Nicholson Files


Tool Stories

  Interest in Tools... by James DuPrie


I tend to think that the old tools collecting (and using) phenomena is a "fad" - sort of like the "old" cars from the 30s and 40s that were "collectable" and very expensive about 20 years ago.  The old car fad has moved on to cars from the 70s now...

I personally believe that a lot of the old tools craze is a similar nostalgia - many of us remember our fathers or grandfathers making things with hand tools, and have fond memories of playing with the same tools when we ere kids. This is probably no the only reason folks started collecting old tools (either as users or collectors), but once the tools became "collectable", they started acting like any other commodity - the very fact that they started having a value meant that they created a market, which increased the value (by reducing the available supply), etc etc etc.

At some point, the folks that have invested in the old tool commodity market start thinking about getting out before the bottom drops, and the large collections start showing up for sale (the folks that collected for other reasons start dying off, and their collections often end up on the block too).

I think that he old tool situation has reached a point where some sort of change has to happen - the user-level folks have been forced out of the market by the cost of what's left (when's the last time you saw a $20 dollar plane that was usable?), and the folks that are collecting for other reasons are realizing that the cost of entry (or continued growth) as a collector is very high, on a commodity that has very little real intrinsic value, other than as something that is collectable. 

Other than stamps, coins, or art, I can only think of a few "collectables" that has maintained its value over the long term, and I can't think of any that have had their value appreciate enough to keep up with inflation....  Fad commodity investing is a relatively short term investment 9at least if you want to make money at it)...

For whatever reason, I see the bottom falling out of the old tool market at some point. There might be some bouncing around, but overall, I see thing moving towards a few Very Large Museum Maintained collections, and not much else.  There will always be some number of true user level folks, but I don't think there are enough of them to maintain a sufficient market to keep the prices elevated - after all, these tools were readily available for at least 20 years at garage sales by the box lot for very short change...

I hope that he truly unique stuff ends up in museums where it will be properly preserved, and that the rest of it ends up in users hands where it will be used, and hopefully passed on to other folks that will use it....

James DuPrie
September 2006

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