Pottering about in Boats Can Be Plain Sailing

Article excerpt

Playstation and television have replaced the rocking horses and toy yachts of the last century as children's main amusements. But model boats continue to provide endless pleasure to adults as decorative ornaments and are rising in value as they become an increasingly rare commodity.

Once the domain of happy children sailing toy yachts on park ponds, these items have now gained antique status, according to Josh Ritchie of the Model Yacht Company, based in Fontmell Magna, Dorset.

"These model yachts are most likely to appeal to the people starting to buy antiques in the 30 to 40 age group," Ritchie says. "They prefer to invest their money in an antique they love rather than a traditional antique that their parents might have had, such as a Victorian oil painting, or piece of furniture.

"This is probably because as children they used to watch yachts being sailed on ponds and they can relate to them. It is also the appreciation of the craftsmanship in the boats' construction and the lovely sleek lines that evoke the images of yachting before the war."

These model yachts are hand-built from wood and each is unique, often being the workmanship of relatives or friends of the recipient child. They range in length from 12ins to 7ft. All the yachts were built as working models to be sailed or raced and have the same construction methods as full-size boats, echoing the lines and sail plans of their contemporary full-size sisters.

The boats most popular with collectors are those from the turn of the century as they look exactly like the racing yachts used in high-profile events such as the America's Cup.

Ritchie has a stall in the Portobello Road market, west London, and is one of two main model boat restorers/sellers in the UK. The other is Laurie Langford, of Langford Marine Antiques, in New Kings Road, also west London.

Ritchie says a model made between 1850 and 1950 will fetch anything in a price range of pound sterling200 to pound sterling5,000. A yacht in original condition with all its original sails and paintwork is most prized. However, it is also possible to pick up a non-restored version in a junk sale for about pound sterling20; once fully restored, its value can increase tenfold.

As these models become more rare their value is likely to increase. Ten years ago, you could buy a large model yacht for a few hundred pounds, but the same yacht will cost you more than pound sterling2,000 today. …