So, you’ve been cleaning up your old basement or attic and discovered something you don’t normally find, a sled. Whether it’s a vintage or antique sled manufactured by some of the greatest companies in the 19th century, it’s hard to say with so much dust laying on it. If your children are too old to use this fun toy for the snowy days, you may consider identifying and finding a value for it.
Nowadays, sleds are being replaced by modern, plastic items for children to enjoy the snowy days. Still, there is something magical and festive about using old polished wooden sleds to enjoy the winter wonderland. Nowadays, they’re rare to see but hold so much important history. The rusty sled in your basement could belong to your great grand-grandfather who made it himself.
Both vintage and antique sleds can be quite difficult to identify and evaluate, mostly because wooden sleds are mostly out of use. While they could be really old, they could also be only 10-20 years old rusty sleds that you’ll waste your time trying to identify and get disappointed in the process.
Nevertheless, there are a lot of people who want to relive the old festive atmosphere of taking vintage or antique sleds out for a ride. Moreover, there are plenty of people who collect them to display or sell them on.
Going to auctions and keeping up with antique deals can be quite exciting, but sleds are not often sought after, so you need to follow listings conscientiously.
Whether you want to identify, sell or buy an antique sled for whatever reason, this guide contains all the necessary information you need and will help you become an expert in the field.
A Short History of Antique Sleds
Historians date the oldest evidence of sledding back to between 110 and 101 B.C. when they were initially used in the Cimbric War. Soldiers crossed the Alps by using toboggans which allowed them to reach the Romans more quickly and efficiently.
The first time sledding was used for fun was in Russia in the 17th century. However, the wooden tracks and sleds they used were dangerous and risked the lives of many young Russians who wanted to attempt sledding.
The trend then followed in France but wasn’t so successful. Nevertheless, experimenting with different sled designs helped French inventors create roller coasters a couple of decades later!
The most similar antique sleds to the sleds being used today were the 19th-century inventions made in the USA. The first sleds were made during the 1860s thanks to Henry Morton who lived in Maine. He was making them by hand and painting them to look appealing. They were small yet sturdy thanks to metal runners.
Morton’s sleds are what kickstarted the project of making snowy days fun for both children and adults. His invention led to bobsled competitions being held in Albany, New York, as well as in Switzerland. Due to various sledding incidents that even led to novels being written, bobsledding was abandoned in some places, as many people expressed concerns about safety.
Then in 1910, Samuel Leeds Allen who was making sleds for Flexible Flyer added a steering control that relied on hinges which helped reinforce sleds, ultimately making them safer. During the 1920s, sales grew exponentially, especially during the Great Depression when people were looking for inexpensive ways to entertain themselves.
Many other companies contributed to sleds being improved over time which is what led to modern-looking sleds still loved and used today for entertainment.
Identifying Antique Sleds
Identifying antique sleds can be extremely difficult, for several reasons. One of them is that many sleds look the same, and if the previous owners took good care of them, chances are they won’t look that old or antique anyway.
Those sleds manufactured by popular companies that operating at the time can be relatively easy to identify if you have experience identifying antique collectibles.
We feel that identifying the sled is more important than giving it a value, so you should spend some time getting to know different sled models and successfully identify them before you decide on a value to sell them for.
One of the biggest trip ups in identifying sleds is that many were hand-crafted by independent carpenters. You may stumble upon old and rusty sleds that, while they look good and powerful, were not made by some commercial company so may have less value.
Whether your antique or vintage sled is commercial or handmade, some distinguishing features will help you identify the time they were made, as well as some other features concerning their condition and true value.
Whether you are checking for a brand name, it’s worth mentioning that finding the manufacturer can be quite difficult if the paint wore off. Some models have the name written with paint and then polished for a lasting effect.
Two popular brands you can come across include Flexible Flyer and Paris Manufacturing. With some models, the date of manufacturing, as well as the brand name, can be engraved on some kind of a metal plate, or even into the tracks themselves.
Push Vs. Pull Sled
Determining whether it’s a push or pull sled can say a lot about the origin of the sled. If there is a hole for a rope, or a rope attached to it, chances are high that it’s a pull sled.
It’s worth mentioning that most of the antique sleds manufactured in the 19th century are pull sleds where you used a rope to pull it back uphill after sledding down it. On the other hand, some manufacturers were making sleds that were allowing you to push it. The presence of two bars or one large bar on the back can help you identify a push sled.
If you are working with really long sleds, chances are you’re trying to identify toboggan sleds. You will also notice that toboggans don’t have runners. Sled size and length can vary greatly. The smallest antique sleds are about 3 feet long, as some can be over 5 feet long.
Identifying Handmade Sleds
If you didn’t find a sign of a brand, date made, or anything painted or engraved into the sled, there is a chance that you are trying to identify a homemade sled.
Another thing that can help you identify that they are handmade sleds is that they are likely to be asymmetrical and have some defects that you probably wouldn’t notice on commercially manufactured sleds.
Types of Antique Sleds
There are different types of vintage and antique sleds. Some may have extra seats, while some will have extra runners or specially-designed runners. Take different options into consideration and see if your newly-discovered sled fits into any of these descriptions.
Old tobogganers were initially used in the Canadian military, but today they are quite popular for recerational sledding. Nowadays they are made out of plastic, but antique and vintage tobogganers have a lovely wooden design.
While some were made with ash and birch, the better ones were made out of oak or maple lumber that had the best quality. These sleds don’t have runners.
Editor’s notes: Tobogganers may not be worth as much as runner sleds, as they may be hard to recognize by ordinary people and difficult to hang on the wall for decoration. Nevertheless, you can probably sell them for up to $100, based on listings on Amazon, Etsy, and eBay. Those made of the best quality wood can cost up to $500.
Sled With Metal Runners
These sleds are less common on the market, but because of their metallic build, they can be extremely valuable. If you found a sled with metal runners, even if they became a bit rusty, it can represent a great value. You can easily reinforce them and paint them again to restore their original shine, which will greatly improve their value.
Editor’s notes: The cheapest sleds with metal runners can sell for as much as $200, but some may be worth as much as over $500. Keeping up with prices and listings on popular selling sites and auctions can help.
These may not be so frequent on the market as they may not have been so durable. Some sleds have survived the rough challenges of age, but they are frequently less seen in online stores. They can last a good few decades if they’re well-made and have been looked after.
All-wooden sleds are usually suitable for wall decorations, and most of the time, they are handmade out of oak or some other strong hardwood.
Editor’s notes: Some all-wooden sleds fetch anywhere from $30 to $50 while some can be valued up to $200 or even higher.
Valuing Antique & Vintage Sleds
Valuing sleds depends on several factors but primarily on whether it’s a vintage or antique sled. All vintage sleds are less than 100 years old, and everything else is considered antique.
You can value the sleds on your own which can be time-consuming, challenging, and require you to have some researching skills and an eye for the details. Alternatively, you can hire an appraiser or visit an antique store dealer.
Valuing Sleds On Your Own
The first feature you want to consider on your vintage or antique sled is who made it. Brands play a great role in evaluating sleds.
Paris manufacturing and Flexible Flyer are the most common sled manufacturers that were popular since the 19th century.
Other important factors that play a role in evaluation are the condition and age of the sled. The identifying model number and the manufacturer immediately help with identifying the age. The older it is, and the better condition it is in, the more value it will have to collectors.
You should be wary about factors such as painting and whether parts of the sled are becoming rusty or brittle. Some may have signs of being repaired or restored to their current condition, which can have some effect on the overall value. If the repair work is bad it will devalue the sled, if it is good it can enhance the value. If it has changed the features of the original model it will devalue the sled.
Now, an extra factor that can affect the price is how rare is the sled. Older sleds were usually a part of a limited edition when manufacturing wasn’t as developed as it is today.
Some limited sleds were a part of some competition or merchandise. For example, fairs could host competitions and giveaways that could result in rewards being the sleds that were painted in some particular way, or sculpted into the shape of some object such as a heart, swan, or even a dragon.
Needless to say, those sleds are much rarer than those common ones and will have a greater value because there is a story tied to them.
Editor’s notes: If you are struggling with evaluating your sled, but aren’t ready to hire an appraiser to help you, there are a few websites that you can visit for extra help.
You can also visit different Facebook groups that can help you with evaluation.
Getting Your Antique Sled Valued Professionally
Unfortunately, antique sleds are not so easy to evaluate and you may not always be satisfied with the answer you got on a forum.
Also, some websites that allow you to test for evaluation offer only a free partial trial and demand a subscription later. Thinking about paid services, sometimes it’s better to visit an antique store or contact an appraiser nearby who can help you find the true value of your sled.
Make sure to include details pictures and information including the brand name, age, condition, and extra features that are connected to your sled. Their service won’t be free. Some will even offer to take a percentage off your selling if they help you to sell the antique sled.
Where to Buy Antique Sleds?
Antique and vintage sleds can be found anywhere, especially during the Christmas and winter season. You can try local woodwork shops as well as antique stores, but you may not have a large selection there. Some winter fairs and old-fashioned amusement parks can also have a few merch models from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
If there are only a few sleds on the display and you want to turn this vintage winter sport item into a wall decoration, you will want to choose from a larger collection and a broader price range.
There are some online marketplaces that you can consider.
Amazon – Vintage & Antique-looking Sleds
- Price range: $19-$120
Amazon may not be the best choice for genuine vintage and antique sleds. However, if you don’t want to go through the whole process of identifying and valuing ancient sleds, and want to decorate your wall with something that can look similar, then Amazon is good. Some Flexible Flyer models are available for sale, but they are closer to vintage than antique.
Editor’s notes: Not the best for real antiques. The website is flooded with ads and modern-looking sleds. You have to keep an eye on the website as models go as fast as they come online.
eBay – Varied Selection of Antique Sleds
- Price range: $50-$1,200
eBay is a marketplace known to offer everything that you can think of. Sleds, particularly those made more than 100 years ago are quite popular and commonly seen posted online. You can find anything, from tobogganers to high-end metal runner sleds with a charming rusty and worn touch.
There’s a pretty wide price range, from sub-$100 options to those that cost over $1,000. Some were part of a game or prize in old fairs or competitions, so they’re worth taking a look at.
Editor’s notes: Don’t waste time asking for second opinions when you stumble upon a sled worth buying. They are fast to go, so if you find something worth getting, you should go for it.
Etsy – Both Vintage & Antique Sleds
- Price range: $20-$2,000
Etsy may have a smaller selection of sleds compared to eBay, but that doesn’t make them any less impressive or valuable. You may notice that some of them are constructed for younger children, while larger ones come with multiple seats for more than one child. Tobboganers are less commonly seen.
Editor’s notes: Navigating through antique listings on Etsy may be a bit more difficult because a lot of listings aren’t for antique and vintage sleds.
Chairish – Antique Sleds for European Collectors
- Price range: $135-$4,000
Chairish is great if you collect antiques and vintage collectibles from Europe. It contains an admirable list of furniture, objects, tools, and other items that are considered vintage or antique. Sleds are no exception. Nevertheless, some of them are rather expensive compared to those on other sites.
This website has a more refined selection of antique sleds than some of the others. There are some unique and handmade designs, as well as sculpted sleds.
Editor’s notes: So far, there are no complaints that we could make about this website. It has a large collection and all its products are curated and checked explicitly to ensure quality and authenticity.