Investment vs. Return

What’s it worth?
That’s a question we hear often when we’re displaying at fly-in events.

We also get numerous calls on the subject. Given the wide range of Waco pricing this is not surprising, and it is a subject that interests everyone. I’d like to offer some perspective.

In my lifetime I’ve seen the values grow from $500 in the 1940’s post WWII surplus economy to the present strong six figures. There has been a constant and steady increase, linear over the years, and the values have never backed up! The term “market” is often used in a discussion of values, as in “How is the Waco market?” My opinion is that there is no “market”, per se, for these airplanes.

The frequency of Antique sales is just too low to establish the statistical trends that make up market values.

There may be only two or three of a popular model, say a UPF-7, sold in a particular year. Or maybe only one, or none! Compare that with the thousands of Cessna’s, Pipers, Beech’s and Mooneys that are sold. Those numbers can easily be turned into statistics and trends. My definition of the Waco “market” is this: What the seller will accept and what the buyer will pay. That sets the “market” for that day, and it probably sets the basis for the next sale six months or a year later. The Waco fleet has a couple of important characteristics. First, the numbers (as in quantity) are constant. Second, the purchaser demographic is a relevant factor. Let’s address the numbers first, and there is an extremely important fact that bolsters this discussion: There will never be any more! Waco Aircraft Company’s production numbers were quite low. Yes, they were a factor in the industry at the time. But, in terms of today’s industrial economy, making 50 or 100 of something isn’t much. Even the 577 UPF-7s built looks small by today’s standards. Further, attrition has substantially reduced the UPF-7 numbers.

Today there are only 213 UPF-7s on the FAA aircraft registry. As I look through the FAA database I see several on each page that I know to be inactive basket cases or a title with a handful of parts. I’m sure any Waco enthusiast can do the same. I certainly don’t know them all, but I think it is safe to say that of the 213 registered probably 150 are “real” airplanes. By real, I mean complete or near complete vs. a title and parts. And of the 150 perhaps 100 or so are airworthy examples. OK, someone may correct my numbers one way or another, but this fact remains: The supply/demand ratio is heavily weighted in favor of value appreciation. And again, There will never be any more! There are no new examples coming down the production line to dilute the numbers.

The demand side of the equation is interesting as well. Consider this: There has been an entire generation of pilots born since the certification of the Piper Cherokee, and every day (week, month, etc) another of them learns the enchantment of antique biplane flying.

What emerges from this scenario is that our original Wacos are clearly collector’s items similar to works of art. In many cases they ARE works of art.

Add the burgeoning interest in all things old and historic, and a solid value basis emerges. Our original Wacos all have a factual past and a story to tell. In addition, I’m going to say what most Waco owners and enthusiasts already know: UPF-7s are better flying airplanes!

The second characteristic of our original Waco fleet involves the typical purchaser/owner. He is drawn to the original Waco because he is a true enthusiast.

(I’ll refer to the enthusiast as “he” in a gender neutral sense for narrative simplicity, with due respect to our many female Waco owners and enthusiasts).

True enthusiast? By this I mean that his purchase of an original Waco is personal, and more than just a toy acquisition. The provenance is as important to him as the flight attributes. The purchase is elective and usually not leveraged vs. the purchase of a business tool for ride hauling. The non-leveraged personal purchase is important because a stagnant economy will probably not trigger a sacrifice sale that depresses values. How about price? First of all, we’ve never been apologists for price.

Our “Reman to New Standards” Waco is the most expensive original available. It is double or more than the price of low end examples yet way below the new production replicas. But consider this:

Not one of our restorations or remans has ever resold for less than its original cost.

Quality and value earn their own level…strongly supported by the supply/demand numbers.

A Rare Aircraft Waco is not only the best in the Waco world; it is a solid investment, and a rewarding ownership and flying experience. The motto of the 1930s Packard Motor Car Company is appropriate: