The Cool History of Vintage Skateboards

Updated May 31, 2018
vintage skateboard

Niche collectors enjoy seeking the rarest items in their areas of interest. However, few niches have the kind of cultural following that vintage skateboards do. While the earliest models were dangerous and provided no ability to steer, these simple devices kicked off one of the largest cultural movements in the country. Each generation integrated newer skating innovations. Vintage skateboards remain highly collectible and increase in value every year.

History of Vintage Skateboards

Skateboarding became wildly popular in the 1960s; however, its origins actually came from the 1920s with the invention of the three-wheeled scooter. This device evolved into the Skeeter of the 1940s. However, the origins of the actual skateboard can be tracked to California surfers in the 1950s and their homemade boards. After the first real skateboards came the clay wheeled Zippees and Roller Derby ones of the 1960s and the urethane wheeled Hobie created by Frank Nasworthy in the 1970s.

1920s Scooters

The skateboard has its origin in the three-wheeler of the 1920s. These were metal devices with three steel wheels created for cross-country skiing enthusiasts to enjoy a similar sport in the summertime. The boards had adjustable clamps to grasp the rider's feet, and one fit on each foot. These also came with two poles.

1940s Skeeter

In the 1940s, the scooter evolved into something that more closely resembles today's boards. Manufactured completely of aluminum, the Skeeter had aluminum wheels and a removable pole. However, the addition of steering axles, or trucks, really set this model apart. This allowed the rider to actually steer the board.

1960s Roller Derby

The surfing movement of the late 1950s led to the introduction of the first homemade skateboards. Surfing enthusiasts who wanted to "surf" on land attached roller skate wheels to the bottom of milk boxes and simple wooden boards. The wheels during this time were made of clay, which didn't grip sidewalks very easily. By the 1960s, one of the first commercial models entered the market. It was the Roller Derby brand, which was made of wood and fitted with roller skate trucks and dual steel wheels.

1970s Cadillac Wheels

Toward the late 60s, the sport crashed in popularity due to health and safety concerns stemming from the fact that these devices had very little traction and poor steering. In the 1970s, surfer Frank Nasworthy decided to utilize the modern roller-skating urethane wheels on his Hobie model. By 1973, Nasworthy successfully marketed these high-performance urethane wheels under the name "Cadillac Wheels." Additionally, other manufacturers were producing improved ball bearings and trucks designed specifically for the sport. These advancements increased the popularity of the sport throughout the 1970s. Popular board manufacturers during this decade included Santa Cruz, Z-Flex and Variflex, with Powell-Peralta coming on the scene in the late 1970s.

1980s and Beyond

Due to the rise in popularity of BMX biking, skateboarding experienced another slump in the early 80s. By the mid 1980s, the major board manufacturers were Powell-Peralta, Vision-Sims, and Santa Cruz. Finally, toward the end of the 1990s, the sport once again began another comeback in the areas of long boarding and downhill. By this time, the sport was populated by a variety of manufacturers, including Alien Workshop, Birdhouse and Black Label.

Vintage Skateboards are Highly Collectible

The value of vintage skateboards is based on a long and fascinating history, and they can hold great value. The highest value boards tend to be those created independently by professional boarders. This market is very specialized, and typically, boarders themselves know the most popular and valuable manufacturers and privately made boards.

Recent list prices of vintage boards on eBay include:

1980s Vintage Powell Peralta 2018 $2000
1979 Kryptonics K-beam 2018 $849
1980sVintage Powell Peralta Mike Vallely Elephant Board 2018 $1400
1981 Vintage Santa Cruz Steve Olson Checker (deck only) 2018 $500

Supreme Kids Skate Skateboard Deck Set 40 Oz Jav Makeout Box Logo Larry Clark

2018 $610

Making Money with Vintage Skateboards

Clearly, there is a great deal of value in this market. Old models can be found in the most unlikely places, including estate auctions and local yard sales. The key to finding the most valuable board is to look for those characteristics that date them to the earlier years of the sport.

The most valuable (older) boards are made of wood or early plastic materials and will have:

  • Clay or steel wheels
  • Decks (boards) with more unique designs (especially Powell-Peralta and Santa Cruz models)

Seeking Collectible Skateboards

Understanding the history of vintage skateboards and following the current market will help you become educated about styles and values, which are important keys to knowing how much collectible items are worth. This will give you a tremendous advantage when you are searching auctions and yard sales for those highly collectible models.

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The Cool History of Vintage Skateboards