Not your everyday canoe


Curious about Wooden Canoes
I'm looking for an opinion, please. I have owned a 1940 E.M. White 16' Scout since about 1988. This was one of 6 canoes built for a Boy Scout camp in South Carolina. In those days canoes were transported on open tree trailers and this boat, traveling on the bottom rail, collected some road tar and the camp refused delivery. Back it went to Old Town, Maine for reconditioning and painting, green this time. The person from whom I got it bought it at the White plant. It's a unique boat in that all components are hand labeled, e.g. stem, thwart, rib, garboard strake, etc. as a teaching tool. It has some half ribs, but not a full set. It has a small compass installed in the center of the stern quarter thwart. It has bronze oar lock sockets and 5' oars with black rubber "leathers" and buttons. There are 2 metal hangers, one at each end of the bow quarter thwart and wood cleats to support the stowed oars. It also comes with a 1940 Mongomery Ward 1 hp Sea King outboard and a DIY motor mount. Most interestingly, there is a tube running between the stern deck & the stern stem, with an exterior flange at either end, that allows a line to be run from a jam cleat on the thwart, through two blocks, through the deck and out the stem. An anchor, attached to the line below the boat is controlled by the stern paddler. Immediately ahead of the tube is 1/2" x 1/2" square dowel to hide & protect the tube. A 12" wood ruler containing the 1951 Maine fishing regulations is installed on a pivot beneath the inwale by the stern seat. The canoe has a shoe keel, metal stem bands and bronze deck caps. The interior is in good condition. It appears to have been urethaned over the original varnish finish so its a little flakey in spots. The canvas appeared to be in good shape so quite a while ago I started to strip the checking green paint and I exposed the original gray paint with red stripe as well as a large Boy Scout emblem, which succumbed to the solvent. I suspect there is another on the opposite side. However, what I saw was tack heads coming through the canvas. I stopped there, made a few inquiries and found that since the boat was built in the war year of 1940 copper and brass were scarce commodities so this boat was fastened with steel shoe tacks, as were most canvas boats built in that era. Over time the tacks oxidized and the heads came through the canvas. Back it went into storage. Earlier this year I brought to a builder who specializes in building and restoring 20' W/C Grand Lakers and enjoys an excellent reputation. He commented about it having a "fair amount of value". I stopped in very recently to check on progress and found nothing had started on it, for good reason. Over the summer several people had stopped by, including some notables in the W/C canoe field, and all had done back flips over this canoe. He feels that, since the interior shows small black spots or lines from oxidation where the tacks were clenched, if he removes the canvas the hull may spring. When I suggested refastening with brass as you go, he responded that would produce a fine restoration but would destroy the intrinsic value of this collectible. He feels the potential value is significant. I have the canoe back so I can research it more. I've received mixed opinions about value and about affecting value by refastening. I had it at Jerry Stelmok's shop last week and he acknowledges that he's never seen one like this, but he hasn't seen every White. Jerry has the original form from which this boat was built. I've spoken with Rollin and, although he hasn't seen it yet, he hasn't heard of any like this. If you haven't guessed, I'm in Maine. So, my question to anyone is: Is this just an interesting canoe that should be recanvassed and enjoyed or is it a one in a million find that has significant value or something in between? I would appreciate your opinions. Not to worry. I won't get offended. I've taken many photos so I can send detail pics. Thanks.


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Steel tacks

In the interest of generating some discussion, here goes nothing....It seems like you've had plenty of very knowledgeable opinions about the boat, and the rest is up to you. Do you want to use the canoe or hang it up and gawk at it? Either choice is fine. I'm partial to paddling the things.

With respect to steel tacks, I just finished rehabbing a 1943 Old Town. It was constructed with steel tacks. With the exception of a little surface oxidation, the tacks were, pardon the pun, "strong as nails". This canoe however was fairly well cared for over the years and probably wasn't used in salt water. I had to replace some of the planking and pulling the steel tacks was a real pain in the neck compared to brass. That hull ain't going anywhere. However, I know some folks have had serious issues with steel tacks and I didn't have any rust coming through the canvas either. I suppose your mileage may vary, but it doesn't look like it would fall to pieces.

Why not pull the canvas and use steel tacks in affected areas?

I've attached a photo of the tacks showing minor rust on the planking, but that is all I saw.

Let us know how you make out.


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All depends on what you want to do. Do you want to use this boat? After all, that is what it was meant for... Do you want to cash out? Then suggest that those folks who told you it is worth a lot get out their check books. You'll quickly find that maybe it wasn't worth all that much. It might have some extra value to a collector of scouting stuff, but it is a lot harder to store than a vintage merit badge.

Quite frankly, the suggestion that the canvas is holding the canoe together is ludicrous. The canvas was there to keep water out, not hold the boat together. If the hull is going to "spring apart" it is going to do so with or without the canvas on it.

It's just my opinion, but with rare exception, a properly restored canoe is going to be worth more, and be more enjoyable to own and use, then a canoe with flaking finish and rotten canvas. In the end, it boils down to the fact that it is your canoe, and you should do with it what you feel is best for you.
Good advice, all. Thanks. I'm not lacking for canoes to paddle or to hang, for that matter. I'm simply looking for some consensus re value. If this has extraordinary "antique" value as is, I'll cash out and reinvest in a Whisper or similar solo. If it doesn't, I'll rewrap it and probably add it to my small stable.

If you are curious what your canoe is really worth then you may want to watch the auction at on eBay. This is for an Old Town canoe of a similar vintage and condition with lots of scouting history. It has a reserve but the current bid is around $600 with five days to go.

You probably won't get rich selling your canoe so you might as well do what you want with it. More information about the "antique" value of a canoe is available at if you have not read this already.

Thanks. I've seen both sites. I'll let you know where it goes. It's not worth anything unless a willing buyer steps up to the plate. In the past I've acquired and resold several undistinguished classics in the expected range of $500 - $2000. That was a former life.
I also agree with the above comments. The canvas is already so bad that its not holding anything together. The rest of the tacks seem to be good enough to be holding it all in pretty good shape. I've also worked on a canoe with steel tacks (1944 Kildonan) and its still going strong.

What, exactly, is it about this canoe is it that these people feel give it its particular value over any other canoe of similar vintage? What do they feel would be lost by its restoration?

As others have said, its theoretical value is only realized when somebody steps up and wants to buy it. Anything other than that is just talk. Besides, value to who? Only a specialized collector or a museum is interested in an old canoe "as is", old canvas and all.

That motor is pretty cool. I bet that has some value, too!
Thanks, Douglas. Actually the canvas is not in bad shape, except for where the tack heads penetrated. It's not deteriorated, nor has it separated from the hull at any point. The checking paint makes it look wicked ugly, though. There are some among us, with more experience than I have, who feel that the builder-installed anchor deployment system, the hand labeled construction components, the installed compass, the rowing capability with the 5' oars and the oar stowage system contribute to a unique, if not rare, boat with "high" value. I don't think the connection to the scouting program adds any value but puts an interesting spin on its story. That's the reason for this post initially. Obviously there are a lot of opinions out there and that's what I was looking for. I appreciate them all. Where next? Who knows. Pssst, wanna buy a good canoe?
There are lots of bystanders willing to "put a value" on something. But when push comes to shove, the only time value is truly established is when money changes hands... Those are neat features, and may add a little to the value of the canoe, but they are (probably) not going to turn an $800 canoe into a $2000 canoe... Apart from the writing, none of the add-ons are going to impinge upon doing a nice restoration (they are simply included as part of the restoration), and with a little care in refinishing, the writing can probably be preserved, if desired. Not knowing who did the writing and for what purpose, makes it simply a curiosity. There may be a museum interested in preserving the canoe as is, if more can be learned about its provenance, but I expect you will find they want to acquire it as a donation. Museums rarely pay for artifacts.

By the way, whatever happened to that guy who was trying to sell us Babe Ruth's canoe?


I've read/watched this string with interest and maybe curiosity.

I could be descrided as a "collector", as plenty have managed to follow me home, even some I probably shouldn't have (like a certain White:), but with a couple exceptions, none that would be described as rare or valuable collectors. So with this said,

if I was looking at that canoe, I would view it as just another Old Town (sorry Benson) and would probably remove the anchor and oar lock pieces to make it more suited to paddling. And probably do what I could to remove the writing also, as to me that would distract from the wood. For me, here in MN, canoes are for paddling and carrying on your shoulders (portaging) and anything that distracts from that use would go. (if I'm going fishing on a larger lake, I'll take the fishing boat every time.)

Dan Lindberg said:
just another Old Town (sorry Benson)

No offense taken, there are lots of Old Towns out there and not all of them are worth saving.

I also agree with the comments from Dan and others that museums and other collectors will usually not pay much for an otherwise ordinary canoe with some unusual features or a famous former owner.