- Associated Press - Friday, December 26, 2014

RED LION, Pa. (AP) - There was no fresh snow to wipe off at Skip Palmer’s Red Lion doorstep on Christmas Eve, but there was a sled-shaped welcome mat nonetheless.

A hand-stitched sign - a gift from a neighbor - on a door just off the sitting room announces “Skip’s Toys.” Inside are “approximately 150” sleds, although there are “maybe a little more than that right now,” Palmer guesses - with more in the basement.

The grandfather of six and great-grandfather of “six with two more on the way” has been collecting sleds for the last 10 or 12 years.

“Two companies in York make them,” he said, heading straight to the back of the room to show off a Royal Plane Big Speedster from 1924. It came from the American Twin Novelty Company, which later combined with Acme Wheel and Wagon Company to become the American Acme Company, he explains.

Walking around the room there were sleds from all over. He said the northeast was the best place for sled-making, although there were good ones from as far west as Indiana. Most of the sleds had a card describing their origin and type.

Collecting seems to be in his blood.

His kitchen is outfitted with rows and rows of McCormick brand spice tins from long ago. Above that rack and all around are egg beaters and he happily demonstrated some of the more unusual ones. The egg beaters are joined by a row of antique ice cream scoopers.

“A friend of mine, he started collecting sleds and he had a couple hanging on his wall and I thought that was pretty neat,” Palmer said. “So I ran into some really nice sized hand painted sleds.”

The collection grew from there.

“It kind of overtook the rocking horses and the baby carriages and all that other stuff,” he said.

A few Victorian-era baby carriages have already been moved out of the showroom to the sitting room. The rocking-horses still take up space in the prime sled area but his enthusiasm for them is waning.

As Missy the kitten gently rocks a horse upholstered in burlap he said he’d like to get rid of the horses — even the ones dating to the mid-1800s — to make room for more sleds.

He does admit it’s an expensive hobby. He buys primarily from eBay and from friends who stumble upon old sleds in their travels. He still sometimes buys from antique stores if he finds a decent price.

Sleds sell across the price spectrum. Some, like the miniature doll sleds hanging from a post at the front of the room, have sold at unexpectedly high prices if they’re in good shape.

“I’ve seen these go anywhere from $1,000 to $1,300,” he said, tracing a place where the paint has faded on one of them with his finger.

But at least one famous sled sells for much higher: Rosebud from Citizen Kane.

Most of those sleds - specially made for the movie - were burned, Palmer said. But the one that’s still out there somewhere has sold for “big bucks.”

Compared to the painted or plain, handcrafted sleds made of hardwoods and metal surrounding him, Palmer said that modern sleds “got junky.”

“They wouldn’t last, I mean not like the older ones. Especially the steering sleds,” he said. “Kids had to take care of these because it was probably the only one they got.”

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Online:

http://bit.ly/1xNdWAr

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Information from: York Daily Record, http://www.ydr.com

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