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Can anyone recommend an appraiser?

Discussion in 'Scale and Miniature Canoe Models' started by Debbie Massey, Sep 14, 2020.

  1. Debbie Massey

    Debbie Massey New Member

    We have a c 1920 Old Town salesman sample model canoe. We are looking for several reputable appraisers with a view of eventually selling to a third party. Preferably in Maine or NY. Thanks.
  2. 1905Gerrish

    1905Gerrish LOVES Wooden Canoes

  3. Roger Young

    Roger Young display sample collector

    Thanks for the referral Zach. I have heard from Debbie. The following is my response:

    I would be happy to try to help you with marketing your Old Town sample canoe. By way of back ground, I am a collector of such pieces, and have been chasing them for 30+ years. Over that time, I have built up a fairly representative collection of rare, early North American factory pieces from both the US and Canada. Currently, my collection of 15 or so samples is on long term loan to the Canadian Canoe Museum, in Peterborough, Ontario. You can see much of what I have collected over the years (both Indigenous samples as well as factory) at my website: That site will give you access to photos of numerous authentic factory samples, as well as point out some notorious fakes; it will explain why samples were made, how they were used/distributed, and what they are NOT. Many folks refer to them as "salesman's samples", something of a misnomer, as these pieces were really 'display samples' and not handed out routinely to sales staff.

    To begin with, it is perhaps important to get a grasp on what you have. Old Town released samples in both 4' and 8' lengths; the earliest of these date to around 1905, or so, and not many (if at all) were produced at the factory post 1960. Most were distributed prior to 1935, with the great bulk being shipped in the 19-teens and 1920's. A few are known from the 1940's/'50's. Jerry Stelmok of Island Falls Canoe Co. makes similar models these days under licence from Old Town. Production records for OT sample canoes are incomplete and did not cover all pieces made; nor were serial #'s ever routinely stamped in models as they were for full-size canoes. Thus, 'best guess' estimates of production numbers are all that can be offered. My research through 65 years of OT records suggests that likely 60-70 4' samples were distributed, along with perhaps 50 or so 8' samples. Legend at Old Town has it that the company would give a 4' sample to any retail outlet that sent in an order for a boxcar load of full-size canoes (about 40 large canoes), or two 4' samples for an order of two boxcar loads. If it was a large order, you could have an 8' sample in place of the two 4' samples. In short, these display samples were not sold to individual purchasers; they were used primarily as incentives to outfitters, and given to them as 'premiums' in recognition of their buying loyalty.

    All of this being said, you likely have something of both rarity and value.... if you have the real thing. That can only be discerned by examining the sample in hand, or at least looking at some photos. There are fakes and copies out there, so it is important to be sure of what you actually have. Examining or looking at photos will also be necessary in order to give you some idea of current market value. It is interesting to note that when many of these samples were made a hundred years ago, a full-size canoe often sold for about $35, and the samples were recorded in OT inventory at values of $3.50. In the past 10 or 15 years, good restored OT full-size canoes have brought $3500 - $5000, while samples have sold for between $20,000 - $30,000. Quite an increase, and quite a reversal of position. Samples have been hard-sought collectibles by very well-heeled buyers. Even average condition samples have sold for $12,000 (beaters for rather less). Of late, though, the market has proven somewhat sluggish and unpredictable; antiques in general have suffered, though sample canoes held up better than most things for quite some time. There is still a decent market, though perhaps spotty. Currently, three Old Town 4' samples are offered on eBay ranging from $16,000 to $23,000; they have been there for some time. That is a view of the competition you need to contend with.

    So, what is your sample worth? and where/how can you go about selling it?

    I can't begin to answer the first question without first seeing photos and assessing what you have. Depending on that, I might be able to offer some thoughts on where and how. I currently have a quite nice OT sample from 1926 for sale, very good condition, slight restoration but largely original. It is offered (quite reasonably I believe) at $16,000 or best offer. An excellent OT sample sold a year or two ago at around $23,000; that was through a large auction house. There are several such venues available; they will likely want 15% or so of selling price as a commission.

    So, yes, you likely have something of value, depending on condition and authenticity. Probably, if it's right, it's worth 4-figures, maybe even 5. That will depend upon seeing and examining it. Do you need an actual written appraisal? Probably not. That's something more related to insurance purposes or to support a donation in respect of which you wish to receive a tax credit. I perform such work, at a modest cost. But what you need right now is simply an educated market sense of what you might expect, and how to go about that. I'm doing my best here to give you a cost-free overview. And, NO, I am not looking to buy your sample model for myself, or even to 'flip' it; I already have one I'd like to sell, and I do not need another for my own collection.

    There may be others here at WCHA who would like to offer comments. Benson Gray is a great-grandson of a founder of Old Town and by far one of the most knowledgeable of matters concerning OT. Benson is a fellow collector, particularly of OT samples, and may be interested. You should contact him. Indeed there are other dealers amongst the membership who may wish to input, as well. They may have alternate views or thoughts, but I believe I have attempted to guide you fairly and realistically as to where things are at these days.

    Please do send some pics and I will be happy to elaborate further.

    Hope this helps.

    Anyone else should feel free to add their own thoughts or advice.

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