Published: July 31, 2018
Review by Rick Russack
WOLFEBORO, N.H. – On July 14, Peter Coccoluto of Concord Hill Auctions conducted the 18th Annual Vintage Boat and Car auction, on the grounds of the New Hampshire Boat Museum, with net proceeds funding museum operations. It was the tenth year that Coccoluto has run the sale, which included 143 lots comprising vintage and contemporary boats, kayaks, canoes, vintage automobiles, boat motors going back to the 1950s, ship models, paintings and nautical accessories. The top price of the day was $70,150 and more than 80 percent of the lots sold. An excess of 250 bidder numbers were given out, and there were close to 300 people in the audience.
The museum, which was founded in 1992, has seen several homes. It is now a short distance from Wolfeboro, on the banks of Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire’s largest lake. It documents the history and culture of life on New Hampshire’s lakes. The museum has about 150 boats in its collection, many of which are in storage, and mounts exhibits relating to its mission. The collection also includes kayaks, canoes, motors, ship models and ephemera. One of this season’s exhibits, “New Chapters: Rare Boats that Mark Transitions in Our Economy and Culture 1900-1940,” features boats that were innovative in their day and tells the stories of some of the American companies that built them. On display are rarely seen boats from the museum’s collection, including a Gesswein, a Fay & Bowen, a Dee-Wite and even a rare Laconia Car Company boat. Also on exhibit this summer is a collection of midcentury toy boats.
The sale included 17 vintage wooden boats. Topping the category – and the top lot in the sale – was a 26-foot 1930 Chris-Craft “Upswept” deck runabout with a Chevrolet 454 Big Block engine. It had been fully restored, with a new bottom and new transom. Except for the Chevy engine, it was all original and it sold for $70,150 to a buyer who had come specifically for that boat and left immediately after he made the purchase. This type of boat is described in Chris-Craft Boats by Mollica and Savage, “With sales of the standard 26-foot Chris-Craft triple flat, it was time for some restyling. After all, 26-footers were – with some modifications – more or less the same boats that came off the drawing board in 1922. The result of the restyling was the upswept deck in which the forward deck rose gradually as it approached the windshield and it was also upswept at the rear to mimic the forward deck.” A 19-foot 1956 Chris-Craft Capri, in the middle of a restoration project, sold for $20,700. It had all new planking and much of the bottom had been reframed. A cedar kayak sold for $662. Outboard motors ranged in price from $50 to $800, which was for a Dragon Fly motor. They were popular in the 1950s, were designed to propel boats on the ice as well in the water and were promoted as “all-season.”
There were several sailboats, one of which was the favorite of museum director Martha Cummings. It was a 12-foot Sunshine yacht tender that realized $2,070. It was cedar planked and had been completely repainted both inside and out. It was larger than the standard 10-foot-6-inch size, making it more desirable as it had more space. When Cummings was discussing this boat, she said that she and her husband, who had relocated to the Lakes region only in May, had yet to own a boat. “But we soon will,” she added.
The museum, which has more than 600 members and more than 200 volunteers, is currently raising funds for a $5.5 million new building, which will be a state-of-the-art facility with far more exhibit space, and it will be down on the shore of the lake. The museum has raised about half the funds needed for the new building. Responsible for museum operations and involved in the planning for the new building is Cummings, who was appointed executive director in May of this year. Previously, she was director of the Rufus Porter Museum in Bridgton, Maine, and holds a master’s degree from Plymouth State University’s historic preservation program. She plans to expand the museum’s programming to include women in boating, steamboats on New Hampshire’s lakes, culture of the lakes region, the boat building program and more.
A few days after the sale, Cummins said it was a very successful event. “The amount of money that we raised was the highest in the 18 years the event has taken place. I’m new to it all but I’m impressed with how smoothly it went. Our staff and volunteers made it look easy and Peter Cocculoto did a great job. I’m already thinking about next year’s auction.”
Prices include the buyer’s premium. For information, 603-569-4554 or www.nhbm.org.
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