Find the value of antique tools

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOUR TOOLS

You’ve come across an old gear box in your folks’ garage or basement, full of tools. Some seem quite useable. But you’re really not a DIY-er. Or, you already have all the hammers, saws and drills you could ever want. Could these vintage items be valuable? Time to put our Savvy Specialists to work, determining the value of these old tools.

EVALUATING OLD TOOLS

Tools, obviously, come in all shapes, sizes and sorts, and in the face of this variety, tool collectors have established categories. In the broadest categorization, tools are divided into groups by the material they work on: woodworking tools, metalworking tools, leather-working tools, etc. They can also be divided by function: striking tools, such as axes and hatchets; cutting tools, like chisels and saws; boring tools, which include hand-operated drills. Tools can also be categorized in less utilitarian ways:

  • by makers (Stanley is one of the big names)
  • by era
  • by geographical area
  • by material they’re made of
  • patented tools
  • aesthetic tools (painted designs, carvings, fancy castings, striking graphic forms, or exotic materials; these are usually the tools that bring top dollar)
  • miniatures

What makes a collectible tool valuable? Basically, condition and rarity – two factors that are interrelated. Rare tools increase in value depending on their condition, but condition affects value in all categories: Even common tools in spectacular condition may bring  higher prices than a unique tools in bad shape. Essentially, a common tool can be elevated to the rare tool category if it is mint in the box.

Rarity also reflects age: Mass-manufactured tools date from the 1840s, and obviously 19th-century items are likely to be more scarce. Tools from the 20th century were manufactured in the millions, and many are still around, which impacts their value.

Provenance, the history of a tool's ownership, is another factor. If it is known who owned the tool previously, especially if that person was considered to have a good eye and was not a refinisher/repairer, the tool's value may be even higher than another equally rare example in similar condition.


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TOOLS DU JOUR

There are trends in tools, as with any collectible. Planes, which are used to hold a chisel stationary so that the woodworker can thin or shape boards of wood, are one of the most popular collectible hand tools around. Other covetable types include braces, wrenches, saws (especially by Disston or Keen Kutter) and plumb bobs, a weight that is suspended from a line, used to achieve straight vertical lines.

MAXIMIZE THE VALUE OF YOUR TOOLS

But tools are not just collectible objects – they’re utilitarian ones as well, and it’s surprising how well vintage specimens can still do their job. In fact, a popular rating system established by The Fine Tool Journal includes not only criteria like wear, repair and finish, but usability as well. So take care of your tools. Store them in a warm, dry place, such as in a drawer or a toolbox (vintage wood ones are great). For extra protection, add a canister of silica gel or strips of vapor corrosion inhibitor. In damp basement workshops, keep a dehumidifier running.

In terms of repair: Nothing should be done that is not reversible. Clean, but don’t refinish, a piece’s surface.  The one exception is rust: Do remove it, and use sprays that inhibit it from forming.

Find the value of my old tools by uploading photos of your antique tools.

HOW TO FIND A TOOL’S VALUE

It always helps to give us a tool’s serial number and model name or number (if they exist), along with close-ups of logos, decorative details, any other markings and, of course, pictures of the piece itself. Once we've identified the tool’s manufacturer, age, model, and condition, our Savvy Specialists complete a Quick Appraisal which includes research, stories and special features about your piece. We can also tell you more about the specific model, including a valuation analysis that includes what similar tools have sold for.

SELL TOOLS ONLINE

After our Quick Appraisal, StuffSavvy can match you with Online Partners to get you the most value for the tool you'd like to sell. This is a good option once you know the value you want to sell the item for.

FIND PLACES TO SELL USED TOOLS NEAR ME

After our Quick Appraisal, StuffSavvy can also match you with local consignment shops, dealers and auction houses. This is the best option if you want to work with additional specialists to maximize the resale value of your tool.