Antique Sled: Identifying, Valuing, and Buying (2022 Updated)

So, you’ve been cleaning up your old basement or attic and discovered something you don’t normally find sitting around there, 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 valuing its price. 

Nowadays, sleds are being replaced by other tools for children that use them to enjoy their 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, and in addition to that, the rare rusty sled in your basement could belong to your grand grand-grandfather who made it himself.

Both vintage and antique sleds can be quite difficult to identify and evaluate, mostly because wooden sleds nowadays are mostly out of use and while they could be really old, they could also be 10-20 years old rusty sleds that you’ll just 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 Christmas spirit and festive atmosphere of taking vintage or antique sleds down for a ride. Moreover, there are plenty of people who collect them to hang them over the wall, or even sell them. 

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 the trends consistently. If you want to learn more about antique sleds and how to value them, this guide will help you in a great matter.

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 so keep reading.

A Short History of Antique Sleds

Historians date the oldest evidence of sledding back to 110 to 101 B. C. as they were initially used in the Cimbric War. They took advantage of the Alps by using tobogganing which allowed them to relatively effortlessly climb and go down the Alps to reach the Romans.

Although the first evidence of sledding looks back to a bloody and dark war, the first time sledding was used for fun was in big and cold 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 because Russians were carving their sleds out of ice. Nevertheless, experimenting with different sled designs helped French inventors discover roller coasters a couple of decades later.

What’s the most similar 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 the sleds by hand and painting them to look appealing. They were so small, yet sturdy thanks to the metal runners that they employed. 

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, the bobsledding was sort of abandoned in some places, as many people expressed their concerns about sledding.

Then in 1910, Samuel Leeds Allen who was making sleds for Flexible Flyer added 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 starving and 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 seemingly, all of the 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.

Other reasons may vary. Those sleds manufactured by the popular companies that already operated at the time can be relatively easy to identify if you have experience identifying antique collectibles. If you don’t, it can be a bit more difficult.

We feel like 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 to give them a value. 

One of the biggest tripping rocks in identifying sleds is that many sleds are hand-crafted by independent carpenters or people who didn’t manufacture sleds but did so for their fun. That being said, you may stumble upon old and rusty sleds that, while they look good and powerful, are not made by some commercial company and may have less value.

Whether your antique or vintage sled is commercial or handmade, some distinguishable features will help you identify the age they were made, as well as some other features that can hint at their state, condition, and true value.

Brand

Whether you are checking for a brand name or wanting to identify a handmade sled, 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 more lasting effect. 

That being said, two more popular options you can come across include Flexible Flyer, Paris Manufacturing as well as other popular companies. 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 also say a lot about the origin of the sled, as well as the times when it was manufactured. The shape is a good indicator of which one it is. 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 that you used a rope to pull uphill after sledding down it. On the other hand, some manufacturers were making sleds that were allowing you to push it, that being said, seeing two bars or one large bar on the back can help you identify the push sled. 

Runner Lengths

If you are working with really long sleds, chances are you’re trying to identify the toboggan sleds. You will also notice that toboggans don’t have runners. On the other hand, you will identify sleds from various lengths, as they can be quite flexible. 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 into or engraved into the sled designs, there is a chance that you are trying to identify homemade sleds.

 Don’t let that surprise you, children in the past enjoyed making different wooden crafts, and with the help of their parents, they probably made sleds to use on their own

Additionally, they didn’t have smartphones, video games, and television, so crafting sleds for hours proved to be a lot of fun.

Another thing that can help you identify that they are handmade sleds is that they are likely asymmetrical and have some defects that you probably wouldn’t notice on properly manufactured sleds.

Types of Antique Sleds

There are different types of vintage and antique sleds that you will want to consider. 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.

Types of Antique Sleds
Image Source: @allchippedup

Old Tobogganers

Old tobogganers were initially used in the Canadian military, but today they are quite popular tools for sledding. Nowadays they are made out of plastic, or some older materials, with antique and vintage tobogganners having a rich wood design.

While some were made with ash and birch, those better ones were made out of oak or maple lumber that had the best quality. These sleds don’t have runners, it just objects that you sit on and let take you down the hill. They were probably easier to make than runner sleds.

Editor’s notes: Tobogganers may not be as worthy as runner sleds, as they may be hard to recognize as sleds by ordinary people and difficult to hang on the wall for decoration. Nevertheless, you can probably sell them for up to $100, depending 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. That being said, if you found a sled with metal runners, even if they became a bit rusty 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 you find quite a catch. 

Sled With Metal Runners
Image Source: @knick_knacks_thrift_shop

All-Wooden Sleds

These may not be so frequent on the market because they can be difficult to find 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 and on sale. They can last a good decade or a few if they’re well-made, but they can be challenging.

All-wooden sleds are usually suitable for wall decorations, and most of the time, they are handmade out of oak or some other strong wood.

Editor’s notes: Some sleds can be found anywhere from $30 to $50 while some can be valued up to $200 or even higher. 

All-Wooden Sleds
Image Source: @taylorsantiques

Valuing Antique & Vintage Sleds

Valuing antique and vintage sleds depends on several factors, but primarily, it depends on whether it’s a vintage or antique sled. All vintage sleds are less than 100 years old, as everything else is considered antique.

You can either value the sleds on your own, which can be time-consuming, challenging, and require you to have some researching skills, as well as an eye for the details. Alternatively, you can hire an appraiser or visit an antique store dealer, but more about that later

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 because brands have a voice and reputation that the collector’s track, hear, and feel when they are after a good sled. 

Paris manufacturing and Flexible Flyer are the most common and most popular sled manufacturers that were popular ever since sleds were popularized in the 19th century. When identifying your sled, you will be able to find who manufactured it which simplifies the evaluation because the brand automatically boosts the value. 

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 value. The older it is, and the better condition it is in, the more value it will have to collectors and buyers in particular.

As long as the frame is in a good condition, the sled is likely in impeccable condition too. However, you should be wary about the factors such as painting and whether other parts of the sled are becoming rusty or brittle. Some may have signs of being repaired or restored in their condition, which can have some outcome on the overall value.

Now, an extra factor that can affect the price of the sled, but not necessarily is how rare is the sled. Older sleds were usually a part of a limited edition that applied to the earliest sleds when manufacturing wasn’t as developed as it is today.

Some limited sleds were sometimes a part of some competition or merchandise. For example, fairs and similar events 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, some animal, 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. There are plenty of them which can help.

Getting Your Antique Sled Valued Professionally

Unfortunately, antique sleds are not so easy to evaluate always and given it’s an object that can look generic from different angles, you may not always be satisfied with the answer you got on the forum where you uploaded a picture.

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 put all your finds on the paper, including the brand name, age, condition, and extra features that are connected to your sled, which you can tell your appraiser. 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 if it’s particularly valuable.

Make sure to weigh in all your options and come back with an informed decision.

Where to Buy Antique Sled?

Antique and vintage sleds can be found anywhere, especially during the Christmas and winter season, when the well-known winter wonderland can be felt swaying in the air. You can try local woodworker shops, as well as antique stores, but you may not have a large display there. Some winter fairs and amusement park selling spots can also boast a few merch models from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Unfortunately, those are not the best places if you want to choose from many options. If there are only a few sleds on the display and you want to turn this vintage sport 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, as well as auction sites and smaller stores. However, major marketplaces have the most widespread selection of sleds.

Amazon – Vintage & Antique-looking Sleds

  • Price range: $19-$120

Amazon may not be the best choice to consider vintage and antique sleds. However, if you don’t want to go through the whole process of identifying and valuing ancient sleds, then you may want to decorate your wall with something that can look similar. Keep in mind that 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 rusty and worn touch that will make the collector’s mouth water.

There’s a pretty wide price range, from sub-$100 options to those that cost over $1,000. Some seem to look like they were part of some game or prize on some old fair or competition, 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 checking. 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 bit 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 rather younger children, while those large 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 those of 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, we must notice that some of them are rather expensive compared to those on other sites.

This website has also a bit more refined offer of antique sleds than some other ones, given that there are some unique and handmade designs, as well as sculpted sleds that we talked about before.

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 are guaranteed. 

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