Over the past few years there has been a closing of the prices between what users will pay for many old tools and how collectors value them. As a result many old tools that should really be retired and only held for heritage, collecting and admiring are being put back into service due to their low collector prices. Let’s not forget that the antique tool market has always been underpinned by these users of tools which makes it a quite unique subject.
There are a number of reasons for this:
- Supply and demand
- Hard to value
- Ebay – A race to the bottom
- Lack of promotion to attract new collectors
- Poor marketing
- Lack of interest & Passion
- Investment opportunities
Supply & Demand
For some time there now been a decline in the numbers of time served craftsmen collecting antique tools due to them sadly passing away and there are many who are getting on in years where their purchasing is usually restricted to only the tools they don’t already own. However, there is a resurgence of hand craft professionals and hobbyists who have yet to cross over to the collecting side. There was also a time when tool dealers were also part of the collecting set as they knew they had something they loved for a while and knew it was also a good investment. I collect a certain type of antique tool by theme, as it interests me and they are hard to find. I guess that’s what you do when you have a passion for a subject. I always remember another renowned dealer many years ago having a wall covered in brass metallic braces, it was a sight to behold.
Attracting new tool collectors will only come from passion and desire along with them being a good investment. This can only happen whilst collectors are being replenished by the new crowd that come on the scene and they like what they see.
Hard to Value
Whilst there are many seasoned collectors with a good understanding of value based on their experience and their knowledge of the antique tool market it’s rather more difficult to those looking to get into collecting them.
Fixed price valuations online can be wide ranging and auctions do throw up occasional freak results (high and low) that can be influenced by supply and demand or simply caused by lack of info or exposure. Historical data also has an influence but so does the available information as there are some areas the novice collector will not know exists.
Information is critical to assessing value and also increasing desirability, I’ve long held the view that the more people understand something the more they appreciate it, which increases demand. Knowledge and an authoritative opinion from people in the know holds sway on those making decisions when purchasing. Supply and demand is impacted by available knowledge and is the key to the appreciation and valuations of these collectable old tools.
Lack of promotion to attract new collectors
What the sector requires is for those prominent in it is to attract new blood. Many will think eBay is the centre of things but that could never be further from the truth as it is just a market place rather than somewhere that created the desirability through information. There are no leading figures on eBay because anyone can copy, borrow and steal the descriptions and the average joe is given an equal platform regardless of whether it’s their first tool they have ever sold.
Potential collectors and investors need to be inspired and feel they are going to ride on a crest of a wave learning how to spot the next best thing and how to avoid the pitfalls this brings long term. I’ve said for some time now antique planes by Norris, Spiers & Mathieson for example are fetching far too low a price and some are extremely good value when compared to Clifton or Lie Nielson and offers great value at the current selling prices on many of them. New collectors should understand that there has never been a better time to invest in Antique tools, especially when this established website domain has been revitalised and designed to increase interest and demand.
Every good business requires good marketing and done properly it will have a positive effect on activity. Good promotion alone the other hand only opens doors, it’s the reputation gained that keeps them open. I guess over the years there has been a few that have spoilt the broth in the Antique Tools world but as we are showing in our Tooltique website, when this is supported by honesty, being helpful and hard work it can ignite the true potential in things. We are bringing in new standards and now with this website will help to those who need a helping hand with selling their antique tools or getting into collecting.
Lack of Interest & passion
The lack of interest stems from the modern age of disposable tools, many modern tradesmen have lost the connection with the tools they use and lack of appreciation for what tools really are. It’s not their fault but instead caused by many manufacturers becoming more focused on numbers rather than quality of the tools they make. The lack of understanding of maintenance is also a major factor where tradesmen and his tools usually share a connection. When there is no appreciation for quality and the tools are simple thrown away after they become blunt, it’s hardly surprising the appreciation for them is so often missing from many users.
This madness of disposable tools has to come to an end at some point, it’s simply not sustainable in an eco conscious world. But there is light, many are switching and finding out what vintage tools have to offer.
I had written a whole piece about this subject but I’ve now decided to just abbreviate my description to ‘The Wild West’.
New collectors looking at this as an investment will be attracted to a rising market!
Prices of user grade tools have have steadily increased over the past 3 years and demand for the very best are bring high premiums. Remember these prices always underpin many antique tool prices and the narrowing of these prices between what users and collectors value antique tools has become far too close which suggests more emphasis needs to be put into attracting people to the collecting side.
Having said that what has happened in recent years is the loss of a few big collectors such as David Russell who eventually produced the book ‘antique woodworking tools’ as a legacy of his collection. It’s sad but true these older generation collectors are dwindling in numbers over the past few years and this has had an affect of the antique tools prices.
Has there been enough effort inspiring the following generations is a big question but maybe with the the internet advancing in this sector this will help to revive things in the same way as the vintage tool market.
The mark of a good investment has always been about getting in at the right time, I certainly can’t see the antique tool market declining from its current position and the only way is up!
This is the start of a new era and it is those who get on early who see the most benefits. Just like the stock market there will be highs and lows but what is most important is the overall upward trajectory.
We have the history, passion, connections, skills and drive with a touch of wisdom and the exuberance of youth pushing from the back.