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Planning Retirement Online

Family Treasures - Edition 3 

Family Treasures

Jill Churchill, who writes on antiques and collectables for YOURS magazine, continues her series     

Carpentry Tools 

Have you ever contacted a ‘house clearance’ dealer and been puzzled at the way he (or she)  zoomed straight to your toolshed?  There’s good reason for  such enthusiasm, especially if you happened to mention  that there was once a carpenter in the family.  Those old, rusting cases or dilapidated boxes cluttering up the toolshed  may contain unexpected treasures in those. 

If you’ve got a hammer…



Not so long ago someone paid 2,600 for a hammer. True, it wasn’t your common or garden hammer. It was a ball-socketed job from 1769, and apparently just what a collector had always wanted.

A plain spirit level made of wood and brass will fetch about 20, even if it is a 1970s model. If the same spirit level is decorated - the wood carved or the brass engraved - look closely for a date. It could come from the 19th century and be worth 60-120.

Plane spotting

But the great thing to seek out is a plane, especially one by Norris or Stanley. Getting technical now: an 'immaculate 16 1/2in dovetailed Norris A1 with  rosewood infill and original blade' could cost a collector over 2,000.
If you find a Stanley plane (yes, the same people that make the famous craft knives) look for the model number. You’re in luck if it’s a No. 1 or a No. 164 ‘low angle’. The scarce No 1 went out of production in the 1930s, and can now be worth 1,000, while the No. 164, another pre-war model, can go over 1800.  (As always, though, serious collectors with serious money look for good condition and preferably the original box).

Getting to the customer

Who buys at auction? Mainly Americans, perhaps because Stanley is an American company, or maybe it’s the heritage thing. There are also dedicated furniture restorers who love to use the old tools that match the elegance of the woods they work with.

Open the box

The wonderful world of bits and braces, saws and shavers, rules and levels, screwdrivers, planes and plumb bobs waits at The Tool Shop, 78 Needham Market, Suffolk (tel 01449 722992). From there, dealer Tony Murland buys and sells (also by mail order) as well as holding five auctions a year, of
which the biggest is on July 30. See his fully illustrated website at - and gasp at values that give new meaning to 'old bits and bobs.'


Previous editions:

Family Treasures - 1

Family Treasures - 2

Family Treasures - 3

For subsequent editions - see the laterlife interest index



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