Tool Collecting: Tips from an Antiques Roadshow Expert

A veteran tool collector, dealer and expert, shares tips, knowledge and advice.

  1. Lee Richmond

    Lee richmond antiques roadshow tool expert antiques collecitble bob vila20111123 36322 1it27av 0

    Antiques Roadshow

    "Like any collectible, it’s smart to buy what you like or what you will actually use," notes Lee Richmond, a veteran Antiques Roadshow expert and founder of The Best Things Corporation, specializing in fine woodworking tools. Woodworkers choose tools for their quality, craftsmanship, and functionality. Collectors who never intend to use an antique tool are more interested in the history, aesthetics and condition.

  2. J. Bradford Molding Plane

    Thebestthings j.bradford curved stair rail molding plane antique tools bob vila20111123 36322 myq8tt 0

    The Best Things

    Before factories, individual cabinetmakers owned as many as 30-60 different wooden planes, most of them molding planes. This J. Bradford curved stair rail molding plane is a very rare example. "In 25 years, the number of American curved molders that I have seen is less than 10," says Lee. Priced at $365

  3. Hockley Abbey Folding Rule

    Thebestthings hockley abbey boxwood folding rule antique tools bob vila20111123 36322 5m9fmg 0

    The Best Things

    Collectibles include everything from squares and bevels to gauges and rules. Several books on rules published in the last decade have fueled added interest in this category. The folding rule shown here is a 12" boxwood design in tight, probably unused condition. "As good as they get," says Lee. Priced at $49

  4. Buck Brothers Socket Gouges

    Thebestthings buck brothers socket gouges chisels antique tools bob vila20111123 36322 8vr72s 0

    The Best Things

    The Buck Brothers began manufacturing at the Riverlin Works in Millbury, Massachusetts in 1864 and quickly developed a reputation for the finest quality edge tools. Most good gouge sets were in-cannel pattern maker's gouges. These Buck Brothers examples are not, and as such much are harder to find and more desirable. Priced at $395

  5. Stanley Handyman Block Plane

    Thebestthings stanley handyman block plane antique tools bob vila20111123 36322 1ww8w06 0

    The Best Things

    Stanley planes are by far the most commonly collected (along with the company’s other tools). Founded in the 1850s as a manufacturer of rules and levels, the company made its fortune after buying the rights to the patent for an adjustable metal plane from Leonard Bailey. “It was the most successful iron plane design of all time, and Stanley went from an obscure little company to a big name in a relatively small amount of time,” Lee says. This handyman block plane is priced at $35

  6. S.F. Copping Bullnose Planes

    Thebestthings s.f.copping mark bullnose planes antique tools bob vila20111123 36322 tpjpmy 0

    The Best Things

    Tools of remarkable precision and quality, British metal planes like these were made in the early 1900s, a time when industrialization saw many handcrafts disappear. “These were kind of the last word in smoothing planes,” Lee says. “A good one would cost a week’s wages for workmen at the time." Priced at $1,995

  7. Spear & Jackson Backsaw

    Thebestthings spear jacson backsaw antique tools bob vila20111123 36322 hj2o5k 0

    The Best Things

    Beautifully weathered handles and a patina finish on blades puts antique saws in a nostalgic cut above others. Collectible types include crosscut, rip, coping, and backsaw, like this example marked with a Leap Frog logo and "Patent Machine Ground No. 46." Priced at $85

  8. H. Hogg Adze

    Thebestthings h hogg american adze antique tools bob vila20111123 36322 c8b4c4 0

    The Best Things

    Determining the value of a tool is generally based on its condition, its rarity, its current demand, and its history (provenance). Check a current antique tool price guide, or what online dealers are asking for tools, to get some clue as to fair market value. The Fine Tool Journal ( publishes a useful grading system, as well. Shown here, an American blacksmith-made, two-handed adze.

  9. Wilton Vice

    Thebestthings wilton vice antique tools bob vila20111123 36322 16pdg0b 0

    The Best Things

    Once you’ve purchased a vintage or antique tool, protect it. “Nothing should be done that is not reversible," Lee says. "For example, if it is dirty, clean it. But don’t refinish it." Shown here is a cast iron Juno model clamp-on vice with double guide rods. You can't buy this quality today, notes Lee. Priced at $65

  10. Fulton Egg Beater Drill

    Thebestthings fulton egg beater drill antique tools bob vila20111123 36322 h41liz 0

    The Best Things

    It doesn't need to be a rare antique to have value. An ordinary egg beater drill like this one, in very clean condition, is not only a fun, vintage collectible, but still a very handy tool. It only needs to be lubricated before it's ready to go. Priced at $27

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