Serial # 149886


Curious about Wooden Canoes
We are new to your site and enjoying it greatly! Woud like to obtain the build records for Old Town 149886 17.

We spotted this canoe at a local antique store--its beautiful. We recently purchased a tiny 1938 vintage cabin and this would be a perfect first boat for us. But we are novices and would like to authentic this canoe and find out "about" what we should pay. Its been rarely used and stored most of its life--one slight area of damage on the interier wood strips that runs the length of the boat. Otherwise it is in beautiful condition, complete with seat backs, a transport cart, and paddles. They are asking $4400. Advice and history appreciated. :eek:
The Old Town canoe with serial number 149866 is a 17 foot long, AA grade, HW (Heavy Water) model with red Western cedar planking, open mahogany gunwales, a keel, outside stems, a floor rack and sponsons. It was built between November, 1947 and April, 1948. The original exterior paint color was like the image at and was known as design number 47. It was shipped on April 13th, 1948 to Washington, D.C. The back side of the card indicates that it had probably migrated to Minneapolis, Minn. by April, 1972 when the factory answered a letter asking about this serial number. Scans showing both sides of this build record can be found by following the links at the attached thumbnail images below.

This scan and several hundred thousand others were created with substantial grants from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) and others. A description of the project to preserve these records is available at if you want more details. I hope that you will join or renew your membership to the WCHA so that services like this can continue. See to learn more about the WCHA and to join.

The information at should help you determine a fair price. There are some similar canoes listed at if you are looking for alternatives. Most canoes that sell for over $4000 are older and more rare than this one. The article at may help you judge the rarity of this one.

You may want to ask the dealer for permission to take the canoe outside to wash it with a hose or buckets of water. Turn it upside down and wash the outside first. Then look inside for any leaks, especially around the screws that hold on the keel. Then turn it rightside up and wash the inside. This will give you a great chance to look carefully for any problems in good light. A canoe that leaks badly may prevent you from actually taking it out on the water and a detailed knowledge of the flaws may help you negotiate the price.

It is also possible that they could have another number or manufacturer if this description doesn't match your canoe. Feel free to reply here if you have any other questions.



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Negotiations on serial number 149886

Made an offer...

The dealer was a bit upset with me that I made an offer--he paid top dollar and will sell for $4000. He is working off a data point of an Old Town that sold for $9000 at a recent auction he attended and is willing to wait to get his price of $4000 or more.

Assuming he allows me to do the water test that you suggested...and assuming it much is too much for a boat like this. The outside skin is pristine no scratches and little crackling in the paint--some bubbling in the shellac on the seat backs. That said, does a boat like this need to be re-canvased regardless--just due to its age? Would I be getting into some significant expenses?--I really like the idea that it is untouched (I come from a family of high end car collectors) and my father always leaned toward the untouched. But we want to use this boat and not hang it from the ceiling like so many people in cabin country do...she we be looking into a restored boat or if this boat is considered quite excellent could it be considered a "good bet."
I have never heard of an ordinary Old Town canoe like this one selling for anything close to $9000 at an auction but it is possible. An original / untouched antique canoe in usable condition will always command a premium, just like an antique car.

The leak problem will probably be your most difficult judgement call. A canoe canvas typically lasts about thirty years in normal use and the bedding compound under the keel dries out over time even if a canoe is not used. Minor leaks are typical in an old canoe but serious leaks quickly make it unusable. Then you are faced with a decision about removing the keel to replace the bedding compound. This process may end up tearing the canvas so badly that it will require a complete replacement and restoration.

New paint and varnish on a canoe are standard maintenance like oil changes in a car. New canvas is a common repair like replacing tires. The planking and any other problems can more easily be done once the canvas is off. This is about the same level of difficulty as pulling the engine out of a car. A professional restoration will run from $400 for a simple canvas job, to over $3000 for a full "make it like new" restoration with a smattering of new ribs, planking, decks, seats and of course canvas, filler and paint.

I once purchased a fancy Old Town canoe like this in very good condition from the estate of the original owner. It had a few minor leaks but nothing that prevented me from using it regularly. Several years later the leaks were getting serious. I sold it as a display piece for $2750 rather than face the decision of restoring such a fine original canoe. The question of "how much is too much" really depends on how badly you want this canoe and how long you are willing to wait on the chance of finding another one for less. A restored canoe may be a better value than this one.

Good luck and please add the results of your efforts here.

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RE: Your comment in the original post: "one slight area of damage on the interier wood strips that runs the length of the boat."

Being rather new to this myself, I'm curious what exactly is damaged. If the damage runs the length of the boat, that sounds like more than a "slight area of damage." Are several ribs, or some of the planking, cracked?
If you are going to use the canoe, then the canvas does have a limited lifespan. If it is original, then it is already 60 years old - it may last you a while, it may need to be replaced straightaway (hard to say until you see how much it leaks). If it needs to be recanvassed, that is a job you can do yourself if you are moderately handy. Prices by professionals can vary, but seem to be running about $100/ foot of canoe length for new canvas, filler and paint.

Take a look at the WCHA Classifieds ( and Ebay completed auctions to see what similar canoes are going for - there is a restored Carleton on our classifieds that looks to be a true bargain. I agree with Benson that the price seems high for what is essentially a run-of-the-mill Old Town. New wood-canvas canoes are running in the $3500-5000 range as another comparison.

Wow great info...thank you

Thank you all for your replies...sounds like it would be prudent for us to be patient and find a restored version of the same or similar canoe.

The canoe is quite beautiful with its red paint, side striping and lovely patina. Our cabin is located on a large lake in northern Mn--the water can be a bit rough so the HW models might be the best for us. You all seem to agree that the potential for it to be less than sea-worthy is a concern. And, although it would be lovely hanging from the ceiling of our cabin...based on Benson's response, it is still too pricy, even as a display piece.

Regarding the slight damage that you asked about, the floor rack at the front of the craft has a piece that has been broken off--almost looks like someone caught a boot or cuff of their pants on it and snapped it off.

We will indeed take a look at the classifieds...we are smitten with the look and feel of the wooden boats (botrh canoes and runabouts), and would very much enjoy being part of a club or organization like yours.

Thank you again...I'll keep you posted on our efforts. And thank you all for you wonderful advice.
A thought

There are some fine pro builders in Northern Mn. The canoes they make are in the price range of this old one but outstanding quality. You should check them out.
Two-Ones said:
sounds like it would be prudent for us to be patient and find a restored version of the same or similar canoe.

This sounds like a wise choice to me. The parallels between old cars and old canoes are interesting. There was an article in Road & Track once about buying classic cars that advised people to avoid the ones with very low mileage if they intended to drive them much. Their logic was that a low mileage car usually had huge price premium and would quickly become a high mileage car like all of the other lower priced ones once you starting using it. Canoes obviously don't have odometers but the same principles seem to apply.

Your father's preference for untouched cars also applies to canoes. It is always frustrating to correct a poor repair/restoration which was not done right the first time. My guess is that you can find a similar canoe which needs canvas and have it restored exactly the way you would like it for $4400 or less. Then you will have something that you can use for the rest of your life and with proper care may still be in good shape over sixty years from now. The same would apply to a new wooden canoe as Dave suggested previously. The list of builders and restorers at may be a good place to start.

You may also enjoy the thread at titled "Restore or leave original?" Happy hunting,

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I'll check into this...we had looked for resources on the web this weekend but were coming up empty. I'll give this place a call. Thanks much.

Check your messages, I PM'ed you.

Check out the MPLS craig's list,

A nice Stelmok White 18.5 Guide was for sale for 600, just needed a little repair and canvas, it's in Duluth.

Also, if you're in the Cities and want to look at or talk canoes, give me a holler.

(MN Chapter POC)
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Just my two cents worth, but were I in your shoes, I’d think I’d commission one of the many fine builders of new canoes to make one just for you and your family.

To me what is important about these canoes is not preserving the individual boats, but preserving the craft of building them. These folks who are building them today love what they are doing, do it beautifully and don’t make a lot of money doing it. They deserve all the work and business they can get. Plus you’ll make friend for life. A handful of people have kept the legacy of wooden canoes alive. Put the money in their pocket, not that of an antique dealer.

Or look at it this way. I don’t know if you have kids, but if so, I would think about how they would view it. Are you going to get some old canoe, whose past they don’t know, or a special boat made just for your family? It will be antique soon enough, in their days ahead. A lot of the people here who restore these canoes have done so because of a love of canoes that was born in their childhood: they remember a special thrill the day dad brought the canoe home. You should get a canoe they’d not hesitate to use: maybe even knock the hell out of. That’s what I would be aiming for.

The canoes just get us there. They’re not where we’re going.