Antique Tools – Collectibles You Can Put to Use

Butcherblock Tool Bench
Stanley no. 48 plane
Oak Machinist's Chest

The author is a Yankee Auctioneer with more than 25 years in the business, you can also find him at www.auctionwally.com where he has over 300 archived appraisals and articles on antiques & collectibles, all are free to view without having to sign up.

There is nothing more satisfying than knowing you’ll get the maximum benefit out of an antique purchase and when you invest in a good antique tool, that’s what you can expect. A great quality old tool will almost always go up in value as it ages as they are classics, plus you get to use and display them as well. Most often an antique hand plane or set of old wood clamps are much better at performing their task than today’s counterparts, and if you take care of them they will last forever.

As with many antiques they can be retro-adapted for another use. For example, those wonderful Oak Machinist’s chests are a fantastic way to store and display coins, jewelry, buttons or any other similar small item. They have many drawers which always glide with ease and are aesthetically beautiful.

Recently I purchased the estate contents of one Eino Lukula of Ashburnham MA. Mr. Lukula was a machinist and a carpenter, so his estate was jam packed with antique tools. As with every large estate purchase or consignment, as I go through it, I come to know quite a bit about the former owner through the the inspection of the contents. Eino obviously took great pride in his craftsmanship and owning the right tool for the right job. The lot of tools consisted of about 50% of new/old stock tools! New/Old stock is a term used by antique dealers for a an item that is old, but has never been used still in it’s original packaging, there is no better, it’s a dealers dream. Not only were there many new/old tools, but the ones that were used by him were very well cared for.
Mr. Lukula also custom built many of the cases for each of his vintage power tools and I later found out he built the home which the contents were housed in, as well as the house next door and several others in Ashburnham MA. This estate was a pleasure to work on, every drawer, nook and crevice held a treasure. The Holy Grail of the lot was a custom built, solid 3.5 inches thick, butcher block top tool bench. It was truly the best quality antique tool bench I’ve ever seen with a wheel vice on one end and a standard vice on the other.

Other antique tools also found in the estate were Stanley planes, wooden handle chisels, thousands of dyes, taps, bits, end mills, Starrett’s gauges and micrometers, early wooden clamps, specialty saws, hundreds of other items, many which I’ve never seen before or have seen rarely. Most of the better quality small tools will be auctioned on eBay in my usual format which always consists of a low starting bid, without reserve.

Some tips for those thinking of investing in antique & vintage tools.

* Hand tools made in the U.S.A. are usually of the highest quality and thus value.
* Any antique tool with a good looking wooden handle on it is worth something if it’s in good condition.
* While many antiques such as glassware and Silver Services lose value if they are monogrammed, old tools with the former owner’s initials engraved on them are perfectly acceptable.
* Because they are useful as well as valuable, old tools can be hard to find on the secondary market. The last things a craftsman will part with are his tools. Look to find them in estate sales, someone selling off due to a divorce or from the children of an elderly person who does not have an affinity for them.
* A badly broken tool is worthless in most cases. If a wooden handle is broken, this may not be the end of the world if it can be replaced, but if it’s structurally unsound forget it unless you want it as a display piece. Note that even a replaced handle will result in decreased value.
* A new/old stock tool is worth 3-10 time more to a collector than it’s counterpart in good condition.
* The more unusual a tool is, the better. The more specific it’s purpose, generally the more valuable.
* Tools with a documented provenance will command a premium.

Also found in the Ashburnham estate, a Stanley no.48
a rare stanley no. 40 antique plane

Many antiques come down in value after they cycle out. Old canning jars, sewing machines, and lots of glassware are just a few of the things that can go out of style as quickly as they came in, dropping in value even though they are old and getting older. These fad or trend antiques will undoubtedly come back in later on, but the classics, like antique tools, never go out of favor and investing in the classics is one of the soundest things you can do in the antiques world.

Click here the link below if your curious to see what some of these old tools actually sell for.

http://search.ebay.com/_W0QQsassZauctionwally

If you have a question or comment about antiques contact me at wkolenda@gmail.com or leave a comment here.

Thanks for reading,

AW