Pond yacht antique model sailboat, $20.

It's probably easy to imagine that people have been floating little boats around in small bodies of water for many years. The pastime of sailing and racing pond yachts, though, has only been around since the 1820's, and was started in Great Britain. Pond yachts are highly collectable today!

By the 1880's or so, the sport of pond yachting had made its way to the U.S., and numerous clubs, shops and suppliers sprang up to take advantage of this incredibly popular hobby. The only reason I mention these boats here at Auctionbandits is because they're becoming highly collectable and the eBay collectors are snapping them up right and left.

So, what was the sport of pond yacht racing all about? It appears that pond yacht guys would gather around the local lakes and ponds, place their yachts in the water and see who was the first to the other side. Or something like that. After all, in the days before motors and radio control, what else could you really do with them? And since life back then was still pretty simple, people got a kick out of just floating their models around on the water.

Pond yacht racing became so popular in the 1920s through 1940s that there were international competitions, and they even raced them in the 1936 Olympics! As the sport became more popular, the yachts themselves became more elaborately detailed, which means that nowadays, you are liable to run across anything from crude, basic examples, to models so beautifully appointed that you'd be afraid to get them anywhere near the water. Therefore, it's important that you're able to tell an authentic pond yacht from a worthless old wooden boat model.

Although pond yachts were made in all sorts of shapes, sizes and styles over their many years of popularity, they all sported characteristics that differentiates them from the less-collectable wood models. One of the most prominent features of the pond yacht is the deep, lead-weighted keel that can be almost as deep as the boat is long. Keep in mind that these old model yachts, just like their full-size counterparts, were designed to grab hold of strong winds and get going really fast. But to counteract the powerful wind forces pushing on the sails, pond yachts needed lots of weight hanging way down in the water to keep them from flipping over on their sides. See the grey area at the bottom of the keel in the photos? That's ten pounds of bare lead that the paint has flaked off of over the years. Real pond yachts are real heavy.

Although the yacht in this example is without mast and sails, pond yachts were usually configured with a single mast near the front of the ship, holding two sails that ran on front and rear of the mast, forming a triangle shape as seen from the side. Notice the two examples below.

Now I have to mention something that's really important - those contemporary sailboat models that are intended for decorative purposes. Don't get tricked into buying what you think is an old pond yacht, which turns out to be a piece of decoration that was shipped over here from China last week. One of the most valuable skills you can develop in this business is not only the ability to distinguish the old from the new, but the ability to tell when someone is trying to 'antique' something new to make it look like something old. Call around to some local antique shops and see if they have any real pond yachts you can take a look at. After a little experience, you'll be able to tell the 'authentic old' from the new fairly easily.

Finally, remember that like so many collectibles, pond yacht prices on eBay are notorious for ranging all over the board, from under $50 to well over $1000. And like many collectibles, the factors that determine how much bidders will pay are often lost on those of us who aren't aware of the intricacies of the hobby. So, the key here is to keep an eye out for these models, but never pay much when you do find them.

As an example of how unpredictable prices are, this example, without mast or sails, sold on eBay for $235.

Photo of antique pond yacht model sailboat