Did You Hear That.. Was That The Sound Of A Generational Shift?

Photo Courtesy of Kyle Tait

First, I am an idiot.. I am clueless as to how these things play out, and am the least qualified person on earth to spew an opinion.. So I may only say this once.. Just like the show He Haw, I don’t go around spreading rumors.. So listen good the first time!  I was being interviewed by Wooden Boat magazine on what I thought of the auction.. Me.. The dumb ass in the Ralph Kramden Hat..  Don’t know who Ralph Kramden is? You are not alone.. If you read Woody Boater, chances are if you do its from reruns of reruns.. Anyway, I was asked, so I spewed.. you would have done the same.. One opinion.. not mine by the way is that the prices for the big boats were lower than expected and not a good sign for restorers.. That’s one opinion.. I don’t agree with it, but I did hear that a lot.. So.. I invite you to consider this.. One. The prices on the old restored masterpieces were about where we all thought they would be.. Yes.. Golden Times went for a song.. The Dingle went for a nice strong price, and Sugar lady was close to the mark..BUT.. and there is always a BUT isn’t there.. The prices of Post war fixer uppers were way high. The restored post war boats went high.. Being scooped up by youngins.. In this hobby by the way… thats 45-55 years old.. The older fixer uppers, not so strong.. Could we have just seen the shift from the money bet now being made on Post War boats! These boats are already on the road to the restorers.. Yes.. is that bad for restorers? Not this weekend.. Boats are being shipped all over the planet.. Canada, Portland, New Zealand, New Jersey.. Not sure what exit! And a bunch down the street thanks to Mitch and Kathy Lapointe who was scooping up some pre war deals.. Lets be honest.. These boats are a 100% emotional purchase… There is not one rational reason for owning a classic boat. There are a ton of them to not buy one by the way, just ask my wife.. This event was a game changer in many ways.. One, it was the biggest thing to happen in the classic boat hobby, there was no show, or trophies.. No rubber chicken dinner.. And not near the water in a fancy place.. And yet.. A smash hit.. Yes everyone was here for a deal. But for the most part, it was a social gathering and a ton of fun.. The Country Inn in Buffalo  was a party in the lobby til midnight flop house.. What a great group of folks that run that place.. They supplied the goodies and made us all feel welcome.. This was a show with a theme of a sale.. It was commerce pure and simple.. And folks loved it..

Paul and Karen Harrison picked up my favorite boat of the show.. Here she is being hauled off to Lake Oswego Boat Company, by Mike Mayer.. This hard top has stunning lines..
Another shift.. Looking around, this crowd was young.. If you think of pre war boats like a model A and a post war boat like a Camaro.. It all starts making sense.. I.. a 52 year old.. Have very little emotional attachment to a pre war triple.. I love them, but did not ever dream of having one.. My memories and dreams are about the boats I saw as a kid.. And Barrel Backs.. but thats a different story.. Were the numbers as big as the pre wars? No.. but they are getting up there.. And that makes me feel more comfortable about buying one.. and yes, restoring one.. Wow, there it was again.. The shift.. Please speak up.. This is your forum as well. It’s Ok, you don’t have to know how to spell…
14 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Maybe and hopefully it is different at an auction, but any time I have gone too look at a wood boat the owner was either a shady fellow or in denial. People always want more for their boat than someone is willing to pay.

  2. Rick
    Rick says:

    The prices made me feel better about my own boat (still not quite what I paid for the show quality restoration, but getting closer). Muscle cars are doing the same thing as far as prices going up. May of us are now in a position to purchase that car or boat we admired in out youth, and it was not necessarily what our grandparents had.

  3. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I Think Woody Blogger is right on in his assessment of the impact of this auction. I watched a good part of it on the streaming site and my only thought was that the introduction of the items was a little vague. So, I was left with trying to guess (what fun!) a final bid based on the 4-5 pictures of each boat. Many that I looked at while the bidding was going on seemed to need at least some cosmetics and who knows what lurks in yonder bilge? You know if you can kick in $250,000 for a nice example of a pre-war vintage classic – then what's another $50,000 in restoration costs. But if you just won the bid on a post-war runnabout for $40,000 – it's still going to take close to that $50,000 to make it right. Unless, of course, you do a large degree of the work yourself – in which case you can kiss the next 3 years – perhaps a marriage – and most other outside interest aside until the project sees the light of day again. Any boat for sale is really only worth what somebody will pay for it. Saturday the money spoke of the market place and we are all now a little smarter for it and calling our insurance companies to adjust the values up, or down, depending on the results.

  4. Tom
    Tom says:

    I could not attend the auction, but with your updates and the live feed it was great!! I had two computers running, one with the live feed and one with woodyBoater/ auction list. I’m sorry I missed the parties and all the boat talk.

    Change is going to happen in this market, I’m a prewar triple guy and I’m under 55. We all have our own tastes (I don’t care for the lines of the 17’ -19’ barrel backs).
    Thanks again for all the work you and the woodyboater crew do to promote Vintage boating.

  5. Greg
    Greg says:


    It was a great day in Michigan on Saturday, so I was out on the lake in my CC deluxe runabout, but really enjoyed catching up at what took place at the auction last night. I agree with your assessment of a generation gap relative to the interest in pre/post war boats. At 60, I love the prewar boats, but can personally remember the post war boats being used as I was growing up. That increases my attraction to psot war. I think the prices that were paid at the auction were in general a little high relative to market today, but that I think this is the norm with the auction atmosphere. The thing that I think is the greatest aspect of what took place here is the visibility it gave our hobby and passion. I am really thrilled that Mecum is going to include some boats in their future televised autions. This will continue to get people involved in our love of these boats, and hopefully keep saving these classics, both wood and glass from the scrap heap. Keep up the great work!


  6. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    Matt –

    While I like some of the post-war stuff, I think I do share some opinions with Todd Warner himself. In general, I believe that well preserved original boats which have had sympathetic restorations completed will, over time, be more sought after than boats that are completely restored with new wood, and everything else. No matter what, these examples will likely be more rare than a restored sister-boat, at least in cases where we are talking about boats with a reasonable number of examples built. If they built 5, it won't matter, but if they built 100, I think preserved original will win the day in the end in a direct value comparision between two identical boats. These are just more authtentic than some of the over-restored boats that many of us are responsible for completing, myself included. This may indeed narrow the overall market but will probably inflate the high end values over time.

    I am not a car collector, but my observation here is that the cream of the crop of any generation have outperformed the more mundane cars of the same period. A Mercedes, Bentley or Duesenberg of the '20's or '30's can continue to appreciate while Model A's or T's are a dime a dozen. I think that a boat collector who purchases the absolute best of any era will probably be OK, because there will always exist a core of collectors who are motivated to buy the best, rather than just nostaligc, emotionally motivated purchases of examples of the boats of their youth.

    I bought the '61 not because I had memories of seeing one or using one as a kid, but because it has the potential to be restored, or perhaps accurately more accurately – conserved, using almost all of it's original wood and other components, and it does not need a "complete" restoration. That is the opinion of the professionals who inspected it on my behalf – I am sincerely hoping they are right! Plus – I happen to like the slighly gaudy styling – very representative of the times and it really stands out with the hard top and the three-tone upholstery. It was simply a good example of pretty near the best of that class of boat that CC built in that year, and it has the added benefit of currently appealing to a fairly broad group of people. The '59 Coronado named Ripple brought strong money (even the basket case '59 did well) so I surmise that because they were high-end for this period and people are nostalgic for the highly styled boats of that time are two significant components of the pricing we saw.

    But, my personaly favorite favorite boat in the place by a long shot was Golden Times, which went for what I believe was a very, very good price. I found the pricing on that rather inexplicable – just as I found the Riva Super Florida inexplicable in the other direction – maybe it is the age/demographic thing in here.

    I am 45, so not even my parent's grew up with the '20's runabouts. Golden Times was highly original and pretty much the best runabout CC produce at the time; I thought it an outstanding boat and a fantastic buy for the new owner.

    There were lots of opinions on what happened, but largely I felt the prices were fair all round, with some surprises to both the high and low side. I think the auction worked very well, it accomplished a number of things – but I doubt that it will have a lasting influence as a pricing barometer. If the economy improves, prices will rise – perhaps in the way I suggest with top end and original boats outperforming, but if it does not improve they won't go anywhere.

    I thought Mecum did a great job of organizing, promoting and running this sale. It went extremely well and I was impressed. I have not a bad word to say about the auction and how it was operated.

    Lets enjoy our boats and use them on the water; the value questions are interesting discussion points and not much more. For me the real fun is using them and creating our own contemporary experiences and memories.

  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I type my message from the perspective of a Warner auction attendee, bidder and ultimately new owner of a pre-war triple. I'm under 50 and a newbee to classic ownership. I've always loved classics growing up but thought that it would be many years to a decade before I'd even consider making the plunge. I live on Lake Minnetonka so having the Warner collection come up for auction in essentially my backyard was an unexpected opportunity.

    To give you an idea of my mindset going in to the auction, I thought a pre-war triple would be out of my reach and concentrated on what i thought could get wet right out of the blocks or with hopefully a minimum amount of tlc. That led me to mainly post-war boats which I did bid on but didn't get. It seems a few people were on the same page so the bidding was strong for my boats of interest. I ended up taking a risk on a pre-war triple which may or may not be a sink-hole… yikes!

    Either way, I'm in it for the long run. This boat will go in the water at some point whether my hair has fallen out or not. Wish me luck as I enter the rabbit hole willingly.

    …and PS: I love my wife very much 🙂

  8. Randy Rush- Captain Grumpy
    Randy Rush- Captain Grumpy says:

    I agree, the really fine limited boats of any vintage will never loose money. Being 55, I only buy boats -cars-motorcycles younger than me preferably stuff I remember in my youth.

    What is the boat on your header?

    Randy Rush- Captain Grumpy

  9. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Two things.

    1. I would never go into a restoration of a car or a boat and expect to make money on it later. Never seen it happen. If resale for profit is a motivation, buy a restored example.

    2. Why would your marriage fall apart because you are enjoying restoring your boat? I think Its got little to do with you loving your wife and everything to do with your wife loving you and enjoying seeing you happy. Try getting her involved in the restoration. The bilge can be a great place to start.



  10. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    For Phil – All kidding about wives and such aside, the thing that makes this hobby as enjoyable for me as ANYTHING to do with the boats themselves is the fact that my wife loves it as much as I do. We/I am truly fortunate that it is something we do together. I would not be anywhere near as involved as I am if it were not for her encouragement and support. We go to the shows together, she loves driving the boats and is generally interested. She was with me at the auction this weekend and was as enthused and excited as everyone. Truth be told – I think she enjoys the people and the energy and enthusiasm of fellow hobbyists as much as anyting about the boats, but it works.

    I agree on the profit motive – very seldom will we see that happen. We are collecting boats we like for the enjoyment of using and owning them, and I hope in the end I break even. The fun and enjoyment I receive from owning them is return enough for me. Karen and I are a financial people by trade and we get tired of numbers. Just have some damned fun and get on the water!

  11. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Try not to be too full of yourself and just go boating, alone with your wife. Now you are talking fun!!!!

  12. wangstad
    wangstad says:

    I went to the auction, had a great time, came home without a new boat, and am completely satisfied. It was fun to preview all day on Friday, really get to see the collection and touch base with all the fantastic people that were there. I was pre-registered to bid, just in case something was going to go criminally cheap (man, was I wrong on that one!). I heard someone comment that it was just like a big national convention that brought all of these boat people from everywhere all to one place at this exact time.

    After it was all over I was walking out to take a few photos of "Moonahanus", a Ramaley that belonged to Todd's grandfather that wasn't going into the auction, when I ran into the editor of "Klassiska Batar", Anders Vaerneus. He and an associate came from Sweden just for the auction and then on Sunday were looking for anything else to do with classic boating.

    It was truly an international event. And to me, that's just what it was…..an event. Yes, I had the opportunity to bring a new/old boat home, unfortunately the boats that I had my eye on went home with someone else that must have wanted them more badly than I did. That's okay.

    The Mecum people were great, I managed to talk with Todd on Friday and Saturday, he was great in his role (as ringmaster?), the audience was great, the whole thing was just too much, and in such a good way. My hopes are that Todd Warner got everything out of this sale that he was expecting. It truly was an event of epic proportions. He is the ultimate promoter.

    Will it change the boat market? Only in the way our boats are presented when it is time to sell them. I'm sure that sellers will reference the prices that were reached in the auction. Will this be a first annual event? I'm sure that Mecum will follow up with something. If they can find a profit, I believe that they will go for it.

    There were some good deals, but for the most part, everything went close to what was expected. No earth shattering news here.

    For me, it was the experience of just being there, getting together with old friends, meeting some fantastic new ones (like the whole Woody Boater group) and sharing in the moment. I didn't come away empty handed though, in fact I think that I scored the deal of the whole affair. I now have the framed "Woodystock" poster (from the Friday night gathering) hanging in a very conspicuous place in my house!

    Thanks for giving this event the great build-up that it deserved and the great coverage in the aftermath.

    Anonymous….sorry, Lee Wangstad

  13. Dale S
    Dale S says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. There appears to be a natural shift in the hobby from the old pre-war antiques. After all, where does any passion to collect start but with fond memories from your past, or that chance to finally have the dreams of yesterday come true. For Woody Boaters this quickly evolves into an appreciation for the art and craftsmanship… often leads to addiction. As more baby boomers join our ranks I believe the focus will naturally shift toward newer vintage boats.

    Since many of us truly feel boats are art, we should expect that like with any other form of art, the true classics like Rembrandt’s NIGHT WATCH, will always be sought after and cherished. We should, however, recognize that most people can only get excited about so many renditions of a “Still Life”… a bowl of fruit is a bowl of fruit, some are exquisitely done, but others are just more of the same old stuff. After all, even Rembrandt grew tired of NIGHT WATCH as just another commissioned group portrait and left if for a relatively unknown collaborator to finish. So why wouldn’t our collective passion move away from the old stayed (but still coveted) triple and on to bold new collectibles?

    In my opinion we will see two things come out of this auction…

    First, the way of selling high quality antique and classic boats will probably shift toward consignment to auctions. Watch a Mecum Classic Car auction on the HDTV. There appears to be an almost unlimited number of classic car collectors that are more than willing to bid up the cost of a nice but not outstanding car, well above the value that could be achieved by marketing it on eBay, Craigslist, or through other traditional media. Throw a nice classic woody into the mix with all those cars and I suspect the car buffs will drool. I mean how many Mustangs or Camaros can you get excited about in one day… I suggest throw in a Chris Craft like Paul and Karen bought, or a 1957-1960 Century Coronado and see what happens.

    Second, there will be not only a natural demographic shift to post war classics, but also a move away from the old stayed attraction to the Chris Craft brand. Just look what happened with boats like the Century Palomino, 59 Coronado, and the 22 Foot Shepherd runabout. All went for more than many of the people I talked to thought they would sell for. I know, I went after two of the three and even though emotion allowed me to bid above what my research and a very knowledgeable broker opined was fair market value, I was left in the dust at about three quarters of the way to the selling price. Even the annals of Woody Boater have occasionally strayed from Chris Craft loyalty with admiration of things as different as the unique Grey and Blue stained Century Arabians of 55 and 56. What’s next… Classic Glass? Why not, it’s hard to argue against the beauty of a boat like Dan Arena’s Barracuda Sportster that won the marquee class at Tahoe this year.

  14. Texx
    Texx says:

    According to what Dana Mecum told me after the auction on Saturday, they are seriously considering organizing a Consignment Antique & Classic Boat Auction in the future.

    Probably not until late 2011 or 2012 which will give them the time they need to properly organize the auction for a successful conclusion. We will keep our reader's up to speed with this as it unfolds.

    The fiberglass side of the hobby is growing at a nice pace too, and we are watching it closely. The vintage fiberglass boats provide an affordable alternative to the wooden boats which is a nice blend for the future of the hobby in general.

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