Most kids adored sledding, and it is hard to find a house without an old sled. Believe it or not, some vintage or antique branded models manufactured in the 19th century can be collectible these days.
Unfortunately, it is sometimes pretty challenging to find valuable wooden models, but antique sled identification and value guide can be worth your time. Collectors often hang them over the wall or enjoy Christmas magic the way their ancestors used to.
Antique Sled History
Historians discovered that the oldest sleds existed in the period from 110 to 101 BC. Celtic and Germanic tribes also used them in the Cimbric War to effortlessly go down the Alps and gain an advantage over the Romans.
The first evidence of sledding as a fun activity came from Russia in the 17th century. Unfortunately, the first wooden tracks and sleds carved of ice were dangerous, and they often jeopardized people’s lives.
The French followed the trend, but sledding wasn’t so popular in the very beginning. First sled models similar to modern ones appeared in the US in the 19th-century.
Henry Morton from Maine invented the first model with the metal runners in the 1860s and enjoyed painting his small, sturdy sleds. Thanks to his invention, the people from Switzerland and Albany, New York, organized the first bobsled competitions.
Samuel Leeds Allen started making sleds with steering control in 1910, making them safer. The company Flexible Flyer‘s sled sales grew exponentially in the 1920s, particularly during the Great Depression. Additionally, numerous other companies have improved sleds to this day.
Antique Sled Identification
Identifying antique sleds is often pretty challenging for a few crucial reasons. First, most models look the same and often don’t look old because owners have taken good care of them.
Second, you will probably have a problem with the manufacturer’s identification. Unlike popular sled brands, it can be a problem to identify hand-crafted models produced by independent carpenters or parents who made them for their kids.
Third, you can sometimes come across powerfully-looked old and rusty sleds that are often worthless except for branded pieces. The only way to identify your vintage and antique commercial or handmade sleds is by distinguishing features typical for a particular age.
Handmade and hand-painted sleds without a brand name are considered an antique. As you can expect, crude homemade sleds are pretty standard since people avoid giving money to something they could do themselves.
Moreover, most children of that time enjoyed making wooden stuff, so you can find models they created with their parents’ help. Those sleds are likely asymmetrical and typically come with numerous imperfections.
Antique sleds are never standardized and can come in various lengths. The smallest known model is about 3 feet (0.9 m) long, but some can reach over 5 feet (1.5 m) in length. If you find an atypically long sled without runners, you probably look at the toboggan model.
The quickest way to identify antique sleds is by their brand name or markings. The most recognizable sled manufacturers in the 19th century were Flexible Flyer and the Paris Manufacturing.
Once you find the manufacturer and its stamp, you can effortlessly identify the period when they were made. The reason is a specific sled style matching a particular Era. The brand’s name and the date can be:
- Engraved on a metal plate
- Engraved on the tracks
- Written on wood with long-lasting paint and then polished
Unfortunately, finding the manufacturer’s signature is sometimes tricky because the paint wore off over time. Therefore, you should find reliable ways to indirectly identify a sled manufacturer by checking:
- The Net
- Snow sled reference guides
- Vintage catalogs, like Sears and Roebuck
- Vintage magazines, like The New York Times and Time
- Recreation sports supply store
- Your grandparents
Push vs. pull sleds
Distinguishing the push and pull sleds is an excellent indicator of determining your model’s age and origin. If the sled has a hole for a rope, you probably look at a pull sled.
Most models created in the 19th century were the pull sleds that required a rope to pull them uphill. However, you can also find push sleds. They typically have one large bar or two smaller bars on the back that help with pushing them when necessary.
Some antique sleds with atypical and unique features are also worth considering. You can find models with extra seats, specially-designed runners, or extra runners.
One of the most attractive unique sleds is a rare flexible Flyer Antique model with four seats worth $975 on the current market.
A well-preserved Yankee Clipper sled can reach $1,000, but most used pieces are typically worth $40 to $125.
Antique Sled Types
Unfortunately, wooden sleds are not durable and can be difficult to find, so they are relatively rare on the current market. Even though some antique models survived until these days, you won’t see them often on sale or in online stores.
Collectors appreciate handmade models made of oak since they look attractive as wall decorations. Most survived sleds will be worth $30 to $50, but some excellently preserved pieces can reach over $200.
These prices will primarily depend on the sled’s age. Be aware that only those older than one hundred years can be considered ancient. Models produced during the last century are in a group of vintage items.
Sled with metal runners
Antique models with metal runners are relatively rare on the market but can be pricey thanks to the quality and durable metallic build. In most cases, wooden sleds with metal runners can be pricey despite the possible rust.
You can quickly reinforce such a piece and paint the wood. Professionally restored sleds can reach high values. The cheapest model you can find will cost you $200. However, you should set aside about $500 for well-preserved antique ones.
The Canadian military initially used this sled type to facilitate the movement of soldiers through deep snow. They were basically only sets without runners they could make quicker than standard sleds.
Nowadays, you can purchase affordable antique wooden models made of low-quality birch or ash. However, the pricey models made of best-quality oak or maple are also available.
Tobogganers are not decorative and are rarely worth more than $100, but those made of the most quality wood can cost $500.
Antique Sleds Valuation
Valuing sleds primarily depends on the model’s age and condition and can be challenging and time-consuming. Since such a task requires researching skills, sometimes is hiring an appraiser a better option.
Valuate antique sleds on your own
The first thing to check when deciding to evaluate sleds on your own is the manufacturer. For instance, you should discover whether the model you look at has a Flexible Flyer marking.
Finding the identifying model number is the best way to confirm the brand and the age. As expected, the oldest sleds made in the 19th century are the most valuable.
The next step is to check the condition. Experts consider all antique sleds to be in an excellent state, but you should pay attention to:
- Painting and decorations
- Possibly broken parts
- Traces of repairing
The rarity is an extra factor that affects the price, but it is not always the case. Only pieces with the story come with higher value. Finally, collectors will pay more for sleds sculpted into an unusual shape and those painted in a particular way.
Have antique sleds valued professionally
It can be complicated to evaluate antique sleds, and answers from forums and Social Media can be worthless sometimes. On the other hand, most websites that offer evaluation typically provide a free partial trial and ask for a subscription for thorough analyses.
Therefore, hiring an appraiser or asking an antique store owner for help will probably help you find the sled’s genuine value. Always collect all available information you have before looking for answers.
Antique Sled Value
As I have already mentioned, old sleds’ price range is $30 to $500+. You should consider a few crucial factors that affect the value and differentiate between a lovely kid’s sled, a desirable collectible, and high-value investment.
Appearance – A sled with all preserved parts and intact original paint will be worth the most. Since children used them in the 19th century, it is almost impossible to find such a piece without chipped wood and rust traces. Plus, any reparation will affect the final price.
Special touches – Hand-painted, engraved, or stenciled designs in various colors almost always add to the sled value. Even though pieces in excellent condition are rare, it is often a negligible shortcoming. For instance, one collector paid almost $200 for a yellow stenciled sled from the 1870s in decent condition.
Besides, sculpted runners in the animal shape, like a heart, swan, wild animal, or dragon, are appreciated collectibles, so their price will be higher. A piece with a damaged wooden frame and peeled paint are typically worth less than $100. On the other hand, a sled in good condition can quickly reach $300.
Rarity – You can expect some unusual and rare sleds with high demand among collectors to be pricey. For instance, limited sled models that were a part of famous competitions or fairs are typically expensive. Experts estimate that old Walt Disney-made sleds’ price can reach thousands of dollars.
Brand – The Flexible Flyer company sold 10,000 sleds a day at their popularity peak, making them common and less expensive than those produced in the Paris Manufacturing. You can find a piece for $25 to $1,000, depending on its condition.
Keep in mind that the company numbered the oldest sleds but later added letters after numbers. In the end, they started to name series. This information can help you date their sleds and determine their value.
Sleds specifically designed for children – Designs explicitly made for kids have great demand among collectors and sled enthusiasts. They feature a pushing bar, upholstered chair, and metal runners, reminding a stroller with runners instead of wheels.
Since these models are rare on the antique market, they are valuable, with a price range of $100 to $200. It is impossible finding such a model in perfect condition, but sleds with preserved runner blades and chair upholstery often reach $400 to $800.
Antique Flexible Flyers’ Sled Examples
You can recognize antique Flexible Flyer sleds by design and a sign FF with numbers that indicate their length. Later models have letters after the number, while modern models have names.
FF No. 12 dates from the very early 1890s and was originally red. You can recognize the diagonal outlines of graphics placed centrally.
FF No. 5, with a flower logo in the center, was among the first steerable sleds Flexible Flyers created before 1900. Later models had an eagle there.
The refinished FF No. 2 model came in a gooseneck design and with a replaced logo.
It had a green stripe without grooving, dating it to a period before 1907. FF 2 B model was the first with grooved runners. According to the logo.
FF 2 C sled was produced after 1920.
FF 5 C (Great Uncle) 63 inches (1.6 m) long sleds from 1921 had the eagle and footrests for multiple riders.
On the other hand, you can see that FF 3 C sled model was manufactured after 1920, thanks to the slightly different scrollwork.
FF 4 C was similar to the previous model and dates from approximately 1915 to 1920.
FF 6 C sled produced around 1915 was 8.5 feet (2.6 m) long, making it the longest Flexible Flyer model. They featured four pairs of stirrups suitable for up to four riders.
FF Fire Fly economy line came with a bumper decorated with ivy, holly berries, and wooden rails.
FF 1 E sled probably dates from the late 1920s and is recognizable thanks to graphics typical for that period.
FF 1 G (super steering) model had a Flexible Flyer sled back for a safe kids’ ride. It came with elegant diamond-back graphics.
Antique sleds are a beautiful part of our grandparents’ childhood, but their identification and evaluation can be challenging. This task is a bit quicker with famous brands’ models, but it is pretty hard with those made by unknown craftsmen. Be aware that sometimes it is impossible to recognize a particular model without professional help.