Old Vintage Surf Decal collecting tips
With old surf decal prices rising faster
than gold people have requested my advice on the matter.
Below are a few of my observations.
Why so expensive?
Economics 101, supply and demand. Since
decals were designed to be used immediately it's remarkable
any have survived at all. These decals produced from 1960-1970
are intrinsically rare by their very nature. Condition is
critical. Perfect no rips, tears, cut offs pin holes always
command more. Torn, cut, water damaged etc. reduce value.
Beauty and good artwork always come into play. Printing
mistakes may or may not be and issue depending on severity.
Popularity. There's a few that all collectors
covet, they can be called the "Classics". Below
is a partial list of popular surfboard builders in the 60's
Santa Cruz - Haut, O'Neil,
Johnny Rice, Olson, Yount
Santa Barbara - Owl, Yater, Roth
Ventura - Tom Hale, Ventura Plastics, Morey Pope
San Fernando Valley - Ernie Tanaka, Gunther Glass, Val Surf
South Bay LA - Bing, Con, Dave Sweet, Dewey Weber, Greg
Noll, Jacobs, Joe Quigg, Rick, Roberts, Velzy - Jacobs,
Roberts (Bob Milner)
Orange County - Chuck Dent, Gordie, Hobie, Jacks, Jeffrey
Dale, Jack Haley, Surfer Magazine (Rick Griffin's Murphy),
San Diego - Challenger,
Del Cannon, Gordon and Smith, Hansen, Surfboards Hawaii,
Southern California was the surfboard building capitol of
the world in the 40's, 50's and 60's, Boards sold in Hawaii
and U.S. East Coast at that time was manufactured in So
Cal. The majority of Decal decorators were located in So
Ca Most Hawaiian decals and laminates from the late 60's
through the early 70's were produced in So Cal. Early California
hot rod speed part manufactures spawned the popularity of
decals. All hotrodders had to have decals affixed to theirs
cars to display what was under the hood. Hot Rod and Surfboard
decals were printed by the same companies, sometimes on
the same sheets, side by side. The advent of mylar and vinyl
stickers simplified the decoration process eliminating the
need for water-slide glue, spelling doom for many water-slide
What constitutes an old surf decal?
The old ones are almost always water
slide decals, They were printed by a handful of printers
who printed their mark on the back slider sheet, Art Decal
Hyalac Co, Morse Decals. are a
few that come to mind. Always inspect the paper the old
decals were printed with lacquer, they kind of stained the
paper, the paper is 30-40 years old so it usually is yellowing.
Hang Ten was one of the the first surf companies to use
R. Stanton Avery's adhesive sticker labels.
Where to find old surf
Yard sales, flea markets, book stores even surf shops are
good places to look, they almost always have an oldie or
two lying around. One time at a flea market I found 3 original
dewey weber, 5 bing, 5 ole, 2 huge gordon & smith 4
wardy and others I can't remember in a box owned by a little
old man and lady. The old man said in the 60's he drove
their son up and down the coast stopping in surf shops buying
patches and decals everywhere they went, San Diego, Huntington,
South Bay. The farther inland you go looking, the better.
Phoenix Az is big, Bakersfield too. The best finds are the
least likely of places usually far from the beach. The SFV
probably has more vintage surf stuff in it than Huntington
Beach! Every weekend guys like chubbysurf.com and malibulongboards.com
are cruising the streets in the valley looking for stuff,
they've turned up tons! The word's out about surf collectibles
everybody with a ripped tattered old decal thinks it's worth
eBay is a great source of vintage surf decals however eBay
is not the place to look for deals. The whole world's looking
at the same stuff you are! Occasionally you find one all
the others miss on eBay but not often. It's a good place
to expand your collection if you have the cash! Remember
you're bidding against Doctors, Lawyers, Plumbers and others
with fat wallets..
is a good place to get a ballpark idea of prices. Sam Ryan
published a guide to longboard collecting before it became
fashionable. His guides are now collectible. If you ever
get a chance, visit his shop / museum in the Encinitas area.
Bootleggers / Fakes
With the skyrocketing prices, people are going to reproduce
copies or fakes. There's a guy on eBay from Melbourne Florida
who's been selling fake Rick Griffin murphy decals for years.
I've emailed and asked where he got em and he never returns
my email. Griffin's family could probably use the money.
For awhile there was a guy on eBay, again from Florida,
bootlegging Dewey Weber and Greg Noll t- shirts. Buyer beware!
Always ask the seller if the decal is original. Always make
note of the size too. People scan them in big giving the
false impression they're large decals. Reproductions are
cool just make sure someone's not trying to pass it off
as the real thing.
Today's sticker is tomorrows collectible! Great artwork
never looses value. Sticker runs are limited buy what appeals
to you and likely it appeals to others.
The 70's and 80's stuff is getting popular
now. I'd start buying up 70's decals, twin fins, pintail
guns and trifins in decent condition. Shortly any foam board
will be valuable with the rapidly expanding surfboard technology
like surftech and boardworks with more coming. (written
in the 90's before the demise of clark foam!)