Pre War, Post War Or Post Post War Classic Boats. Which One Is A Better Investment?

Pre war Sportsman

Pre War 25 Sportsman on Torch Lake

First, this is a repeat story from 2015. We made a 16 drive yesterday and to be honest. I am still sleeping. Yes I did this last night, or now, but will be published in the morning, today which is tomorrow.

My brain has a little clock twirling write now. Right now?

Second, yes I said investment. When I got into the classic boat thing, I asked around and was told that a Pre War boat was a better investment. Now at that time, it was possible to buy a $30K boat and a year later sell it for $40K. That’s not really the case anymore, unless you buy very well. Thats the one time you make money on a boat deal by the way. When you buy it. Now, maybe it’s just me, but lately the Post war boats seem to be out pacing the pre wars. That’s a shift. Why? Well, there are some theories.

1948 Chris Craft 25 Sportsman 25

Post War 25 Sportsman

One big one is that the generation that’s buying and restoring boats today are more Post War age, rather than Pre War.  I will say though, that a Pre War boat has a hand made feel, and is in a way more elegant or simple in a very basic Model A way. But restoring one can be a bit more labor intense. But its a model by model thing.

Syvia sides

Ugh, I still remember all those screws. Yes I was bent over for another reason than just looking!

Sylvia upside down

Sylvia upside down

I know that restoring our 1941 Barrel Back had some interesting things to deal with. Flat head screws can present a bit of a speed challenge. Huge covering boards that waste a bunch of wood, can cost. But the hand made design feel is magic, where as the Post War stuff can be smoother and there is nothing like a Reed & Prince Screw when you’ve done 3000 flat head screws.

Yannon and Jim

Jimmy in YANNON, and stunning early 50’s Post War Riviera, considered by many of one of the most iconic post war boats. With gorgeous blonde accents

Kays 8

A collection of Post war 22 Sportsman, including one in Post Blue, just to confuse things. Photo Bob Kays


This flawless original 1956 20′ Sportsman shows the difference in 20 fool Sportsman Design, Pastel colors, Sharp bow.

There is also a Post, Post war series of boats. I see these as the Woody boats that are from around 1955-1967. These have a different style for sure. Back to a sharper style, and more of a mass produced feel.

Pre and Post post

Pre-War triple and Post post war 17′ Sportsman- Photo Bob Kays

fall 2014 -25

Bob Kays in Relax a nice 1957 17′ Post Post war Runabout

The difference between a 1953 Chris Craft Sportsman is light years from a 1957. Style, ride, and feel. I also see that folks fall into each one of these three categories. Which one are you? And by the way, its OK to love them all.

Pre Post day

You can own both by the way. Here is Jimmy and his pre and post boats last summer.

So today share your favorite war boat! And Thanks to all our Veterans of all the wars. And yes all the comments are also 6 years old. Enjoy!

42 replies
  1. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:


    Matt with all the BEAUTIFUL boats you posted there is not a single “Bull Nose”. Guess that puts me into the post post war category.

    In reality I love them ALL! Investment? I don’t think so. Lifestyle yes.

  2. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    I like ’em all, but I am more of a post and post post guy. Actually my break would be in the mid thirties to catch the barrel backs and their immediate predecessors.

  3. Bilge Rat
    Bilge Rat says:

    I also love them all, but my experience has been with post war models. Maybe because I am a post war model? Well, definitely not a “model” but lets say a “version”. Started with a ’55 Chris Craft 17 foot Sportsman, various small lapstrake post war boats, currently a ’66 25 foot Lyman and a ’53 22 foot Sportsman. I do sort of draw the line at the highly stylized boats of the later ’50’s and ’60’s and although that technically were my impressionable years, those boats just don’t have that classic wood boat look to me. Just mt humble opinion.

  4. Sean
    Sean says:

    Financial investment? If that’s why your buying a wood boat you have missed the mark…. by miles. Investment for quality of life, enjoyment, sanity, camaraderie or, for the sake of history, beauty and respect for the craftsmanship and art would be better descriptions of the “investment”.

    Pre or Post war ? My preference is post, post war. Specifically, the end of the era when modern technology took the wood boat to its pinnacle of comfort, utility and performance. I prefer the style of some of the great Century models and mostly Canadian boats that all seem to have that hand built custom feel. I too, like them all but, we all have our favorites. To invest in what you enjoy is the best investment.

  5. JimF
    JimF says:

    Or you could have both pre and post in one boat! The Red and White was almost unchanged after the war. And, by the way, 127 days to Dora and the canal!

  6. MikeM
    MikeM says:

    I’m a pre-war guy, but how can you not love some of the late 40’s stuff? Like a 19′ Racing Runabout or a sportsman? The lines of most 50’s & 60’s boats don’t have the same appeal to me. I’m sure it has to do with ones age and the times they grew up in. However, I suggest we have one of each just to be sure!

    • Greg Wallace
      Greg Wallace says:

      I suspect the most “upside” percentage wise would be in classic glass or even the right “future” classic glass if your crystal ball is in good operating condition. That being said the money is made (or loss reduced) at purchase. As in classic cars the best buy is made by the next owner in line following restoration. Choose wisely grasshopper.

  7. T Hall
    T Hall says:

    Post war for me…..I wasn’t aware there could be money to be made in these investments. I was raised in the “tearing up hundred dollar bills” wooden boat school of thought!

  8. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    Jim took the words right out of my mouth – My favorites are those that were designed pre-WWII and continued in production after. There is something about the design influences (Art Deco) and emerging technologies coupled with the quality craftsmanship still present in that era that created the best wooden boats. Investment? As stated above, in fun, satisfaction, family and friends – Otherwise: Break Out Another Thousand… 🙂

  9. Randy
    Randy says:

    The best ‘investment’ is what fuels your passion — you can’t truly live by investments alone.
    Since I am post-post war I am still in love with my childhood dream boat!

  10. Nautilus
    Nautilus says:

    Aaaaaah! Nothing quite like a Matthews. I’m also a “cruiser guy,” my current mistress is a 1948 Chris Craft 23′ Express. It’s on the small side from what I’d like to own but it’s trailerable.

    As for runabouts, I like the immediate post war designs…late 1940’s. Here’s a 1946 Hunter 24′ hardtop I owned several years ago. I should have kept it!

      • Nautilus
        Nautilus says:

        I’d love to but it can’t happen. About 8′ of the keel has been removed and needs to be replaced as well as the framing in that area. I lost my helper that I trained for four years and I took a month off to go to Europe. I’m way behind on the Dee Wite and all my time has to go into that plus winter is coming and the Express needs to stay outside. Since I’m a sissy, there won’t be much done on the Express until Spring. I plan to bring “something” to Mt. Dora but that’s still up in the air.

  11. steve bunda
    steve bunda says:

    Wood Boat as an Investment? Does a plastic boat have to live up to this type of scrutiny? Go price a nice new Mastercraft and then project it’s value in 5 years.
    Wood boating is not about making money , it something that is so much more that money cannot buy.

    Sincerely, Steve and Laurie
    Prewar Boats are our favorite , but we also have post wars too!

    • Don Palmer
      Don Palmer says:

      Well put Steve, I purchased a 1993 Mastercraft Stars and Stripes 25th anniversary edition a few years ago when it was 25 years old. (So it qualified as a “Classic” for the Antique and Classic Boat Society that I belong to). This last summer, my next door neighbor (who is a great guy) bought a new Axis Wake Surf boat and it was well over $200,000. I kidded with him that he paid two times more in sales tax than I spent on my boat!

  12. Jimmy
    Jimmy says:

    The best prewar boat on the top of my list would be the 25′ Sportsman Sedan and the twin engine prewar red and white with the witches hat bow light with the unique Chris Craft script.

  13. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    It may be better to ask which is the “least worst” investment. Having owned pre and post war boats, I have uncovered no evidence whatsoever that either era is investment-grade. I have discovered much evidence, and have in fact endured the empirical truth of the financial contrary to any endorsement or claim of wood boats being a financially sound proposition.

    I find much to like and admire in almost any era of boat building – modern included. The post war stuff became flashier and generally more “modern” in performance, due to the development of more powerful, lighter engines. They seemed to follow automotive design trends to a large extent. I like the elegance of the pre-war stuff, but also have a personal soft spot for the models which straddled the war. I look at each boat individually, rather than preferring any one era over another. I would recommend neither as an investment, but I would recommend either as source of pleasure, enjoyment and fun.

  14. Randy Rush Captain Grumpy
    Randy Rush Captain Grumpy says:

    Well its an age thing. I don’t buy cars or boats that are older than me or remember from my childhood. And as far as investment, ive bought and sold 15 boats in the last 10 years and made money on everyone of them.

  15. Steve Anderson
    Steve Anderson says:

    I agree with the first few posters, I am partial to the bull nose crowd. I just think it is iconic. It was made before I was born, but it is beautiful.

    I love all of them, including classic glass. I am surprised how few pictures of the mid 50’s Continentals you see on this (or any other) site.

  16. Stephen Fowler
    Stephen Fowler says:

    I’m a car guy coming late to wooden boats. Great website, by the way.

    It’s refreshing knowing as little about wooden boats as I do, as I have formulated tens of thousands or more opinions on cars, but looking at all the photos above, I think each period of wooden boat is gorgeous.

    I had better enjoy it now. With time, I’m sure I’ll develop preferences, and undoubtedly they will be expensive preferences.

  17. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    Funny thing is as I read through this article today in 2021 I had the same reaction as my comment from 2015.

    Where are the Bull Nose boats?

    LOVE me some Bull Nose!

  18. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Great story. I love them all, but you have to get them wet and really use them to enjoy them as intended. That is how the investment pays off.
    I salute and say THANK YOU for your service to all our veterans. Their sacrifice is what allows us to enjoy our great boats!

  19. Victor Melchiorre
    Victor Melchiorre says:

    When I was a kid growing up in the 1960s any wood boat was “old “ and undesirable. Fiberglass boats with big outboards were the boats of my dreams. Until I saw an XK19 on Lake Wawasee in the late 1980s. Then nothing else mattered not still does.

  20. don vogt
    don vogt says:

    For me from a design perspective, the mid to late 30’s were boats of elegant scale, proportion, and line. I dont think post war boats generally have these to the same extent.

    But a neat aspect of ’50s boats is the stronger incorporation of automotive styling elements such as fins, like troy’s boat, fiberglass elements that permitted more styling freedom, etc.

    The great thing is there are so many different boats that can appeal to diverse tastes.

  21. Slats
    Slats says:

    Speculation as to what the better financial investment is boat wise is a craps shoot. In terms of good looking boats though, I’ve always thought those ‘52/‘53 Chris Craft Holidays were pretty spiffy.

  22. Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P)
    Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P) says:

    Late to the party. I had a 12 hour trip myself today. And I did not even bring any boats home. Wooden Boats and Veterans. I am thankful for both of them. If it wasn’t for vets we could not enjoy wooden boats. I salute all you veterans.

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