny summer weather these woodies just don’t have peril written all over them. My airplane does and I am very happy all of the structural wood was replaced even if it was years ago. It is not for static display but for usage and pleasure.

    As far as retaining only the HIN you are mistaken you are retaining the form function shape and ambiance.

    But there are lots of considerations, too many here, for preserving or retaining that HIN. Personally mine came about from not realizing I had one foot in the ground and too much imagination.

    • Paul H.

      Hi Gary – I certainly did not mean to imply that there is a connection between the safety requirements embedded in a plane restoration and a boat – the differences are indeed rather stark. I meant the analogy to draw a comparison to the deviation from original, with no connection between the reasons for the deviation. In boats, the choices may be more individual whereas in aviation they are likely mandated by law.

  18. Paul H.

    In the car hobby, survivors and numbers matching cars are where it is at, apparently. A “survivor” may not mean untouched original and it may have been restored but using original components of the car as built. Anyone can take a wrecked Tri-5 Chev. early Mustang or some other common car and recreate it with after market parts, but why, when there are many bona fide originals out there?

    With boats, there are fewer of them surviving for many obvious reasons, but in most cases, they are still there – certainly among more common models. I restored a 1946 Gar that required almost all new wood, only because there are just 2 of this model in existence and I did not wish to responsible for its’ ultimate demise. Financially it was an utter folly, but I have pride in that I saved what I could and preserved an example of an exceptionally rare boat. Would I do that with a 17′ Utility, which are plentiful? No way. I would be unlikely in the extreme to ever do this again, with any boat.

    Steve, as long as there are grey boats from which to “create” restored boats, the supply issue will not be addressed. Price of BB’s is too high? Lets pull another wreck out of the weeds and restore it with new everything. Add some supply, and what does that do to prices? Look to the current price of oil for the answer to that. The availability of grey boats with restorations undertaken that have no sound basis financially or otherwise actually perpetuates the supply/demand imbalance. Why restore a basket case U22 when there are likely 50 or more good ones available now, as an example? Do we need to add more to the supply side?

    Perhaps my interpretation of the issue is a bit more esoteric than the basic question posed, but it comes down to distinguishing between what is a real example of a classic boat, and what is not. I personally require a boat to have a large quantity of original componentry, almost certainly original power and other characteristics for me to “feel” that it is a legitimate representation of what the factory built. I want the original appearance, operating experience and soul of an antique boat to be evident when I use it. A boat with all new wood and modern or replacement everything cannot do it for me, and if we distinguish between what the factories really built and what is created in the restoration process today, we may see values of the real survivors ascend above the restored boats that are all so much better now than what was produced new.

    There is no economic equilibrium in the restoration of a pattern boat and I do not feel a connection to it because it is not what was built- so for me the answer is part it out if you can, and dispose of it. Others will obviously feel differently, but if it makes no sense financially and I can’t connect with it as an owner, then the answer is simple.

    This may be hash, but I consider it more sacrilegious to call a boat with absolutely nothing left of the original a 19XX whatever it was than it is to give a decent end, after parting it out. Kind of an organ donation program, if you will. It can’t be just the HIN that makes the boat……

  19. m-fine

    This isn’t a difficult question. What do you burn beside grey boats? Witches! We know that a witch will float. What else floats like a witch? A duck! So all you need to do is weigh the boat. If it weighs the sakes as a duck…BURN IT!!! If it weighs more, I guess you restore it.

  20. m-fine

    Sakes = same. And while we are on a burning kick, can we please burn the people at Apple responsible for the iPhone autocorrect?

  21. Gary

    No, the HIN doesn’t make the boat. But I do think the form function and ambiance do make the boat.
    You are right about some boats should have been organ donors but that only begs the question of “why preserve or rebuild this boat?”. In the argument for the one I am doing today it is one of three optioned models made out of 150 that is still in existence. A couple of years ago it was really grey and when it rode the trailer down the road it left behind screws. I am sure there were some deflated tires along with footballs.

    Mr. Green’s question then becomes the eminent rationale when taking on a boat. Each one is different and yes cost plays a big part but “what are the merits behind saving this boat?”

  22. Gary

    Apple? Now there is a great idea. Stake them out and burn them. I paid way too much for AppleCare to wait 15 minutes or more every time I call and yes the auto correct burns me up.

  23. gene porter

    Paul H has the essence about right;

    Make the extra effort and investment needed to save the souls of rare and unique but badly deteriorated old boats; but don’t much bother with basket cases of most common models – part them out and save some lumber for dutchmen on other less hopeless boats.

    Unless it was your grandfather’s boat, or your honeymoon boat, or for myriad other personal reasons. In short, its hard to establish a blanket answer, every situation is different and needs specific evaluation.

    With regard to saving hull plates etc, there is one useful paradigm that says that if the restoration was performed in a way that ensured that the ongoing project always looked like a boat, it is fair to call the result a restored “193X yournamehere”; if it was completely disassembled and rebuilt from the ground up from plans or patterns, it is a replica of a “193X yournamehere”. The ACBS classification rules don’t yet seem to have captured this distinction.

    I’m sensitive to Charlie Q’s observations re storage shortages. Wouldn’t it be nice if some philanthropist/woody fanatic would acquire a lot of abandoned warehouses in which old hulks could safely wait out of the sun and snow for the grandchildren to find them. But He would also need to fund a bookkeeper/historian or two to preserve any available or emerging records.

  24. floyd r turbo

    another option to drum up business for restoration shops: ad for evilbay: “@@LOOK@@ Free woodie boat (with restoration contract)”.

  25. Eric

    I say you preserve/restore them all! Any setbacks in the process of bringing them back to life is ALL worth it. You just have to have the perseverance to push your skills and accounts to the limits. That’s what saves the boat and the hobby. The joy and satisfaction of giving a future life to a piece of history should come with a reward no matter how small.
    Why would anyone think it’s a good idea to glue canvas to a hull? Seemed like a good idea then…paying the price for it now…enjoying the unexpected challenge!!!

  26. Nautilus Restorations

    Everyone values their time differently and purse strings are tighter on some than others. The answer to the question is simple: If you like it and want to restore it, do it. As I’ve said before. it’s not about money. The money to do so will be needed a little at a time. Work at your own pace. You CAN afford it.

    Anyone who knows me knows that I eschew judging. Why judge? God knows there is enough judging in this world already. Is the point of a restoration to garner personal attention? A T-shirt with “Look at me” is much cheaper and more to the point. (Just thought I’d throw that in!)

    Not all of us are as enamored with data plates and originality as others. The only reason to concern yourself with a data plate is to substantiate history, originality…or inflate the value. I don’t concern myself with such things. I restore wooden boats for myself (once in awhile) and when they’re completed, I take them out on the lake and run the hell out of them. I have a blast. Nearly everyone admires them and I’ve never been asked to substantiate originality. There’s a name for such antics. It’s called it woody boating.

    The over-riding question to determine whether a gray boat should be restored is quite simple: Do you want to? If not, pass it on to someone else who can/will. A restoration with a 90% replacement of parts is still a saved mahogany boat, with or without a data plate. I say burn nothing.

    Burning is heresy. Burn the heretics, not the boats!

  27. Tuobanur

    When I purchased my boat, some 17 years ago, I knew nothing about the classic/antique boat world I just knew I wanted to build a boat. Since I had never built a boat I thought it might be to my advantage to rebuild, instead I found a good template for $500.00.
    I did all the work myself with the exception of gauges, chroming and engine rebuild and I can honestly say that my out-of-pocket expense is less than $15,000.00, not including trailer. When I purchased the boat I had no idea of the value of the hardware that was still on the boat, I know now that had I gone out and purchased the pieces that were still with my boat I would have spent more than $2,000.00.
    I am only a few months out now from completion and can honestly say that I don’t regret one minute that I spent on my project, the feeling I get every day when I walk in to my shop and see what I have accomplished amazes me, the comments from my friends and family alone makes it worth every minute I have spent. With that said, there is some value to be found in just about anything.

      • Paul H/

        Lovely work, and what a feeling of pride and satisfaction you must and should have! Of course, economics and the very questions asked today may not apply to a person who pursues such a restoration project as itself a long-term hobby, as many of us pursue boating itself. It ceases to become an economic question and one of personal effort, enjoyment, learning and skill. For those of us who dwell on the skill-less side of the equation, the numbers themselves are more meaningful and an essential part of the decision. Projects like yours, completed by hobbyists themselves, lie in a world all their own, where labor inputs are passions and a hobby unto themselves, not a direct cost. Congratulations on your perseverance and skill..

  28. thomas d

    the idea of a “undesireable” wood boat has never enter my head, didn’t know there was such a thing. there is something about the old derelicts that attract me, ask my wife . 35 years ago i burned a boat that today would be worth 40 grand but i was young and stupid. if anyone has any undiserable boats, and will deliver, i still have room across the street for it. they are all useful for something even if it’s a crappie bed.

    • Tuobanur

      I like it, think anything is better than burning them, they can even make good yard art.

  29. Jordan Heath

    I have several boats in the yard awaiting the BURN PILE right now. No one is beating down my door to buy them at even ridiculously cheap prices. I have burned three boats, a Higgins (POS), a Chris Craft (well beyond its years), and a Mercury (and I love Mercury’s but this was a nothing hull.) Had a call from a potential buyer about a 22′ Shephard that I have for sale…wanted to know if it could be restored for 40k…the answer, maybe but not likely if you do it yourself, out of the question otherwise. By the way I’ll take $1,500 for the boat, with engine and some hardware. It may be on the burn pile soon. BURN them? SAVE them? Who knows? They are all pattern boats or will be again some day whether any of us here are around to see that day or not. Click on my name to be directed to my website with pics.

  30. steve bunda

    Lots of moving parts and angles to this discussion. Take away the apprehension for others to join the hobby and invest time and money into a real antique or classic boat . This will increase demand of the limited more desirable wood boats { just look at the Essential guide }. I am not including reproductions in this hypothesis , the limited supply will drive values up. Then boat owners will feel more comfortable with purchase, restoration, and maintenance costs.
    Most people cannot get into a 19 foot barrel back, but could start small with many other options. Prewar runabout 16,17,18,19 foot, or many post war runabouts.
    Prominence is very important, and history of the wood boat it is part of the allure. Personally I collect Chris Craft prewar survivors , I use them from time to time, but would not recommend a original bottom boat to a newbie who trailers the boat to the lake.

  31. Gary

    I find the attitude that “only resembling the original boat” as a result of restoring a grey boat really limited. The restorer has to take into consideration shrinkage, warpage and various other problems in duplicating the original boat. Take it also into mind a lot of these boats were thrown together by the original manufacturer with an expected lifetime of only 10 years. Therefore a restored grey boat may have a HIN and look very similar to the original documentation what makes it not the same boat if it looks the same as the original?

    On another thought what if all the bearings, pistons, and a cam shaft or crank is replaced in an engine rebuild then the same logic dictates “resembles”?

  32. Pete

    I have what is called “Half Boat” which was named by the previous owner. As you can see from the photo the fits it well. I feel good owning her except when the storage comes due every month and that is not so good but then I have a short list that is completed on the restoration which makes me feel like the end will come one day. The instruments are restored, the chrome is done so dang it I have to now finish her.
    Each person has to make their own decision but I am for donating before burning…