Fifteen Most Coveted Skateboards Ever

by Sean Cliver

Sixteen years of Sunday school and I can’t even remember the goddamn number of the commandment that states, “Thou Shalt Not Covet.” Well, whatever the hell it is, it’s being broken tenfold by the latest wave of twenty-first-century sinners: skateboard collectors. These treacherous souls are so twisted by zealous desires they’ll stop at nothing short of outright villainy and starvation to rebuild a nostalgic wall of their past brick by brick, as they live and die on eBay in the quest for vintage skate goods-and I’m damn proud to admit that I’m a part of their heathen packs.

If the very idea of shelling out hundreds and thousands of dollars to pervert a board from its true calling in life offends the “more hardcore than thou” readers, I suggest you search elsewhere in this magazine for soothing images of skateboards being used and abused in their predestined manner. However, if you happen to be crippled by sentimental obsessions, like me, or can equate these old planks to limited-edition lithographs, like me, then read on.

And once you’re done reading this article, go buy my recently released book, Disposable: A History Of Skateboard Art. This 228-page, full-color book contains over 1,000 images of vintage skateboards, along with the self-told histories of Wes Humpston, Pushead, Jim Phillips, John Lucero, Marc McKee, Ed Templeton, Ron Cameron, Andy Howell, and many other influential artists throughout the last three decades of skateboarding.

There, now that my cheap plug is out of the way, I shall proceed to uphold my end of the bargain with this magazine’s editor by making up some random bullshit about the most coveted decks in the world. The difficult thing in doing so, however, is that not every collector gives two shits and several thousand dollars for a Ray “Bones” Rodriguez model. Some, in fact, would consider a Kryptonics Dan “Booger” Brown as the “grail” of their collection-and not without good reason, I might add. That particular deck was released sometime around 1986-the crudely cartoonish graphic depicted Dan skating a ramp while picking his nose, and I have not seen one in existence since or I surely would’ve included a photo of it in my book, Disposable: A History of Skateboard Art, published by Concrete Wave Editions and distributed by Blitz Distribution, currently available in skate shops worldwide.

So as a disclaimer, the following decks are merely a few of the usual suspects that consistently throw up a volcanic spike in price due to complex economic issues of supply and demand in a steadily growing marketplace for vintage skateboards.

Powell Peralta Ray “Bones” Rodriguez 1980

Powell Peralta Steve Caballero 1981

Powell Peralta Tony Hawk 1982

Notwithstanding the fact that I’m a Powell Peralta collector myself, it’s almost impossible to narrow down the company’s single most sought after deck. Undoubtedly, the Ray “Bones” Rodriguez model, illustrated by V. Courtland Johnson, is one of the most influential graphics of all time. It blew the minds of innumerable young skaters, some of whom would later become prominent skateboard artists in their own right. Less than ten of these boards are known to exist in mint condition in collectors’ circles-nowhere near the amount required to satiate the tremendous demand for the original incarnation of the Skull And Sword.

Then there’s Steve Caballero’s first production model, which featured a dragon seated atop a bearing before it was shortly truncated to the much more commonly found dragon sans bearing. To the best of my knowledge, only one of these decks is known to exist in mint condition, and it currently rests in the hands of a collector with an attributed value of around 7,500 dollars or more.

Lastly, there’s the unique case of Tony Hawk’s first model. The graphic is more or less a throwaway, but combine the extremely limited production run with the fact that Tony’s famous name is on par with Michael Jordan’s, and you ve a classic “rookie card” scenario. The last publicly recorded sale of one in unskated condition was for 6,000 dollars.

101 Natas Kaupas 1991

This is the most notorious graphic ever produced in the history of skateboarding. Replete with a dead pope on a rope, a decapitated baby, an inverted pentagram, scary numerology, and the Devil himself, this graphic by Marc McKee covered virtually every Satanic base-all the way down to the admirable detail of being printed upside down on the deck. People’s superstitions ran rampant on mere sight of this blasphemous board, and even more so once the purported rumor surfaced that Natas broke his ankle while skating it (when in actuality he didn’t). Over the past year, two have shown up on eBay, both in mint condition, and sold for just over 5,000 dollars each.

SMA Natas Kaupas 1986

Natas’ first pro model was released by Santa Monica Airlines on an all-yellow deck with just the triangle, panther, and banner drawn by Kevin Ancell, but once this core design was adorned with the foliage and garland of artist Chris Buchinsky, it captured the raw essence of street skating in the mid 80s by one of its most innovative and revered pioneers. Produced in limited numbers-many with unique sprays, paints, and colorways courtesy of Skip Engblom-this deck is exceedingly rare in pristine condition, and the last one to appear on eBay sucked in just over 2,650 dollars.

Zorlac John Gibson 1986

Zorlac Craig Johnson 1986

Pushead was to Zorlac what VCJ was to Powell Peralta-he indelibly branded the company with his illustrative style in its early Texas-based years. Most any and all of his designs are desired by collectors, but the Gibson has the supreme notoriety of being the first skateboard graphic to really rattle the nerves of shop owners throughout the Bible Belt of the U.S.-they refused to order products bearing such “satanic” imagery. However, the Craig Johnson Fire Demon remains one of Pushead’s most striking graphics, and it’s highly prized by collectors and followers of his work. On average, both of these models will range from 1,000 to 1,500 dollars in unskated condition-and that’s when and if they ever show up at an auction.

World Industries Mike Vallely 1989

Not only does this board have the distinction of being the harbinger of modern street skating and deck shapes, but the Barnyard graphic was the first to truly break the punk mold of the 80s with full nose-to-tail cartoon art and Day-Glo fluorescent colors. If memory serves, at least 10,000 of these boards were produced and sold each month in 1989, as World Industries ceased to be the laughingstock everyone in the industry assumed it to be and suddenly became a formidable pain in the ass for many years to come. Similar to the case of the Ray “Bones” Rodriguez, so many skaters had this board back in the day that the fervent price of nostalgia runs extremely high whenever one of these finds its way out of a random closet and onto the eBay auction block.

Dogtown Wes Humpston 1978

Dogtown Shogo Kubo 1979

One of the founding forefathers of skateboard art, Wes Humpston’s original Dogtown designs of the late 70s defined the archetypal look of skateboard graphics for the decade to follow. Consequently, there isn’t a collector in his right mind who wouldn’t want to own at least one of these landmark decks. Hefty premiums have been paid out for the OG Dogtown boards as a result-regardless of condition-with two of the most desirable being Humpston’s own Bigfoot model and the Shogo Kubo Airbeam, both of which have sold well north of 2,000 dollars each.

Santa Cruz Steve Olson 1980

Santa Cruz Rob Roskopp 1984

Santa Cruz Jeff Grosso 1988

Santa Cruz released a cavalcade of great decks in the 80s courtesy of legendary artist Jim Phillips. One of his first designs to hit the punk market dead-on was the Steve Olson model featuring the bold Dot logo and black-and-white checkerboard motif, and when it comes to vintage boards, this is the one that makes even the most hardened punk swoon with giddy desire like a Japanese schoolgirl.

In the mid 80s, Phillips was finally allowed to let some illustrative steam loose at NHS with Rob Roskopp’s first pro model, which to this day remains a testament to clean, iconic, and well-executed graphics. The subsequent four models in the Roskopp Target series have driven collectors nuts over the years, and I know of only one to complete the set in mint condition.

Perhaps the most commonly coveted of the Santa Cruz boards is the Jeff Grosso Wonderland, a precursor to the tsunami of copyright-infringing designs that would hit the market in the years to come. Why this board in particular attracts a large amount of collectors, I don’t know. Maybe it’s the Disney thing, maybe it’s the drug thing, but whatever it is, it made some guy drop 2,700 dollars on one, and there remain a bunch more lined up to score this deck.

Sims Christian Hosoi 1982

Shortly after shaking the “Euro-ski-tech” design shtick at Sims, Bernie Tostenson took a nod from the music scene at the time and crafted the graphic and logotype that would symbolize Christian Hosoi for the duration of his career. Taking into account Christian’s high-flying popularity in the 80s and the subsequently tragic tale that ensued in the 90s, this rookie model of his is one of the reigning gods within the pantheon of vintage old-school decks, and if I’m not mistaken, it has been worshipped to the almighty tune of 5,000 dollars on at least one occasion.

Blind Jason Lee 1991

Capitalizing on a Powell Peralta ad mocking small companies, Steve Rocco successfully flipped the battlefield on the industry giant and added insurmountable insult to injury by parodying their very graphics to do so. Three distinct boards were released in all, and their popularity straddles two facets of the collecting world: those who are obsessed by all things Powell-related, and those who are addicted to the heady rush provided by the confrontational graphics of the early 90s. The values of Mark Gonzales’ and Rudy Johnson’s boards are certainly nothing to shake a stick at, but Jason Lee commands the sweet spot in the wallets of collectors for a cocktail of reasons, including his flawless 360 flips, the mocking Hawk design, and his present-day Hollywood celebrity status. A rare chance to own this infamous triumvirate may well run you in excess of 6,000 dollars.

Have a new itch to read about the world’s most sought after vintage skateboards, yet manage to skim over all Sean’s blatant self promotion above? Go to disposablethebook.com and get up to, er, back to date.

o vintage boards, this is the one that makes even the most hardened punk swoon with giddy desire like a Japanese schoolgirl.

In the mid 80s, Phillips was finally allowed to let some illustrative steam loose at NHS with Rob Roskopp’s first pro model, which to this day remains a testament to clean, iconic, and well-executed graphics. The subsequent four models in the Roskopp Target series have driven collectors nuts over the years, and I know of only one to complete the set in mint condition.

Perhaps the most commonly coveted of the Santa Cruz boards is the Jeff Grosso Wonderland, a precursor to the tsunami of copyright-infringing designs that would hit the market in the years to come. Why this board in particular attracts a large amount of collectors, I don’t know. Maybe it’s the Disney thing, maybe it’s the drug thing, but whatever it is, it made some guy drop 2,700 dollars on one, and there remain a bunch more lined up to score this deck.

Sims Christian Hosoi 1982

Shortly after shaking the “Euro-ski-tech” design shtick at Sims, Bernie Tostenson took a nod from the music scene at the time and crafted the graphic and logotype that would symbolize Christian Hosoi for the duration of his career. Taking into account Christian’s high-flying popularity in the 80s and the subsequently tragic tale that ensued in the 90s, this rookie model of his is one of the reigning gods within the pantheon of vintage old-school decks, and if I’m not mistaken, it has been worshipped to the almighty tune of 5,000 dollars on at least one occasion.

Blind Jason Lee 1991

Capitalizing on a Powell Peralta ad mocking small companies, Steve Rocco successfully flipped the battlefield on the industry giant and added insurmountable insult to injury by parodying their very graphics to do so. Three distinct boards were released in all, and their popularity straddles two facets of the collecting world: those who are obsessed by all things Powell-related, and those who are addicted to the heady rush provided by the confrontational graphics of the early 90s. The values of Mark Gonzales’ and Rudy Johnson’s boards are certainly nothing to shake a stick at, but Jason Lee commands the sweet spot in the wallets of collectors for a cocktail of reasons, including his flawless 360 flips, the mocking Hawk design, and his present-day Hollywood celebrity status. A rare chance to own this infamous triumvirate may well run you in excess of 6,000 dollars.

Have a new itch to read about the world’s most sought after vintage skateboards, yet manage to skim over all Sean’s blatant self promotion above? Go to disposablethebook.com and get up to, er, back to date.