Tools and Trinkets: A Collector’s Story

Tools and Trinkets: A Collector’s Story

An example of the sweetheart logo, which was also made into a pin given to Stanley Works employees after 10 years of service.

ENTER THE WORLD OF ANTIQUE TOOL COLLECTORS

On a typically beautiful day in Santa Clara, California, in June 2014, antiques collectors traded in the sunny skies and warm air to participate in a TV show and see what their beloved family heirlooms and collectables were worth.

“At auction, she’s worth $2,000 to $3,000,” said appraiser James Supp. Supp was talking about an antique bronze and steel Stanley® Plane No. 42. “But she’s not the valuable one,” he added. Turning to the much simpler Stanley® No. 1 Plane, with the “sweetheart” emblem and original box, Supp assigned a value of $7,000 to $8,000.1


A Miller’s Patent Plow Plane, with ornate designs similar to the No. 42 appraised on television.

A simple old tool with a price tag in the thousands of dollars? Why would anyone pay such prices? Enter the world of antique tool collectors — a world filed with clubs, online forums, newsletters and magazines, pricing guides and auctions.2 For these collectors, Stanley tools stand out.3

People collect tools for a number of reasons. One is the usefulness and precision of the old tools. In some cases, they aid in tasks that are difficult to accomplish with power tools.4 Some of the older planes are precise enough to shave wood up to 1/64 of an inch.5

Collectors also seek out Stanley tools for their aesthetic value.6 Simply put, the tools are beautiful. Older tools use rare materials such as Brazilian rosewood, ebony, brass and even ivory. Sometimes they are adorned with intricate and detailed decorative designs, including the coveted “sweetheart,” introduced in 1922 as a tribute to former Stanley Works President William H. Hart.7 The symbol became synonymous with Stanley quality.8


A Miller’s Patent Plow Plane, with ornate designs similar to the No. 42 appraised on television.

Several considerations affect an antique tool’s price, including condition, rarity and whether it has its original packaging.9 It’s for these reasons that the Plane No. 1 appraised at the event was worth so much more than the ornately designed Plane No. 42.

Brought together by an appreciation for fine craftsmanship, collectors worldwide have formed clubs, issue newsletters, and hold conventions and auctions.10 To be sure, the most avid collectors — such as brothers Walter and Charles Jacob — view newcomers as increased competition. “It used to be that every Sunday morning, I would go to the antique flea markets and find a lot of good stuff up there,” Charles Jacob said. “Now I can go up there Sunday after Sunday and not find anything.”11

In the digital age, Sunday morning flea markets have been replaced with online auctions. “Before eBay, a collector could spend a lifetime searching for an uncommon or rare plane,” writes collector and enthusiast Keith Bradford in his book, Collector's Checklist and Value Guide: Stanley Planes. “Now, with a little patience and a lot of money, you can choose between a Type 1 and a Sweet Heart [sic], and you can be picky about its condition.”12

While it may take longer to locate a specific model in good condition, collectors continue to connect and search in hopes of a coveted piece. Increased difficulty just makes it that much more rewarding when they do locate a rare find.

 


 

[1] "Santa Clara, Hour 3." In The Antiques Road Show. PBS. https://www.tpt.org/antiques-roadshow/video/antiques-roadshow-appraisal-....
[2] Rodengen, Jeffrey L. The Legend of Stanley: 150 years of The Stanley Works. Fort Lauderdale, FL: Write Stuff Syndicate, 1996. vii.
[3] Rodengen, Jeffrey L. The Legend of Stanley: 150 years of The Stanley Works. Fort Lauderdale, FL: Write Stuff Syndicate, 1996. 179; Asaff, Beth. "Antique Stanley Tools." LoveToKnow. Accessed March 15, 2018. http://antiques.lovetoknow.com/Antique_Stanley_Tools.
[4] "Woodworking Tools Evoke Images of Lost Era." Antique Trader. May 22, 2009. Accessed March 15, 2018. http://www.antiquetrader.com/articles/feature-stories/woodworking_tools_....
[5] Rodengen, Jeffrey L. The Legend of Stanley: 150 years of The Stanley Works. Fort Lauderdale, FL: Write Stuff Syndicate, 1996. 179.
[6] Asaff, Beth. "Antique Stanley Tools." LoveToKnow. Accessed March 15, 2018. http://antiques.lovetoknow.com/Antique_Stanley_Tools.
[7] "Woodworking Tools Evoke Images of Lost Era." Antique Trader. May 22, 2009. Accessed March 15, 2018. http://www.antiquetrader.com/articles/feature-stories/woraodworking_tools_evoke_images_of_lost_e/.; Rodengen, Jeffrey L. The Legend of Stanley: 150 years of The Stanley Works. Fort Lauderdale, FL: Write Stuff Syndicate, 1996. 67, 79.
[8] Rodengen, Jeffrey L. The Legend of Stanley: 150 years of The Stanley Works. Fort Lauderdale,FL: Write Stuff Syndicate, 1996. 57.
[9] Asaff, Beth. "Antique Stanley Tools." LoveToKnow. Accessed March 15, 2018. http://antiques.lovetoknow.com/Antique_Stanley_Tools.
[10] Rodengen, Jeffrey L. The Legend of Stanley: 150 years of The Stanley Works. Fort Lauderdale, FL: Write Stuff Syndicate, 1996. 181-182.
[11] Rodengen, Jeffrey L. The Legend of Stanley: 150 years of The Stanley Works. Fort Lauderdale,
FL: Write Stuff Syndicate, 1996. 183.
[12] Bradfield, Keith. Collector's Checklist and Value Guide: Stanley Planes. 2010. 6-7.