To my great surprise, one of the most popular articles I wrote for the blog is the overview of collectable boat cushions; even though it has been almost a year since I posted it, it still gets a couple of dozen hits a week, mostly from Google searches. You can read the original article by Clicking Here.
As this has proven to be a popular theme, I thought I'd update it with some new information and more pictures of collectible boat cushions, along with a rough value guide built exclusively on following these on eBay over the past year. Keep in mind this is only a guide based on sold items; such things as color, condition, age, etc. affect the value of any collectible item, including cushions.
The Pin Up Boat Cushion
Basically, there are four categories of collectable boat cushions. The first category I call "Pin Up Cushions," as they feature a bevy of (usually) bikini clad women. Some are active (water skiiing, fishing, etc.) while others are passive. They are also the most valuable cushions by far, as they definitely are a cross-collectable item. Here are a few additional ones:
Fish-Themed Boat Cushions
A second category of collectable boat cushions and life preservers are fish-themed. These are always popular, and value depends on the kind of fish pictured. Saltwater fish tend to bring the most money, with sharks on top, followed by marlin, tarpon. etc. Freshwater fish are more affordable.
Nautical Theme Boat Cushions
A third category is loosely called "Nautical Themes," and involves any cushion with a sailing, fishing, or sea motif. This is the largest of the cushion categories.
Rules of the Road/Storm Warning Boat Cushions
The fourth and most commonly found category of cushions are the Rules of the Road/Storm Warning models.
Boat Cushion Resellers and Manufacturers
Lots of companies sold boat cushions, but the two largest were without doubt Montgomery Ward & Co., and Sears, Roebuck and Co., both giant mail order (and retail) companies based out of Chicago. These models can date from the 1910s to the 1980s, and cover pretty much the entire gamut of life preserver production.
There were also a huge number of manufacturers of boat cushions. Elgin of Elgin, Illinois sold a huge number of cushions through Sears. My adopted state of Ohio was home to two large boat cushion makers, the Safegard Corporation (Box 66, Station B, Cincinnati 22, Ohio) and American Pad & Textile Company (Greenfield, Ohio), who sold cushions under the Ta-Pat-Co name. Emporia, Kansas was home to the Crawford Manufacturing Co. that made seat cushions, and some of the more valuable preservers today were made in Philadelphia by the Ben-Sun Products Corporation. Admiral Blackie brand cushions were made by _____ in Dallas, Texas.
I hope this better informs everyone about the collectable boat cushion. While I am not a boat cushion collector, I would definitely be on the lookout for the pin-up cushions which would go well with my fishing pin-up art collection (the subject of a furture article). I bet there are more than a few people out there who collect boat cushions, and so there is even ephemera to go with your preserver collection:
And once again, I'll comb the labyrinth of eBay and keep track of any neat Cushion developments for a future update.
-- Dr. Todd