People who collect old skateboards do so for the same reasons people collect comic books or old toys — they still feel a connection to it, said Miki Vuckovich, noted skateboarding photographer and executive director of the Tony Hawk Foundation. “It’s a natural nostalgia for what you had a kid, so it’s the same reason somebody wants to collect all the old G.I. Joes.”
He continued, “They skated a certain type of board back in the day, and it was the perfect board. Everything today looks so different. They went to a skateshop and all of the boards are made for a 5 foot 3 inch, 14-year-old kid! They don’t see today what they experienced as a young skater, so they want a piece of that past. They want to reconnect in some way.”
“One thing about skateboard collectors,” he cautioned, “even though they understand what a rare board is and what a collectible board is and the importance of condition, their holy grail is that board they owned themselves as a kid, whether that’s a production board that’s easy to find or a one of a kind.” When asked, Vuckovich readily admitted to reacquiring his old board.
Toys or skateboards or comics, collectors are now affirming that their passion is not a second childhood but a reconnection with an important part of their personality. Miki Vuckovich agrees. “When I was younger, adults generally looked at skateboarding as this renegade thing that you did when you were a kid, then you got over it and moved on. From my perspective, it was just something I really loved to do. It defined my whole life. Now people from my generation are parents ourselves.”
He shared a comment made by legendary Z-Boy team member and skateboarding film director Stacy Peralta: “It’s an interesting thing. My generation is into our mid- to late forties. We were the first pro skateboarders to make it big in the 1970s. We’re really the oldest generation of the pro skateboarders – and a lot of us are still skating. So it’s really hard to say how old you could be and still skate.”
The dawn of skateboarding came about in the very late 1950s and early 1960s as an outgrowth of surfing, which means there are baby boomers in their fifties who remember riding old wooden “sidewalk surfers” with metal or clay wheels. Peralta’s award-winning Dogtown and Z-Boys documentary has precious film footage from these early days. The most interesting clip may be one of young Dave and Steve Hilton, super skaters of the Sixties and, yes, Paris’s uncles.
The focus of the Dogtown film, however, the second big wave of skateboarding popularity in the late 1970s which was made possible by the introduction of smooth-riding urethane wheels and a new kind of adjustable metal truck which is used to attach the wheels to the skateboard or deck.
The maneuvers possible with these technical innovations gave rise to both vertical skating – which launches the skater up a ramp into the air – and street skating, the art of tricks involving street obstacles like railings and stairways. The ESPN X-Games televised Aug. 2-5 include skateboarding competitions in both specialties.
Todd Huber, founder of the Simi Valley Skatelab and the manic collector responsible for the associated museum (see sidebar), has a good reason for focusing on the early days: “I grew up in California, I was born in 1965, so I got in when clay wheels were going out and urethane was coming in. In kindergarten, I took a skateboard to school for show-and-tell and my teacher said, never bring that back in again. That settled it, it became a rebellious thing. I developed with the sport – it was kind of my sport – that’s how I looked at it.”
A self-confessed hyper guy, Huber went on the hunt around 1990: ”I went out to swap meets, garage sales, thrift stores. I actually worked at the time for a guy who was a surfboard accessory dealer. I asked my accounts on the phone, hey, do you have any old skateboards? Some had old stock in their stores they were just dying to get rid of. They couldn’t believe that I wanted it, so they were practically giving it away to me.”
Huber began advertising in toy magazines: “‘Wanted Old Skateboards, Top Dollar Paid’ and my phone number. I started getting calls from all over the country. When I first started collecting, nobody else was doing it – they were a dollar or two each. Now the boards, I paid $2 for are worth $500 or even thousands.”
Skateboard collecting has moved fast, so 15 years ago was the good old days. Huber scoffs at this era of people paying four-figure prices for production boards from the 1980s or 1990s: “I don’t pay high dollar. Everything I bought was under a hundred dollars.” But he admits, “I think I paid $400 for that Daniel Boone skateboard.”
When asked about rarities, he says, “I love boards from 1960s with the metal and clay wheels, but they are the easiest to find because they were hardest to skate, so they survived. To me the ones that are the most valuable and collectible are the ones called ‘pigs’ – they were 10 inches wide, and they were the first boards that were truly skateable. They didn’t survive because of that; they got handed down to younger brothers. When you find a pig board, made from around 1979 to 1983, especially in great condition, that is the rarest find.”
“I LOVE THE ‘80s” – MUSIC, HAIR, AND SKATEBOARDS
Remember how much skateboarding Michael J. Fox does in the 1985 hit Back to the Future? The big prices for vintage skateboards have been paid out not by baby boomers but by prosperous Gen-X collectors, looking back to their formative years in the 1980s. In addition to the technical innovations mentioned above, two media-related factors changed skateboarding from a coastally based fad to a nationwide action sport bristling with attitude.
Specialist magazines like Skateboarder, Transworld Skateboarding, and Thrasher, made stars out of skaters and popularized their moves and favorite equipment, a practice that continues today. The second boost came from home video players, so kids could watch not only Back to the Future but pure skateboarding movies – put out by product manufacturers – over and over after school.
After a successful pro career, the still-young Stacy Peralta joined forces in 1978 with engineer/designer George Powell to form the Powell-Peralta company. They not only made skateboards and T-shirts, they also produced videos starring the Bones Brigade, a company team of young skateboarders carefully selected and nurtured by Peralta. The best known member of the team was a gangly phenom named Tony Hawk, now one of the most recognizable athletes in America.
Skateboards from the 1960s and 1970s were marked only with logos and generic pictures of the beach. Powell-Peralta pioneered skateboard art, bold in-your-face graphics which appear – heaven help the collector – on the vulnerable bottom of the deck. (Adhesive grip tape covers the upper surface of the skateboard, to allow the rider to control the rolling deck with his feet.)
Each Bones Brigade team member had a distinctive skateboard design worked out with Powell artist Court Johnson, which also usually appeared as a T-shirt design. Skaters to the present day always pose with their decks art-side-out or execute tricks that allow the skateboard to be photographed from below. The punk-to-looney graphics of skateboards are what make them so attractive to nostalgic collectors.
As the Bones name implies, art for the Powell-Peralta team played on the skeleton theme, scary enough to appeal to kids and frighten parents. Tony Hawk’s deck design appropriately featured a hawk skull. In Disposable: A History of Skateboard Art by Sean Cliver, Hawk explains, “They let Court come up with something truly unique – what I refer to as the ‘Screaming Chicken Skull’ – and I loved it. I had that graphic for nearly 10 years, and we ended up re-releasing it as a Birdhouse (Hawk’s present company) deck.”
A quick search online will reveal hundreds of skateboards for sale from the 1980s, but before beginners try to navigate this minefield mixture of genuine models, reissues, and the outright suspicious, get some help from a seasoned collector.Chris Solomon, a k a Amorone, runs the website ArtOfSkateboarding.com which includes news, collector links, and great advice on how to value a skateboard.
In a telephone interview, Solomon said, “The most popular decks in general seem to all come from the 1980s. That was a time when deck shapes and graphics really took off and changed in weird and wild ways, much like the progression of skateboarding itself. Skateboard art has always pushed the edges and/or been a reflection of the times.”
He cites the highlight of the decade as the release of the third Bones Brigade video, The Search for Animal Chin, a 1987 action/comedy quest saga filled with memorable skating, clothes, and haircuts: “Although earlier members existed, it was during the time of the team of Lance Mountain, Steve Caballero, Tommy Guerrero, Mike McGill, and, of course, Tony Hawk, that the Bones Brigade is most remembered. The release of Animal Chin, which featured that team, was the catalyst that got a lot of people involved in skateboarding to begin with.”
Animal Chin has recently been released in a special edition DVD with lots of extras, a lucky break if Mom threw out the videos. George Powell comments in the “making of” documentary, “It’s become almost a cult video … The whole industry was changing from being driven by advertising in magazines to being driven by videos.” The now-historic film records old- school skating style and provides a catalog of decks.
Additional price information appears on the Solomon’s Web site every day, and he is careful to correct the misinformation about values that appears even in skateboarding publications. He says in his price guide, “As it has been said many times, an item is only worth what the market will bear. Someone might be holding on to a deck they think is worth thousands, but if it sells on eBay for $66, then that owner is a bit off the mark.” A record $6,000 was paid recently for Tony Hawk’s 1982 first pro model.
Solomon’s site has over 22,000 registered users, so who collects? “It’s across the board – no pun intended. Old skaters that have since quit but still love skateboarding, old skaters that have kept going through the years, new skaters, folks that don’t skate but love the art and/or skateboarding. They can be any age from three years old – yes, parents start collections for their kids – and up. The oldest I heard of is 73.”
Miki Vuckovich was a young skate mag photographer on the set of the video The Search for Animal Chin, and still gets to work with one of its stars, Tony Hawk, at the foundation the pro created to help young skaters. ”Through special events, grants, and technical assistance, the foundation supports recreational programs with a focus on the creation of public skateboard parks in low-income communities,” said Vuckovich.
“The main thing is information – which is the most valuable thing we can offer,” Vuckovich continued. “At this point, there are still a lot of cities that want to build skate parks but don’t really know what it entails. There are a lot of important things to consider, such as screening contractors and designers.’
“We also have our grant program. We do fund-raising throughout the year, (whose proceeds) we can allocate to communities that demonstrate the greatest need.”
Miki concluded with this thought:? “It’s one thing to preserve the past but there’s a lot to be said for laying the foundation for the future. Create parks that people can learn to skate in. It’s a constantly evolving lifestyle. People today are doing things that I couldn’t even imagine.”
Referenced from Toy Collector Magazine: Karla Klein Albertson