The Perfect Reply To Yesterdays Story – Dave Bortner Freedom Boat Service.


$150,000 Lyman

Like the boatress says. Woody, you are right all the time dear, unless you are wrong, and when you are wrong, your wrong. Ya just can’t win. Yesterday was one of those days. A real moment in the hobby where we all discussed the ups and downs of buying and selling a boat. According to our stats we had around 2500 woody boaters here. I felt very strongly about my position, I suppose that’s what makes good reading. But I was wrong-ish and right -ish.  As I read the comments, I started to understand others point of view about certain points. Pricing is in the eye of the beholder. As I said about the over restored boats. There is no limit to them..Responsible pricing.  I still stand by my feelings on the “List poaching” and other sleazy tricks and knowing your info when you are selling your boat.  But one comment put it all into perspective. I held it back to make sure we all read it. Thanks to fellow Woody Boater Dave Bortner of Freedom Boat Service for sending this in. Here it is in its glory. Thanks Dave for also being part of the conversation.

“Wow, this topic has really hit a chord!

As both a broker and restorer; as a party to the Gar Wood that sold at Hershey; and as a broker who’s sold a “$150,000 skiff”, I can’t help but weigh in.

The nice $150K Lyman again. Ouch look at that table!

The nice $150K Lyman again. Ouch look at that table! A bargain…

As I see it, “value”, which becomes “price” when a boat is offered for sale, is incredibly personal and subjective. Ultimately, the only person to whom a buyer has to justify the price paid is the buyer himself (and maybe Mrs. Buyer). What any one person may find an absurd price can make perfect sense to another.

Let me cite three examples of restored boats.

Example one: We sold a 1972 30′ Lyman this spring. The seller had spent over $360,000 on the boat over time to have it constructed exactly the way he wanted it. Whether that makes sense or not is quite beside the point. It sold at $150,000. Is that absurd? Well, that’s a lot for a 30′ Lyman, sure. But if you want one, and want one that’s restored to that level, buying one at less than half price makes some sense, right? The buyer saw the value, and is happy to have it.


1932 Gar Wood “Hornet”$360,000

Example two: the 1932 28′ Gar Wood “Hornet” that sold at Hershey, hammer price was $360,000. Gar Wood built seven 28′ boats in 1932. We think five still exist. What would it cost to restore one, if one could be found today? More than $360,000! Obviously, the new owner saw value there. In an interesting twist, and to further support the wisdom of dealing with reputable dealers/brokers, the Gar Wood could have been bought from Freedom prior to the auction at a lower price than it brought at the auction.

$50K for an 18 foot Sportsman.

$50K for an 18 foot Sportsman. makes sense?

Example three: 1940 18′ Chris-Craft Sportsman. Right now, we have what I call the worlds’ most expensive 18′ Sportsman listed for sale at $50,000. It’s a restoration we did for a longtime friend and customer who had an 18′ boathouse. He wanted a great boat for that small-ish boathouse, and asked us to do the Sportsman for him. New bottom, complete restoration, kapok cushions, etc., etc. He spent over $80,000 with us, not counting the initial purchase of the boat. Now he’s bought a property with a bigger boathouse, and told us to sell the boat. Is there value in being able to buy a restored boat at half-price? I think so, especially if that’s the boat you want.

I think looking at any price in a vacuum and passing judgment on it can be misleading. The price doesn’t have to be high to be ridiculous, either. I often find boats listed elsewhere, at what I think are relatively reasonable prices, to be heinously overpriced upon inspection.

At the end of the day, the brokers’ job is to provide each party as much accurate information as he can, and to assist buyer and seller in coming to an agreement. Sure, advising the seller on his asking/listing/selling price is part of the process, but at the end of the day, it’s not really up to anyone but the seller to decide. When the paperwork is complete, and the settlement is done, the only person to whom the seller has to justify the price accepted is the seller himself (and maybe Mrs. Seller…..)”

Dave Bortner

52 replies
  1. Troy
    Troy says:


    Anything (boat, car, house, Bikini, …..) is worth what a seller and buyer will agree upon. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Interesting you should bring in the sportsman. I used to not care much for them, but find myself growing very fond of them. Still waiting for “White Sided Sportsman Day”.

  2. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    I am with Dave except for the Mrs. Buyer part. There is not reason for Mrs. Buyer to know the real purchase price!

  3. Sean
    Sean says:

    BANG!!!! (sound of the nail being hit on the head).

    Clearly, those numbers are not within the range many would consider….but some will. And the point holds true with small entry level boats.

  4. Don Ayers
    Don Ayers says:

    Anyone who thinks Riva’s are over priced has never restored one. There are three times the number of pieces and parts. It’s not just the work that goes into a resto but also the quality of the execution. For the most part, every boat is unique.

  5. Kent
    Kent says:

    Dave has some excellent points. His examples show the concept of “perceived value”. The value is different to each individual customer based on their want, need and means.

  6. Alex
    Alex says:

    Question. When Mrs. Buyer wants to buy a boat and/or restore it, doesn’t she have to go through the same squirming as Mr. Buyer?

  7. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    LYMAN TYME… I had the same buying experience with the purchase of our 1969 22 ft Lyman. Seller spent, and documented every detail, near the $80,000.00 mark. Did he slap a high price on it trying to get all that back? NO. Through working with Dennis Ryan over at ABC, the seller listed the Lyman at a reasonable price, but at the high end, and it sold within three months. Now while I paid near half the sellers investment, I feel confident I paid a fair price for what I wanted in a Lyman, and I feel if I care for it like I do with all my toys, I should be able to recoup most, if not all “my investment” back in Lyman Tyme…

    • Rick
      Rick says:

      Its as everyone has said in the past, if you want to recoup your investment let someone else do the restoration first. I wish I had known that in my stupid newbie days.

  8. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    These comments from Dave and the experience reported by Dennis have it right. They more or less echo the experiende that I, as an owner of boat being restored at very high cost, reported in one of my comments yesterday.

    I very much doubt, however, that the owner of the whipping-post Cadillac has $100k in that resto. That was more my point in bringing it up. The market will always be right, whether we as individuals agree. Do you think some Buggati or Ferrari is worth $20,$30 or $40mm? How about Picasso’s in the same range? These sell at auction, in a room full of people who set the price so the value is real and the market does not care what you think. Hemi cuda’s at $750-$1mm? A few years ago many felt they were worth that and they sold at those levels. Today? not so much but they were worth it one time.

    I think we all agree that stealing listings is reprehensible and many would or would not pay what someone else does for a given boat. I am going to watch a few boats that I think are way over priced and see where they go.

  9. Cliff
    Cliff says:

    Matt! I am very glad you brought up this topic. It has been long over due. I am 41 years old and have been involved in this hobby for at least 18 years. When I was looking for my first boat I was amazed at the “crooks” who were trying to help me, an A.C.B.S. member in my chapter started to accompany my when I looked at a few boats. Things really changed the boats that were water ready became bottom jobs and that highly prized Gar Wood became a mechanics illustrated home built from the 1940’s. Regarding the prices of boats for sale I think the auctions have killed the golden goose and it has chanced away the peripheral buyer. There was a group of people who went to the auction in Minnesota a few years ago and it left a real bad taste in their mouth. I have a boat listed for sale at Antique Boat in Cincinatti and I have taken two calls from other brokers who had a customer interested in my boat but it needed to be listed with them. Dirty games and not protecting the guy or gal who is thinking of getting involved in this hobby is going to cost everyone in the long run. I don’t know who said ““I have been around for a long time, participated in many different hobbies and have paid my dues.
    But I have never experienced so much deception and questionable business practices as I have in the classic boat hobby.“ They are unfortunately right on. Now ,how do we fix this and can we? Should there be a mission statement on the A.C.B.S. web page and Rudder magazine to have an existing member go with you to act as a guide when you look at some thing? I hope I have not offended anyone here with my thoughts on this, if I have my guess is you might be one of “crooks” who are still out there. Life is short, boats are cool.

  10. brian t
    brian t says:

    Interesting topic with many folks expressing valid points and comments.

    I really wonder more of what is around the corner. Not to offend, but I really only see older people owning wood boats. I seem to be one of the youngest – at 50. What is going to happen in 20 years when the now 30 year olds want to buy something? The 30 year olds right now are not really buying wood boats – they are sinking big money into wake boarding boats loaded to the gills with toys, racks, stereos, huge speakers and even spotlights for nighttime wake boarding. They have no interest in a wood boat from the past.

    So in 20 years or so when the vast majority of baby boomers get to be too old to deal with their boats (or they pass on) what are the families going to do with that ” $350,000 restoration now worth $100k boat ” in the garage?

    I think the supply of for sale boats will naturally increase and the demand will fall – and we all know basic economics – falling prices. And if the prices fall and the cost of a restore continues to climb – that gap gets to be too vast and the restores will be where the big hit takes place. That to me says only one sad thing – more boats left to rot in fields, in the barn, or next to the garage.

    There will always be exceptions. But I do not know anyone who has shown any interest in actually owning and using a wood boat. My friends and associates etc etc all think our boat is beautiful, but they have no interest in ownership.

    • Alex
      Alex says:

      brian t, ahh so we’re back to this age old problem: the future.

      It keeps surfacing because it’s the dark cloud on our hobby that we all see and worry about but for which we have yet to find a solution.

      Not to shift gears on today’s topic — which is yesterday’s topic — but I do have a partial answer to this part of your question: “what are the families going to do with that boat in the garage?” In the case of my family, my kids are going to keep it, maintain it, use it, and restore it, because they will be joined at the hip to it, with all the family memories we’re making in it. In fact, it’ll never be “in the garage.”

      I know that’s not one giant solution to the future, but it’s what my family is doing. In fact, it’s what most wooden boat families in Les Cheneaux (Hessel and Cedarville, MI) have already been doing for generations (though not consciously/intentionally). If all woody boaters do the same, a lot of boats will move forward to the next generation.

      • Troy
        Troy says:

        That is what brought me back into this “Hobby”.
        I grew up with my parents ’57 CC Continental. The year after my dad passed my brother was running the boat and she quit. She sat for about 8 years when my Mom decided she should sell. I convinced her to let me at least get it running. We re-launched in 2008 and we have been using her ever since.
        I am now the steward of a ’58 38′ Connie also.

      • don vogt
        don vogt says:

        The next generation question is a big one for the hobby. That is why efforts like the ones ACBS has launched to interest younger people in the hobby are so important and should be encouraged and supported. Credit earlier far sighted leadership for this one!

    • m-fine
      m-fine says:

      Brian, twenty somethings wake board. Not many forty something bodies are up of it no matter what the mind is thinking. The young folks into wake boarding boats WILL lose interest in them. Whether they turn to wooden classics is an open question, but they will go in another direction when they are more interested in boating from inside the boat and not behind it.

  11. Sean
    Sean says:

    I just made my boat fast (54 MPH GPS) comfortable and fun to drive…. that never goes out of style does it?

  12. Chris / Great Lakes marine Insurance
    Chris / Great Lakes marine Insurance says:

    Just rambling…….Interesting numbers keep being used in all these examples…..the last hobby survey done a few years ago had the average insured value of a wood boat (<30') at approx. 37k That survey was done by Hagerty, Chris Craft Club had done one a few years earlier….Matt has or had access to both of those I think …..There was also a question of annual cost owners budgeted. It would be interesting to poll restorers as to what cost are of an average typical restoration, for a production wood boat, that includes a new bottom of whatever construction technique is favored….. How many boats owned by ACBS & CCC members have not gone through a restoration in the past 15 years? The number would cover a pretty good chunk of classics out there…How many of those boats will require another complete restoration in the next 15 years? These boats that are not restored and are still in use or floating have lived on their original construction for 50 to 70 years….will these restored boats still be around in years 2060? Will there be water on earth??? 🙂 I hear ACBS is going to do another survey in near future, but considering that WB by far has the broadest reach in the hobby / lifestyle, than any club, group or association, the next lifestyle survey needs to be done here…..ask the questions Matt…..the answers will come……

  13. Dale
    Dale says:

    I have a few thoughts relative to Brian’s comments about the aging of the hobbyist and where we go from here.

    He’s right, most of the young people affluent enough to own boats today want the wake boarders with all the tech toys. Some spend more money on their stereos and subsurface lighting than the original MSRP of the boat. As these people age however, I think their attitudes and preferences will shift away from these boats.

    Most of the finer things in life are an acquired taste. As we get older a nice Fillet, a good Cabernet, a cigar and a fine cognac to end the evening supplants the wings, fries and Tequila shots we used to down at the local sports bar.

    We talk a lot in this hobby about collectors being drawn to those boats they had, or coveted, in their early years. This reminiscence will always be a part of our hobby, but I think it will be less so going forward.

    I say this because today’s youth have grown up in a throwaway society. Let’s face it; today’s boats are cookie cutter copies of each other. The differences are subtle and without the graphics, you would have a hard time telling one brand from another. They are just another piece of plastic to be discarded and replaced with a new one when the owner gets bored with it.

    I think there will be a number of these young people that will eventually want to have something nice and different, something that they and others can admire. So what will they turn to? I think it will be classics, both wood and glass. Wood boats of all kinds will always draw a certain number of admirers and collectors. They are admired because of the beauty and art they represent. This is ageless and timeless. I agree the numbers will probably dwindle a bit in the post baby boomer years, but many will survive.

    The glass boats however, will need to be unique to survive; they will need to stand out. Matt often refers to the kind of boats I’m talking about as iconic. I agree with him. These boats will have to represent something other than mass production. The space age finned craze of the sixties, the early fiberglass race boats, and other unique categories. The run of the mill “bath tub” boats that were, and are, cranked out by the thousands will not survive. I also think customization of the glass boats will be much more acceptable in collector circles than has been the case with wood boats.

    Our hobby will never die, it just needs to evolve. We need to bring more and younger enthusiasts to our hobby. We need to make more of an effort to include free boat rides in our shows. I believe there’s nothing better to help attract people to the hobby than letting them enjoy one of these boats in action.

  14. Dave Bortner
    Dave Bortner says:

    What a great topic, Matt! Lots of commentary, and many have touched on topics I think about a great deal.

    In regard to the long term viability of, and interest in, vintage wood boats: Jay Leno says of automobiles, there will always be interest in the icons of design and technology from every era, i.e. Duesenberg. That’s one of the reasons he’s been so active in his support of the McPherson College restoration program: we’ll need people to work on the classics, so we better train them!

    I agree that vintage boating may looks different in twenty years: think Donzi, yes, but also Chris-Craft XK and Lancer, Glastron-Carlson, Riva Rudy and, of course, Century Coronado, Resorter and Arabian. Interesting to note that front and center in their Fort Lauderdale show booth was Hatteras 40′ hull number one from 1960, restored in original and period correct turquoise and white.

    Yes, it’s important to bring new folks into the fold, like the oral surgeon who bought a Chris-Craft Sea Skiff from us a year ago. Not only his first wood boat, but his first boat of any kind. He and his family used it a ton this summer, and he pronounced it “the best thing he’s ever bought.”

    Of course, the Hagerty Youth Judging program is fantastic, getting kids more involved on the front lines. I agree that boat rides at shows are a great way to increase interest. We did it several times this summer, and even had some success requiring a donation in return for the ride, raising some money for the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum, among others.

  15. MikeM
    MikeM says:

    sorry to be negative, but this hobby is doomed. i bought my son a 1952 Penn Yan for his 10th birthday…see pic below…

  16. Troy
    Troy says:

    I think people will come flocking to this hobby just for the humor of those involved.
    Thanks Guys you make me laugh!

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