Collectible Canoes


Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes
Which canoes would be considered as top tier collectible? Did any makers ever grade the canoes they made? Are there any truly one off canoes that would command top dollar if brought on the market? Are the any highly desirable models?
where to begin...

Within the realm of old canoes, there are many builders and many genres, and any one "collection" probably represents canoes and canoe-types and canoe-builders different from any other "collection"... depending on what makes bells go off for the individual collector.

If you're thinking of getting a canoe and want one that's "a good investment", the best advice is what they say on Antiques Roadshow: "buy what you like, not what you think someone else might buy."

As with anything anyone collects, once you've collected for a while, your tastes may refine and the collection may be honed to the ones you truly can't part with... for whatever reason that is. Down to that "important four (or forty)"!

This is a good discussion regarding value:

It would be easier if you asked about a particular canoe or canoe company.

As for your question regarding canoe makers grading their canoes: many of the old canoe companies sold canoes in two or more grades. Old Town had AA grade (mahogany trimmed canoes) and CS grade ("common sense"). Morris had a single grade (mahogany trimmed, usually) after 1902 but sold a line of canoes with less expensive trim under a different name. Rushton's top-grade Indian Girl was trimmed in cherry. Is there a particular company you're interested in? Catalogs from many of the old companies are available on CDs available through They describe what was available.

My opinion: I doubt a "one off" would have the value of (for instance) a nicely restored [fill in the blanks: Old Town, EM White, Peterborough, Morris, Chestnut, Gerrish, Rice Lake, Rushton, etc on and on...] unless it was built or owned by someone famous or important, and that's why the canoe had value.

All of this is IMHO...

I agree with all that Kathy has stated.

There were top tier builders and top of the line canoes those builders made. The "one of" canoe I think would be special were built by Rushton and are all in museums.

I would list the all wood decked sailing canoes built by Rushton at the top of the list.

Second place is much more difficult. Take your pick, Willits Brothers, any of the good Charles River builders, Rushton Canvas, B.N. Morris, all wood Canadian built canoes from the strip built to the Herald Double Cedar.

A good bet for appreciation would be the Cedar Rib canoe that Walter Walker made for the Canadian government to give Prince Andrew and Fergie for a wedding present.

This is always a fun topic.

While my experience may be limited, I've found that unless you are willing to travel or pay for shipping, what you get is often a matter of luck, ie, you get what you get. But with that said, keeping you eyes and ears open long enough will bring the canoes.

Collectible Canoes?

Dear michaelrandrews,

Here is the quick answer to your question. This is the record for a wooden canoe. It’s by J.H. Rushton of Canton, New York, one of the founders of the American Canoe Association, and is probably the very piece Rushton built for display in 1879 at New York’s Henry Squires & Co., the precursor of today’s Abercrombie & Fitch. An Antique Dealer outlasted all the competition and took the model home for $41,250.

There is a long list of desirable canoes. Lots are in museums and many are still available. Salesman samples seem to be the most coveted. After that as stated earlier all wood canoes, William English, Walter Dean, Willits, Rushton, Wilbur and Wheellock, Vassar, and many more, As Kathy says as your pallet broadened you may fine other interesting obscure canoes such as sailing canoes. Bowdish for one, Dan Sutherland’s Pixie is a delight.

Good original examples of any maker are most desirable. Unlike other collectables restoration is far more accepted in boats and canoes, but pristine original untouched examples command the best price. I have been dealing the in wooden canoe market for nearly 30 years and have helped build numerous private collections and have added to museum stock. I would be happy to discuss with you in detail some of my personal favorites.

Charles River courting canoes are one that is on the rise. There has been lots of recent interest and desire for these canoes. They represent the first renaissance of American Canoeing. Models can sell from $500-$9500. Builders like Robertson, Arnold, Waltham, and Ted Shay name only a few.

There are over 350 known builders of wooden canoes. To list all the best is very hard to do. Different canoes have their place in the lineage for different reasons.


Robert P. Ross
Ross Bros.
PO Box 60277
Florence, MA 01062


  • Picture 001.jpg
    Picture 001.jpg
    752.4 KB · Views: 550
  • scan0020.jpg
    529.7 KB · Views: 497
  • rushtonsample.jpg
    34.5 KB · Views: 495